This Teacher’s Innovative Mental Health Check-In Board Helps Students Realize They’re Not Alone

This Teacher’s Innovative Mental Health Check-In Board Helps Students Realize They’re Not Alone

February 18, 2020 23 By Stanley Isaacs


– My next two guests are
innovators in education using groundbreaking methods
to connect to their students and give them happier lives. That’s amazing, I love good teachers. (applause) So, these two are sure
to give you all the feels and warm your heart. From Wilmington, Delaware, meet Warner Elementary School
Principal Dr. Terrance Newton. (applause and cheering) And then from Fremont, California, welcome high school English
teacher Erin Castillo. (applause and cheering) So Dr. Terrance, let’s start with you, like you opened a free
barber shop in your school, explain. – Of course, my school
is a inner-city school, type one, 400 students who come
from low-income communities, and I put the barber shop in place so that I could build
relationships with the students. When I first got there
at Warner Elementary, we were, our suspensions
were pretty much really high, and since I was able to
build that barber shop and have that relationship, because in a lot of African
American communities, we look at barber shops as a conversation to build those relationships so, you know, I was able to intertwine, you know, my third graders and my fourth
graders and my fifth graders to kind of build that relationship. And for me to grab that relationship because usually when the
students are coming down to the Principal’s office,
they’re in trouble, they just come down to the barber shop, I’m cutting their hair, and we were able to see a lot of changes and thanks to that, so this year we only have
four suspensions now. – Wow! (applause) Where did you get the
idea of that though, like, did you, have you always cut hair? Like where did you get the idea? How did you, how did
you make that connection that that would help? – Well probably about 15 years ago when I was working in a school
one of the problematic kids, his hair, he was always in
trouble, he was always suspended, and I just noticed that he
couldn’t afford a haircut, you know haircuts run to
$20, $25, and your kids– – When you’re a man, yeah. – Absolutely right. (laughing) – Women, they take all our money. – Right. And you know, our kids come from that low-income communities where their parents can’t afford it, so this one time I used my
(mumbles) hair cutting skills to build that relationship with him, and it changed his whole
attitude and philosophy with education. – ‘Cause you cared enough too. – Absolutely, he started
coming to school every day, his effort in his academics has increased, his behaviors decreased, and just that right there, just that spin of me cutting his hair, built a great relationship with him. – That’s so amazing. – So I kind of use that as a hook to do the same thing with
all the boys (mumbles). – You know my mum was a teacher for years, she was so amazing at it,
like, teacher of the year, she was just so amazing, and I remember her saying
once when I was younger, I don’t know if she knows
that I remember this, but you know if she put, you know, ’cause I used to
complain being her daughter, I’m like, you spend so much
time like, doing work stuff, you’re always with the
you know, kids at school, but she’s like, you know, I
find that if I put in time then they put in time,
if I care they’ll care, like all of that. And that really struck a chord with me and made me really proud, I’m totally gonna cry, it’s fine. I cry over everything. But you focus on mental
health though, right Erin? – [Erin] Yes, I do. – So how do you do that, how do you attack that in high school with everybody being too proud to like, own emotions and, how did you even, how did that come about? – Yeah, so I myself was one
of those kids too proud, I guess, to share. When I was in high school I
was there during a stabbing that occurred on my campus, I actually teach at the same school now, and I hid it. I was silently suffering,
I didn’t let people in and know that I was struggling, and I just felt like people
didn’t care to hear it, my teachers didn’t care to hear it, and I didn’t wanna be
one of those teachers that didn’t care to hear what
they were struggling with. If it was bothering them,
if it is bothering them, then it’s important and
it’s worth hearing about. – [Kelly] It’s valid. – It’s valid, 100%. So that’s where the check-in
chart came into place. – So what is the check-in chart? Explain to everybody. – So really it’s a piece of poster board that I scribbled on,
“Mental health check in,” and it has some different categories, going from like, I’m
great, to I’m struggling, I’m in a really dark place, I could use a check in. And so kids grab a Post-it note, they can do it any time
that they’re comfortable during the class, when I announce that
we’re doing a check in, and they write their name, or
some form of identification, a birthday, a nickname,
whatever it is they wanna do, on the back, and then they
place it onto the chart. It could be done electronically as well with Google Forms, all
sorts of different ways. – So that way they can do it anonymously, if they don’t want to own
it, but they’re feeling it. – Exactly, and then it
provides not just like an outlet for them to share, but I’m able to then see, okay
here’s where these kids are, and provide them with a visual of like, you’re not alone, did you know
that there were other people in that same category as you? Feeling the same way as you? And I usually choose days
where I’m not feeling my best so that I can model it first, and be like, no I need a check in today, here’s where I’m at, and I can put it up there
and really model for them, and here’s what I’m gonna do about that, I’m gonna talk to a good friend, or I’m gonna check in with
one of our counselors here. And it allows me to really hear them out, and get them the support that they need, whether it’s a psychologist on campus, or a counselor, we can find them.
– Or sometimes just simply writing it down on paper and getting it out of their body is like, my mother did that to me, I, I know this sounds crazy, (laughing) but I wasn’t very talkative
when I was little, (laughing) I know, I know, it’s unbelievable, but, no I wasn’t, and we moved
