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Teacher Displays Creative Way to Check in on Students Having a ‘Hard Time’

An average school day often starts with morning announcements, reciting the Pledge of Allegiance and then jumping right into the class material for the day. But on Monday, 8th-grade teacher Jessie Cayton decided to begin the day with something different.

On the morning of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic (STAAR) exam, Cayton decided to start her class’s day with a check-in. She had students write their name on the back of a post-it note and place it on a section of a whiteboard that described different feelings.

On her now viral Facebook post, she wrote:

Started class with this check-in today & I’m so glad I did…

…Time away from school is really hard for some of my kids. Coming back to school can be really tough, too. We’re sleepy, or cranky, or anxious, or turned all the way up to 1,000.

It’s easy to misinterpret behavior and its cause. But I’m grateful (especially as the day goes on) to have a little context for why we might be making the choices we are. 

Board with sticky notes checking students' status

Cayton’s post was met with a wave of support from fellow teachers and educators who said they’d be interested in doing something similar in their classrooms.

Just like adults, kids and teens can experience mental health challenges, too. It’s easy to label a student who is misbehaving or underperforming as just being lazy or “bratty.” This is something Mighty contributor Colleen Wildenhaus discussed in her piece “My Daughter Is Not a Brat – She Has Anxiety:

She is smart, but can struggle to learn at school because she puts so much energy into fighting anxiety. Trying to “fix” my daughter is unreasonable. You shouldn’t either. This is who she is and it comes with many strengths.

A movement to promote mental health education in schools is growing, but not quick enough. New York and Virginia recently made mental health education mandatory in school curriculums but it’s important to continue and encourage these kinds of conversation instead of stopping them once you leave class. It’s impossible to fully read and comprehend what another person is experiencing but, as Cayton had said, it gives us context as to why students behave a certain way and make specific choices.

Teachers see their students for a significant portion of the day but they may never see what’s going on behind the scenes. Having educators take the time to check on their students can give kids living with mental health issues the understanding and support they need. It’s important to teach people at a young age that it’s okay to not be okay. When teachers are able to pick up and address a student’s mental health issues, it can make a huge impact on that person’s life.

Screenshot via Facebook