- MemberDecember 5, 2013 at 12:00 am
I wanted to share one of the most impactful lessons I have ever taught (mind you I haven’t taught for long). When I was teaching at a middle school a few years back, one of my friends was battling depression and having suicidal thoughts. That issue was clearly affecting my mood and teaching so I decided to bring it up with my eighth graders. I think it is important that students realize that they are not alone in whatever they are battling and that we all deal with things in our lives.
I started by discussing my own childhood experiences and how depression and suicide has affected my family personally. I then gave my students 10 minutes to write down issues that they or someone they knew were dealing with. Afterwards I collected their responses, categorized them, counted the frequency for each category, and then inputted the data into a Word Cloud. The next week I showed the students the Word Cloud and had further discussions with them.
As I said, this lesson had the most student engagement and sense of importance than any other lesson I have taught. Overall, I would say about 80% of the students took it very seriously. I think the reason a few students didn’t write much was because they wanted to appear tough, however I also received some papers that were completely filled out front and back.
I wanted to share this because sometimes as teachers we avoid bringing up sensitive issues with students. And while it may be uncomfortable, I think the payoff is well worth it. Also, as you will see in the Word Cloud from that experience, it is important to understand the issues students face outside of our classes. Knowing these issues helps us understand some of the choices our students make.
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