Teaching through a social and emotional lens is key to learning in schools, according to Professor Marilyn Bisberg, who specializes in early childhood and childhood special education for the GSE.
At a spring Graduate School of Social Service (GSS) Scholars Conference, “Social Work Across Cultures and the Lifespan: Making a Difference”, held at Fordham’s Westchester campus, Bisberg shared her research and thinking about the value of collaboration among teachers and social service staff in schools, all to benefit the social-emotional health of students. She noted in her presentation to attendees, “Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) in Schools”, that the stigma related to mental health issues needs to be reduced, starting with work to both prevent and understand these challenges. Because National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) statistics show that half of all lifelong mental illnesses appear by the time a person turns 14, and 75 percent by the age of 24, students’ time in schools with teachers is a critical piece of managing mental health and wellness.
The New York State Education Department (NYSED) now requires schools to have a mental health curriculum, which Bisberg summarized as teaching students information in three areas: self management; resource management; and relationship management. More specifically, the NYSED Mental Health Education Literacy in Schools curriculum focuses on maintaining overall health and mental health wellness by fostering:
- A sense of self-esteem and self-confidence
- The ability to identify, express and regulate emotions
- The ability to set and achieve goals
- Recognition of one’s creative skills
- The ability to expand knowledge and skills
- The ability to feel and show empathy for others
- The ability to create and maintain satisfying relationshipss
Bisberg concluded by emphasizing to attendees the importance of cooperation and cross-disciplinary collaboration among social workers, psychologists, teachers and administrators to bolster and continually promote mental health in schools.