If I….

I never think on a grand scale.  I am doing good to get myself together at the beginning of the day and make it through without making a mess of something.  Life is like that for me.

However, IF I wanted to think on a grand scale and create a curriculum to help prevent suicide in high school teens I would start in kindergarten.  They would have mental health lessons just like PE, math, spelling, science, geography and every other course of study.  I would also require teachers to have training in mental wellness.  Sadly, teachers are some of the worse bullies I have met or the most mentally unhealthy.  It is difficult to teach children healthy boundaries if you don’t have them yourself.  (I know this from experience.) I would also put art, music, drama, debate, and physical movement.  I would treat PE more like an opportunity for them to play cooperative games, obstacle courses and time to move around.  I would also lengthen the time for recess.  Kids don’t know how to play any more.  Cell phones would be docked in the classrooms and left there until after school.

I think at the high school level the advisory class (a class after lunch currently used for homework and extra tutoring) a place with a variety of ages would be a place to teach at least weekly lessons on mental hygiene, how to get along with difficult people, how to make hard decisions, coping skills, and other mental/emotional lessons.  Again, I would train the teachers first.  If the teachers are not on board with the curriculum, the students will either get half or nothing.  This is pretend so I will continue.  The curriculum would include tough subjects such as how to recognize when a person is being abusive to you.  Understanding the different types of abuse and basic understanding of their own human rights.  I would encourage circle conversations with talking sticks passed around the circle giving each person an opportunity to share their idea or pass.  Creating a safe environment where different ideas are heard and students learn to disagree without being disagreeable. Creative arts of all kinds especially process art where each one will be uniquely their creation.  I admire our high school that added volleyball net, ping pong and the biggest Jenga game I’ve ever seen (uses 2x4s).  Encouraging students to play with each other.  Table games, card games, all the things not requiring a computer to accomplish.  Team building games for example given a bag of materials they put on a skit.  Plus service projects where the see real results.  Amazing what it does for student when the participate in an activity where they feel like they are making a real difference.

Life is hard but people today are not taught that they are tougher.  The problem with positivity is it tries to wipe out or pretend there are no problems.  I believe in optimism with a clear understanding that some times sad times will happen.  Unfortunately, in many places people are encouraged to make decisions ignoring the emotions involved.  In my opinion, emotions are what life is all about.  Challenges are not to be over come so you can get on with living but challenges are the very essence of living.


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