Below you will find a list of teaching advice related to the subject of mental illness in the family.
Work with change of pace
You can choose to spend less or more time on the teaching resources and the discussions, tasks and exercises. To obtain a certain ‘flow’ in the teaching you should jump to the next discussion, task or exercise as soon as you feel the level of attention or energy falling. Also, be aware that some exercises will trigger a higher level of attention and energy than others. A physical exercise can, for instance, create a higher energy level than a joint discussion. Use the different exercises to alternate between high energy and low energy levels.
Recognize all kinds of input
It is important that you recognise the pupil’s expressions, stories and positions – even though you might not agree. Show curiosity when they express feelings and attitudes. At the same time explain to them how some things are right and some things are wrong – for instance, it is never the child’s fault if a parent suffers from mental illness. The pupil can be of another conviction – in these cases you should ask the pupil why he or she feels this way and underline how it is never their fault.
Wrap up the pupil’s story in an approving way
The teaching resources will encourage pupils to express their attitudes and experiences. This often means that many pupils show an interest in participating.
If you experience that many pupils put up their hands and sense that energy levels are falling at the same time, you can recognise the pupil’s willingness to participate and tell them that you are moving on to the next exercise. If possible you can invite those pupils in need to participate in further discussions after class. Falling energy levels can signify a non-constructive state. Vitality and energy help create reflection and learning.
You can also instruct pupils to use a certain signal (patting on the shoulder for instance) if they have a similar story to the one their classmate is sharing. In this way you avoid several pupils sharing the same story.
Wrap up personal stories in an approving way
It is important to show recognition if a pupil starts telling a personal story. Make sure the pupils know that there is room to share vulnerable issues with the rest of the class. This is the best way to create a safe and taboo-free class environment. At the same be aware that it might be better for a pupil to talk privately with you and not to the entire class. You can articulate this by approving the pupil’s willingness to share his or her story and then ask the pupil to stay after class for a private discussion. It is hard to make exact directions for when to do what and how – this should be at the discretion of the teacher. However, always be aware of the level of vulnerability in the pupil’s story – the way he or she presents it and how the other pupils react to the story. If you and the pupil have a private conversation after class, you can discuss the different ways of involving fellow pupils.
Take the lead
Take the lead if the class is silent. Silence can be a sign of many different things and it does not necessarily mean that the subject is of no interest to the pupils. Perhaps the pupils don’t feel safe talking about thoughts and feelings and need a little extra time to enter the discussion.
Use of figurative language
It can be a good idea to use figurative language when talking about thoughts and feelings. The teaching resources and the animated films can help you with this. Figurative language can help pupils achieve a better understanding of how to express themselves.