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AccreditationYear of the Middle States Network

Top 3 Takeaways From Last Week’s Event On Student Anxiety

By May 5, 2023No Comments

Dear Colleagues—

Thank you to all who joined us for “Mitigating Anxiety in Students,” a virtual panel discussion and Q&A.  

I am especially grateful to James “Jim” Incardona, Ph.D., assistant headmaster for academics at Seton Hall Preparatory School (SHP), and Camille Banks-Lee, psychotherapist and former teacher and school administrator, for their contributions.

If you were able to attend, you heard Jim share details of a project at Seton Hall Prep designed to mitigate student anxiety and to strengthen relationships between teachers and students. During a regular segment of the school week, students choose from a wide range of mindfulness and health activities, all moderated by teachers.

The initiative is having a measurable impact on student health and well-being. You can read more about Seton Hall Prep’s project here. You can also access Seton Hall Prep’s data collection instrument here. Note: A professor from Saint Elizabeth University designed the data collection instrument for psychometric validity and statistical reliability, and professors from Montclair University reviewed the project.

Here are my top three takeaways from the conversation with Camille and Jim:

  1. Find opportunities to match actions with words. Students and families hear schools say that we take their mental health seriously. Let’s match our actions to those words. Kudos to Seton Hall Prep for creating a weekly “Enrichment Block” experience that commits resources to the development of coping skills and resilience.
  2. To evolve how your school addresses mental health, start with attention, time, and new behaviors. Facilitating change is always context-dependent, but there are some universal patterns. Seton Hall Prep (SHP) offers a useful example:
    1. Attention: SHP focused the community’s attention on mental health through their use of the Sustaining Excellence protocol for accreditation. This protocol engages the entire community in action research to address a complex problem.
    2. Time: SHP redesigned their weekly schedule to ensure time to address mental health.
    3. New behaviors: SHP designed programming that fosters student choice and caring relationships, rather than forced choices and high pressure assessments.
  3. It’s all about relationships. The success of Seton Hall Prep’s action research validates what we have known for a long time, and which clinical psychologist Lisa Damour, Ph.D., expresses eloquently: “The single most powerful force for adolescent mental health is strong relationships with caring adults.”

Because the conversation with Camille and Jim was so rich, I will share additional takeaways (with links to resources) over the next several days.

If you weren’t able to join or if you want to share the experience with others, the full recording is here.

In the meantime, here at MSA we consider mental health—for all of us—to be one of the “Forces at Play” reordering the world, especially education. To learn more about how you can make sense of this tectonic shift and adapt, join us on June 13 for our “Forces at Play” workshop at the University of Pennsylvania’s Graduate School of Education.

Sending all good wishes—


Christian Talbot

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