If you’ve ever done the school morning drop-off, then you know that kids wake up with a variety of emotions about their approaching school day. That’s why one teacher’s emotional check in for her students is getting a lot of well-deserved attention.
Because, there are numerous factors that affect a child’s sense of well-being on any given day, & we adults don’t always know what’s brewing beneath the surface.
We see the outward behavior -and often react to it- but don’t necessarily know what how that child is really feeling inside.
Our mental & emotional health can affect everything about our day, & we often forget that kids experience the same struggles, too.
Teachers start their mornings with a classroom full of students that are experiencing a full gamut of emotions, & those feelings can greatly influence how a child then behaves in school throughout the day.
Eighth-grade teacher Jessie Cayton developed a cool & creative way of gauging the emotional status of every one of her students by creating a daily “check-in” system.
Cayton had seen several examples of similar concepts online, & credits teacher Erin Castillo of Making A Statement in SPED as the original, amazing source of her board inspiration (you should also check out Castillo’s post because it includes detailed teacher info & questionnaires if you’re thinking about creating one).
The check-in system features a variety of emotional levels featured on a whiteboard, ranging from “I’m great!” to “I’m not doing great.” and everything in between. Students write their name on the back of a colored Post-It (for privacy purposes) & place their Post-It in a section that they feel represents how they feel that day. Clayton then checks in with students who need it.
In her now-viral Facebook post, Clayton explains her reasoning for devising such a system:
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.
How true is this?! Students’ emotional climates are obviously affected, for good or otherwise, by their home environment.
Even if the student is from a solid, supportive home, a late wake-up or not enough sleep can be enough to throw a student into a stressed, distracted mood for the day.
Some students experience anxiety or stress once they arrive at school- the pressure to perform, test anxiety, or social pressures can affect a student’s mental health as well.
All of the countless elements of a student’s mood, routine, energy level, & interaction obviously influences his or her behavior. When a student acts up in class or seems withdrawn, there’s usually a concrete reason behind it. And we as adults (both parents & teachers) often deal quickly with the outward behavior rather than considering the motivation behind the behavior.
Jessie Cayton created her system precisely for that reason:
It’s easy to misinterpret behavior and its cause.
As a former teacher, I know that there is often considerable pressure to prepare students for a battery of proficiency exams and standard-driven assessments.
We try to minimize any distractions & to do everything in our power to get our students to settle down & focus. But Cayton’s “check-in” method is a powerful reminder that our kids’ mental health & mood affect the actions they take in our classrooms:
I’m grateful (especially as the day goes on) to have a little context for why we might be making the choices we are.
This awesome concept isn’t solely for the teacher’s benefit, however. A simple Post-It reminds every student that his or her teacher CARES. The school day evolves into more than just getting the work done.
A teacher that takes the time to let students share how they feel reinforces to the students that they are valued. They are not just a faceless member of the class crowd.
This simple investment in a student’s life with an emotion check in is bound to have powerful dividends for both students & teachers!
Cayton concludes her post by pointing out that:
Even though there are like 12 minutes till STAAR, it’s worth it to take a minute to do a check-in and follow up with kids. I’m glad, too, for them to take a minute to figure out how they’re feeling.
Like most teachers, Cayton is responsible for preparing her students to take the STAAR assessment exams. Preparing for these exams is an intense, time-consuming process, & both students & teachers feel the stress of the impending exams. But her check-in reminds everyone that mental health comes first, no matter what.
Started class with this check-in today & I’m so glad I did.
Considering that Jessie Cayton’s Facebook post has garnered 14K comments & 68K shares since being posted on March 18, it’s clear that everyone is glad she shared it publicly, too.