Giving Compass' Take:

• Mental health consultants can help teachers with their students by offering guidance and support in proactively responding to children's needs. 

• How will supporting teachers in this way help make for a better classroom environment? What is the impact of mental health when it comes to teaching? 

• Read about why it's important to bring more attention to student mental health. 

Chally Grundwag, a mental health consultant, faced three teachers gathered around a pint-size preschool table. “What kind of kids really push your buttons?” she asked the group.

A crying toddler may be a commonplace challenge for a parent, but for teachers confronted with more than a dozen meltdowns at once, stress can spike. And overwhelmed teachers may respond in a way that upsets the children further, setting off a cycle that contributes to a high rate of suspensions and expulsions for preschool children. That’s why Grundwag is trying to help.

“I say, ‘You can be upset. You can cry. I’m going to be right here,’” the teacher responded.

“We let them know we’re here to support them,” added Linda Aguilar, director of the colorful one-room preschool, one of 50 infant and toddler centers and preschools Kidango runs across the San Francisco Bay Area, serving mostly low-income students. “We try to be mindful all the time because you just never know. A lot are going through things.”

Grundwag, who has a master’s degree in counseling psychology, says some preschool teachers may do things that can aggravate students’ misbehavior, such as talking about a student’s conduct in front of the child or speaking loudly and shaming students in front of their peers. By working with mental health consultants, Grundwag says teachers have a chance to vent, reflect and understand the needs of their students rather than getting frustrated, feeling isolated, or losing their patience.

Every Tuesday, Grundwag spends hours here at Kidango’s Dorsa Center and another one nearby run by the same organization. She interacts with children, observes teachers and meets with staff members to help them develop strategies for dealing with difficult behaviors without resorting to yelling, time-outs or suspension.

Read the full article about mental health support for teachers by Jackie Mader at The Hechinger Report