Otisfield principal walks with students to help mental health

Schools from across Maine are taking new steps to address mental health, making sure students are taken care of emotionally as well as academically.WMTW stopped by Otisfield Community School to see how a few minutes can have a big impact on students. A lap around the building with a student has become a daily ritual for Jessika Sheldrick.The trip is short, but the Otisfield Community School principal said the fact time with students outside the classroom has become some of the most important minutes in her day.In that time, Sheldrick lets students share whatever is on their minds. “Am I solving life’s problems in that short walk around the building? No. But it gives me the temperature of what kids might need a little extra support,” Sheldrick said. She says she has been noticing more signs of anxiety and mental health challenges among students before the pandemic.When COVID-19 came around, she says it compounded the issue and made it much more significant. “What we heard was ‘everyone wants us to be happy but we’re not necessarily happy.’ So, teaching kids that it’s OK when you’re not OK,” Sheldrick said.One of the biggest challenges was isolation. Sheldrick and her staff are now doubling down on efforts to listen to how the pandemic made students feel.”We are a school that really values ​​being together and collaborating and leaning on each other. COVID has kind of isolated us, even in our own building,” Sheldrick said. The district has gone through trauma training by teaching staff and administrators to spot signs of distress in children and teach healthy coping mechanisms developed by mental health experts.” It’s just a real challenge for them because it seems like this age level of kids, they’ve had no time to be kids. There’s just been a lot of stresses in their life,” Sheldrick said. The school is trying to make that time whenever possible. The principal said the most powerful force of positivity has been getting everyone under the same roof inside the school. “I think some of that was lost for a little while but now we’re finding new ways to make that happen. And, fingers crossed, we’re heading in a better direction that hopefully, this can happen more,” Sheldrick said. Gorham schoolsBiology of children’s brainsCumberland and North Yarmouth schoolsTelstar schoolsWestbrook schoolsUMaine Peer Relations LabBiddeford, Saco and Dayton schoolsPortland schoolsWaterford Memorial SchoolIf your school or district is doing something special or unique to help address mental health and social-emotional learning, send an email to wmtw@wmtw.com and let us know about it.

Schools from across Maine are taking new steps to address mental health, making sure students are taken care of emotionally as well as academically.

WMTW stopped by Otisfield Community School to see how a few minutes can have a big impact on students.

A lap around the building with a student has become a daily ritual for Jessika Sheldrick.

The trip is short, but the Otisfield Community School principal said the fact time with students outside the classroom has become some of the most important minutes in her day.

In that time, Sheldrick lets students share whatever is on their minds.

“Am I solving life’s problems in that short walk around the building? No. But it gives me the temperature of what kids might need a little extra support,” Sheldrick said.

She says she has been noticing more signs of anxiety and mental health challenges among students before the pandemic.

When COVID-19 came around, she says it compounded the issue and made it much more significant.

“What we heard was ‘everyone wants us to be happy but we’re not necessarily happy.’ So, teaching kids that it’s OK when you’re not OK,” Sheldrick said.

One of the biggest challenges was isolation. Sheldrick and her staff are now doubling down on efforts to listen to how the pandemic made students feel.

“We are a school that really values ​​being together and collaborating and leaning on each other. COVID has kind of isolated us, even in our own building,” Sheldrick said.

The district has gone through trauma training by teaching staff and administrators to spot signs of distress in children and teach healthy coping mechanisms developed by mental health experts.

“It’s just a real challenge for them because it seems like this age level of kids, they’ve had no time to be kids. There’s just been a lot of stress in their life,” Sheldrick said.

The school is trying to make that time whenever possible.

The principal said the most powerful force of positivity has been getting everyone under the same roof inside the school.

“I think some of that was lost for a little while but now we’re finding new ways to make that happen. And, fingers crossed, we’re heading in a better direction that hopefully, this can happen more,” Sheldrick said.

We have highlighted the efforts and unique approaches several other schools are taking to address mental health. Check them out, too!

If your school or district is doing something special or unique to help address mental health and social-emotional learning, send an email to wmtw@wmtw.com and let us know about it.

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