Thursday, January 17, 2013

A Talk

At the start of my teaching placement, I found out the school was due to have a Mental Health Awareness week. I was thrilled at the idea. I was less thrilled when I later heard why the school needs to have it, but at the same time, my request to help out during the week was approved with open arms.

As a result of that, I now find myself looking at a selection of books on my bottom shelf, checking out my own recent blog post, gathering my materials from the Mental Health stand in college, and planning something in my head. I have a forty minute window in which to talk to the senior students, delivering that same talk three times: to 4th, 5th and 6th years individually as year groups.

Essentially I'm put in a position of teaching without assessing anyone, and teaching on something that isn't covered in the RE or English syllabi. I'm partially terrified about the idea, because I don't know how the students will react to the idea of someone my age with my accent (the students I teach think I sound "posh") talking to them about issues that might be affecting some of them, from depression to drug abuse to suicidal ideation. It's not that I don't know my stuff - or that I'm not working towards knowing it before the first talk - but that I'm not from the same background as they are.

I don't want that to be an issue. Thankfully I was young once. (Many would argue I'm still young, but my knees and my hearing tend to disagree.) I know not to talk down to them about this. It's a sensitive issue, and it requires some compassion and empathy.

As weird as it might sound, I'm passionate about the topic of Mental Health. I'm part of a rare breed of would-be teachers who finds psychology and neuroscience interesting. I honestly couldn't tell you where it comes from, but there you go. So, I'll be using my weird little interests in the talk. Dopamine will get a mention, naturally, as part of some transnational effects it can have on the mind, and its role in depressive moods.

But it won't be jargon. I'm determined for the talk to not just be jargon. No matter the background of the people at the talk, jargon is the wrong way to go. I want the students to be able to leave the talk capable of actually discussing the material, freed in some way from the burden and shame that goes along with mental health disorders.

It's possible I'm being ambitious, but I have to try. This is my first chance to really make a difference in this way without a fictional story to back up my point (such as The Rest is Silence). I want it go down well, and I want to leave the school at the end of that week knowing that it made even the slightest difference to the pupils. After all, I don't intend this to be the last time I ever talk about mental health awareness to a group of students.

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