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GREAT TEACHING 20 Professionally Speaking September 2020 I n her Grade 7 class at Valley Park Middle School in Toronto, Susie Barraud, OCT, knows there are many ways to measure how her students are faring. That's why she wanted to talk to one girl who lacked focus and wasn't keeping up with her work. It wasn't just the academics that worried Barraud. Was something wrong? Barraud had built trust with the student over the school year, so the girl confided. Her father was control- ling and overbearing, which had taken a toll. "Her self-esteem was shot, she was sad all the time, and she didn't know where to fit in," says Barraud, who's also curriculum leader for Wellness, Inclusion and Social Justice. The girl felt better just discussing her feelings. Barraud found another way to help. At times, she sat the girl near two other students who were also dealing with anxiety, and gave them group work. The three students became friends and formed a mutual support society. "We all carry baggage and can help each other move through it," says Barraud. "The classroom teacher has to build community within the room." In 2018, the College issued an advisory called Supporting Students' Mental Health. It aims to help members better understand the issues, recog- nize behaviours of concern, and respond appropriately. What are some Ontario Certified Teachers doing to take the ideas and recommendations in the advisory and bring them to life every day? It starts with how a teacher frames mental health supports. This isn't just about mental illness. As the advisory notes, optimal mental health is also about having the ability to adapt, cope and manage thoughts, feelings and behaviours. That's mental wellness. Every student, whether they have a specific mental health challenge or not, needs an encouraging space in which to learn. Providing one matters for learning and for mental health, and teachers are expert in cultivating such spaces. "Wellness encompasses physical, emotional and cognitive aspects of well-being. When all of those components are addressed in classrooms and schools, you have a nourishing environment," says Sharon Pyke, OCT, Student Mental Health The College advisory Supporting Students' Mental Health offers direction and advice to members. Here's how many are puing those ideas into action. The College regularly issues advisories on subjects critical to the work of Ontario teachers and the well-being of the province's students. Every day, members demonstrate their professionalism and judgment by applying the guidance in the advisories to their work on behalf of Ontario students. In this issue: Supporting Students' Mental Health Professional Advisory Supporting Students' Mental Health BY STUART FOXMAN

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