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Margaret Raymond Driscoll is a nine-year Melrose School Committee member who is passionate about excellent teaching and learning for all public school students, and considers it a privilege to collaborate with others who share that passion. You can also follow her on Twitter at @MargaretDrisc. Just to be clear - opinions expressed here do not represent those of the Melrose Public Schools, the Melrose School Committee, or the Massachusetts Association of School Business Officials - they are hers alone.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Stress: How Students Are (Are Not) dealing with It – and How You Can Help

Excellent presentation at the MASC conference by Judith Styer, Director of Health and Wellness in Framingham and Andrew Keough, Easton Supt. (and former Principal, Wellesley High School) on a topic that Melrose is recognizing and addressing.

Notes:

*Adults don’t necessarily understand student stresses because some aren’t familiar to us
*Stressors can be academic, economic, social (including LGBTQ students), family, community integration (e.g. for students coming from a foreign country), and health-related (e.g. obesity, chronic conditions like asthma, mental health)
*Girls tend to be more stressed than boys
*Most school shootings are really suicides with other students involved
*One of the biggest risk factors academically is for students who have no health insurance
*Not all stress is bad – finding the right level is important as is having candid conversations around college expectations and intentions
*Healthy and happy kids are productive kids
*Framingham looked at student results using the CDC’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data over time to assess trends, implemented a Tiered System of Support to help reduce stress, and formed a task force that included parents and students. They held forums and explored how to engage all families, how to begin a cultural shift away from intense academic pressure on children, and how to carve out time to educate teachers and administrators on the importance and value of social/emotional health
*Wellesley formed a Culture and Climate Committee with key stakeholders that included four subcommittees (Social Issues, Support Systems, Academics, and Community). They held panels and conducted a survey. Successful initiatives included creating a safe place for students to relax; implementing an adult mentoring program; developing a free, student drop-in enrichment/recreational program; made changes to the homework policy (to implement stress-free periods during the year); revisited and improved freshman orientation; developed a GPA Committee and held PD related to assessment; and held parent trainings on resiliency development (including understanding the impact of 24 hr/day scheduling of children and recognizing signs of social/emotional stress in elementary school students).  Supt. Keough referenced the movie Race to Nowhere and two Psychology Today articles: “The Problem with Rich Kids” (http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/201310/the-problem-rich-kids) and “A Nation of Wimps” (http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/nation-wimps).

The MHS PTO has asked district administration to partner in order to start this conversation in Melrose, and the Supt. has enthusiastically agreed. A forum will be held on December 8th at 7:00 in the MVMMS Auditorium featuring guest speaker Lynn Lyons (http://www.lynnlyonsnh.com/).