How schools are working to help kids cope and cut stress

Published: Sep. 14, 2021 at 5:48 PM EDT
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RUTLAND, Vt. (WCAX) - Educators across our region agree the pandemic has had a big impact on kids’ social and emotional development. Now, with kids back in classrooms, schools are trying to make up for the losses.

I found out what that looks like at Rutland High School and how students think it’s working.

“A lot of them have been so patient and vulnerable with me, so it’s nice to just hear where they are coming from in their lives,” said Madeline Pritchard, an art teacher and part of Rutland High School’s Social and Emotional Committee.

The committee created a curriculum promoting self-awareness, responsible decision-making and relationship skills. Students engage with those concepts through interactive activities during their flex block, much like a homeroom period.

The lessons are designed to let students know they are in a safe space with a trusted adult, and they help teachers identify students who need additional help.

This specific lesson is about coping with stress and finding mindful moments.

Some of the classes are very quiet, but Pritchard says that is expected.

“It just takes time for them to feel comfortable and just to talk about different things and it is OK to not participate, they don’t have to if they don’t feel comfortable,” Pritchard said.

The students I spoke with all say talking about difficulties they face as students with people who are not close to them is awkward.

“A lot of people in my flex block like to keep things to themselves, also, because no one really wants to say a lot of these things,” said Molly Abatiell, a senior.

“For me, it’s not my thing to open up about stuff like that in school with a bunch of people I don’t know, but I think it’s better for a lot of people. I have seen it help a lot of people in my flex block class,” said Isabel Crossman, a senior.

Senior Gracie Stahura admits she should practice dealing with stress more often, but it’s hard to find the time.

“If you do play sports and then you have homework when you get home and you have dinner and then it’s just a constant schedule that just, it’s hard to take breaks,” Stahura said.

The girls agree the social and emotional learning could lead to changes in how stress is dealt with among high school students in the future.

“The more we talk about it and let people know that it’s OK to talk about being stressed out and to let your feelings out, I think that will help students,” Stahura said.

“Over time it starts to just get second nature, like OK this is a trusted adult that I can have in my life,” Pritchard said.

But it will take more speaking out, something the girls point out many students are still not comfortable with.

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