Teachers Need to Understand Students’ Mentality

Nina Ortiz

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A large amount of Novato High students deal with mental health issues, constant stress, and overwhelming situations on the daily. As the school year increasingly becomes more difficult, students tend to push their personal needs aside in hopes of putting their educational needs first. The workload given by Novato High teachers has contributed to this modern crisis. 

Many young teens strive to excel throughout their high school careers, but as teachers push the limits of assigned work, that motivation is lost. Although Novato High teachers wish nothing but the best for students, many other factors play into the life of high school students. 

The biggest impacts on the lives of Novato High students include mental health, home life, anxiety, and stress. As new teachers are welcomed to the Marin schools community, they start to become involved in the cycle of dealing with students, faculty, and the high school environment. Becoming involved in a high school community, such as Novato High, is challenging and can be delicate. In some cases, teachers are not aware of how their influence, actions, and words can change the perspective of a student. 

Sophomore Charlie McDonald described the stress he has experienced. 

“Last year in Biology my teacher was not chill. He gave out tons of homework, was bossy, and picky. It stressed me out,” said McDonald. 

Gaining the abilities to connect, care, and challenge students are the best traits for a high school teacher. These kinds of abilities can be seen in many different ways depending on the teacher, but  not having these key qualities can leave a negative imprint on the mindset of the students. 

One of the most popular themes emphasized by Novato High teachers is college preparation. Teachers use this component in order to explain that if students do not choose to invest their time in the workload, they will be incapable of furthering their education. Novato High strives to prepare students for college, but does not take enough time to take a closer look into the classroom life at Novato High? 

Jamie Planka, a Novato High English teacher shared her experience with teacher preparation during her education. 

“We were prepared a lot on our own mental health, because teaching is said to be such a stressful job and there are a lot of unknown responsibilities when you enter the job,” said Planka. “I wouldn’t say there was much of an emphasis on the students’ mental health. We talked about it a little bit. We talked about realizing that kids are still kids and they still have that life outside of school. As teachers, we tend to forget that, because we are really focused on our jobs, meeting the standards, and all the necessities of teaching.”

Although certain teachers are professionally qualified to help students excel in their education, not every staff member is prepared to deal with the challenging lives and emotions of high school students. Many teachers have the desire to create a wellness campus for the students, but do not take the time to take a deeper look into the overall lives of Novato High students. 

Laura Roberts, another Novato High English teacher, described her ability to connect with students.

“I believe I might’ve been more prepared than others, only because I had similar issues when I was a teen in high school,” said Roberts. 

Jim Larson, the new Assistant Principal at Novato High, shared valuable thoughts on the environment and community at Novato High School. Larson explained how certain teachers can impact students.  

“I think that positive reinforcements have a lot to do with the personality of the student, and the personality of the teacher. A teacher who knows their students, is able to identify those things to positively reinforce their students,” Larson stated. 

He continued to touch on the mental health of students, and how prepared Novato High teachers are. 

“People that have mental health concerns can be escalated or triggered by any number of things inside the classroom or outside the classroom. I believe that someone who struggles with mental health issues could be triggered or something could happen with any environment or any person. I believe that I, and every educator, should always use more support with working with students who have mental health issues,̈  Larson said. 

School Resource Officer Antonio Rodriguez also shared his thoughts on the classroom environment. 

“I would say, just encouraging young people to step outside of their comfort zone. There are a lot of students that I’ve talked to where they’re in trouble, and for whatever reason commited a crime or did something they weren’t supposed to do. They become stuck in that mindset of assuming that this is just who they are, becoming devalued, assuming they’re a bad kid, and deciding to go down the wrong path,” said Rodriguez. “It just breaks my heart to hear that, but when you give a young person positive reinforcement in the form of compliments, teachers are able to break that cycle and open doors for those students. It’s just having the capability to listen, and that’s the most important way to get through to young students.”

Becoming invested in Novato High students is the best way for teachers to connect with the young teens. The NHS teachers need to understand the students and be able to provide advice and a listening ear.