Op-Ed: Holistic Teaching Tips for Mental Wellness

DaraMonifah® Cooper

There are so many things to consider while educating students from home. In this current situation, we have the additional responsibility of mental health awareness and care, both for ourselves and for the students. For me, that comes first, then the lesson. Creating a safe space for mental wellness conversations is crucial.

So how can we lead and facilitate instruction, while keeping wellness in the forefront as the foundation of whatever we are presenting? Be real. Authentic living both with yourself and with others encourages the same. Having a “bad” day? State it and let them see you pushing through it. Experiencing a mental health crisis? Just say so. Especially in times like now during COVID-19 global pandemic experiences, the way to normalize talking about mental health struggles is simply to talk about mental health struggles. Everywhere, and with anyone. Mention it as if you are speaking about a new song you just heard. Maybe even more importantly, have the resources on hand. Humanize school guidance counselors and professional talk therapists as if they’re friends.

Since most of us are using a virtual meeting platform, our physical appearance, backgrounds, non-verbal awareness and interaction methods are significant. More than half of those are visual, but turn the cameras off and we still need to focus on the same, or maybe even more. This time it is the ‘appearance’ of our voice, including tone, inflection and rate of speaking speed. Do we add humor or keep it “professional” with a sticking-to-business approach? Why not both?

Remember, we learn best when we are comfortable and interested. When we can connect with and respect the facilitator then we trust and want to hear what they are sharing, no matter the subject. Keep that in mind when teaching students.

Allow them to see you being human. Make mistakes. Listen to them for opportunities to show similarities and build connections. Trust and respect soon follow.

First things first. Let’s remember to crawl before we Zoom full speed ahead.

#HolisticTeaching #Connect4Respect #BuildTrust #BeHuman

Editor’ note: DaraMonifah Cooper is a mother, student, educator, community activist, poet, graphic artist and musician on St. Thomas. She is a UVI communications specialist and Ph.D. student in educational leadership and organizational development within the UVI Creative Leadership for Innovation and Change program. She is also the V.I. Faculty of the Year 2019-2020.