WARREN, Mich. – As De La Salle Collegiate students return to school this week, observing protocols of masks and social distancing in classrooms, teachers are doing more than presenting lessons face-to-face for the first time in nearly six months.
Faculty are also attending to students’ mental health.
“As we start the school year with many new limitations, one of our biggest challenges is to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible,” Assistant Principal Chris Dean said. “We are planning Purple and Gold Days, dress downs, and other traditional events with the understanding that these small events bring a sense of familiarity that is so important to a student’s high school experience. These school-wide opportunities, along with what teachers are doing in the classrooms, are a key component in face-to-face learning that is just as important to a student's mental, as well as academic health.”
At the request of Dean and Interim Principal Brother Ken Kalinowski, school psychologist Andrew Campbell spent time during faculty orientation sharing information about adolescent issues.
Campbell cited research that more than half of adolescents in China experienced moderate to severe impacts on their mental health during their time in quarantine.
“We wanted to make sure teachers know what kinds of things adolescents could have been facing over the course of the pandemic, and what they are trying to handle as they come back to school,” Campbell said.
He noted that students could experience increases in irritability, depression, and insomnia, as well as emotional exhaustion.
“Students may seem unmotivated, or have difficulty relating to others,” Campbell said. “They might have difficulty managing their emotions. Their thinking could be disconnected. All of this can affect their academic performance.”
Social studies teacher Thaier Mukhtar praised Campbell’s knowledge.
“We are living in a trying historical period in history,” Mukhtar said. “Having Mr. Campbell in our building is a huge resource for our students. His wealth of experience and ability to share concerns that may affect our students helps us to be better prepared to handle stressful situations. He gives guidance, and, in some cases, a shoulder for our students to cry on. It is certainly a luxury we enjoy over many other high schools.”