around a bit, I know, you know, new schools so you’re just, I became kind of introvert and my mother had me start writing. She was like, you’re so bottled up, just, I don’t care what you
write, just get something out. And that’s how I became a writer – Wow. – is because of that, so I
think that’s so important that you’re doing that with
them, just them expressing it, just getting it out on
paper, is so helpful. Like, Constance, Kent,
did y’all have teachers? I had awesome teachers like this, did you have awesome teachers like this? – I had some good, some bad. – Yeah, that was a very
honest answer, yes. (laughing) No, but did you have, I
mean, I can, I can pinpoint like ones in my life, like Mr. Al, like I have people I can pinpoint like, in my career of going to
school that really helped me. – Absolutely. Shout out to Jack Driscoll
who just changed my life and the lives of so many people
that I went to school with, and really just getting it out there and be able to communicate
your feelings is so important, I think it saved my life as a teenager. – Yeah, my gosh, that’s awesome. (applause) So Erin, how’ve parents and other teachers responded to this approach? Did they like it, did they not? Is it catching on? – Yeah, I was really honestly surprised, I just shared it, I was like, this worked for me, maybe
other people would like this, and I did not expect to
see it in other countries, and other states. – [Kelly] Wow! – Yeah, it’s just kind of taken off and it’s really just been awesome to see that people are paying attention
to the mental health crisis that we have. – An enormous one. – [Erin] Yes. – And people don’t talk about it enough. – Yes, exactly, it’s so– – And it’s not about politics,
it’s about mental health. – Yes, yes, yes, exactly. (applause) – It’s a real thing. – Yeah and just showing,
everyone has mental health, we all have it, and so just
giving some focus to it, I don’t know why this hasn’t
happened sooner but I– – And check ins for everybody, it’s such an inspiring message, not just for in schools but
every job, like every vocation, it’s really cool. So Erin, it’s had a profound impact on your students though as well right? – Yes it has. I’ve been able to see
them really being able to have conversations about feelings and what causes them to
have certain feelings, and what helps improve their mood, so we’ve identified a lot of like, what does it mean when you say
that you’re in this category, or what does it mean when you
say you’re in this category? And I now have friends
that walk up together and they’ll check in together
and put their Post-its up next to each other. – [Kelly] That’s cool. – And they’ll even put “I’m in struggling” and you’ll see them walk back with their arm around each other like, I got you, we’re gonna check in later. (applause) – Oh my gosh! – Yeah. (applause) – I love it! So, Dr. Terrance, do
you say the barber shop has been life changing for the kids, and was it their relationships? Is that how you were getting that? – Oh absolutely, that is the way (mumbles) in my elementary, and a lot of them don’t
get a chance to connect because we have third
and fourth and fifth, and they really separate it, so when it comes to the barber shop, they able to interact with each other and build relationships, you know, learn stuff about each
other that they didn’t know. We talk about football
teams that they like, we even talk about some of
the work that they’re doing, some of the books they’re
reading in their classrooms, ’cause they’re sharing the
books that they’re reading in the barber shop as well, and they’re making that connection. – [Kelly] Wow. – They’re building relationships. – That’s so cool, so cool. (applause) Well Terrance doesn’t know this, but the kids at his elementary school wanted to say something
to him, so check this out. (funky music) – Hi Principal Newton. – Hi Principal Newton. – Hi Principal Newton. – You always take special
time out of your day to make sure each kid gets attention and get their hair cut. – You’re always a kind person, I love it when you cut my hair, because it’s better than
my regular barber shop. (laughing) – You always keep me looking fresh. – When I look good I feel good. – You always help me to
stay motivated in school. – You make me feel amazing, thank you. – Thank you for cutting
my hair, I love it. – Thank you very much. – Thank you for everything. – Thank you. – We love you! – [Kelly] Yeah! (applause and whooping) – Woo! (laughing) (applause and cheering) Woo. – I know I’m sorry, but it’s, look at that, look how happy they are. My favorite though was like, you’ve nailed it more than my barber shop! (laughing) But that’s so touching, it’s so moving, look what you’re doing, like, you’re really impacting the
lives of these young men and no matter what they do in life, they’ll remember you for
that, that’s so cool. – It’s really touching,
I’m trying not to cry because my goal is to change the world, and we have to start with our kids, and just building that
relationship right there, (applause) really means a lot. – [Kelly] Yeah. (applause and cheering) – And just the things
that Erin is doing as well is making that connection with these kids, because we’re losing our
kids to death, incarceration, we gotta find something to
build these relationships with. – We’re losing our kids to
mental health problems, yeah. – Mental health issues, a lot of my kids deal
with a lot of trauma, a lot of trauma, so just for
them to come into school, and for them to say what they said, how they felt about me,
really meant a lot, yeah. – And I think that what
we forget as adults, like, how hard it was in those years like, junior high was hell for me, like, you know and high school can be hard, we forget how, as adults you think, you have no real problems,
like, you’re fine, like, as a parent I can sometimes
find myself saying that. But it isn’t true, it’s like hard navigating the
social society that is school, like, you know what I’m saying, in the setting of everything,
it can be very difficult, so the fact that you’re
taking the extra time and thought and putting your
heart into that is really cool and I hope this has a domino effect (applause) for a bunch of teachers and
Principals, it’s so cool.