With 30 years' experience as an educator, I take enormous pride in my efforts to ensure students achieve their potential while developing skills to help them thrive in and beyond school.
Over the past 18 months, I have seen the detrimental impact the pandemic has had on students, particularly on their mental health.
The unpredictability of our lives right now has had a huge impact on the wellbeing of students.
One-in-two (50 per cent) mental health conditions begin by the age of 14, while one-in-seven primary school aged children are experiencing mental health problems today.
While navigating mental health in the classroom can be a difficult process, supporting children through a challenging time is an essential part of teaching.
In order to help us protect children against mental illness, we need to build wellbeing skills in students.
By building these skills, it will help our children stay resilient, build social support and self-efficacy.
Schools play an important role in supporting the mental health needs of young people and their families.
Improving our mental health can be as simple as moving your body, showing kindness, and sleeping.
Even small positive changes to our daily routines can improve a child's wellbeing so introducing these simple exercises can help improve mindset and optimism.
Gratitude is a tool which has allowed me to teach more effectively.
By appreciating and acknowledging individual students, it has strengthened relationships in the (virtual) classroom and helped me support their wellbeing even further.
By using this model with my students, the attitude and atmosphere has completely changed for the better.
As a cohort, we can acknowledge that things around us are hard but continue to have a positive attitude and not let it impact us emotionally.
To practice gratitude at home or in the classroom, I recommend writing your own gratitude list for a few days and feeling its power.
Then you can share your list and start the activity with your children or students.
Being thankful for being alive, having food to each and clothes to wear may be some of the things you write down to get started.
Having something related to teaching or learning that we can be grateful for can be really empowering too.
I really enjoy learning what my students are grateful for, and it involves things I might not hear otherwise so it really helps to build a positive culture in the classroom.
World Teacher's Day is celebrated each October, and I would encourage all teachers to get involved in this exercise.
For tips on how to practise this activity you can find more information at the Family Project, a collaboration between Gidget Foundation Australia, Tresillian and the NSW Government.
Poor mental health is a serious issue and prevention is far easier than any cure.
Let's not wait another moment before we start teaching our young kids how to take care of their mental health and show gratitude.
Amanda Walsh is a NSW teacher.
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