By Katie Bernardo
Through the rushing hallways and yelling kids of high school, being able to have a safe space on campus is more essential than one may think.
Many students get easily overwhelmed whether it’s from the piles of school work, the pressure of those around them, or even from finding their environment to be discomforting. This can result in mental health challenges and a decrease in overall happiness both on and off campus.
Many students have an increase in depressive symptoms if they have a negative school environment. In its first nationwide survey on teen mental health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 44 percent of students reported feeling sad or hopeless every day for two consecutive weeks or more during the year. A large part of this stems from their relationships and feelings of connectedness on campus
“Low school connectedness increases the risk for depressive symptoms, anxiety, violence, and bullying/mobbing whereas high school connectedness reduces that risk…High school connectedness supports students’ individual successful learning,” according to the National Library of Medicine.
A negative school environment could lead to more negative outcomes than just a poor mental health. It can lead to a decrease in academic performance and even harm others.
Our school addresses student mental health in a variety of ways such as the Wellness Center and our social workers on campus. However, many students find comfort in other places that are just as important.
Many students find comfort in teachers that tend to display compassion in their teaching. That might look like one-on-one interactions or taking the time to thoughtfully respond to questions or simply saying hello as a student enters the classroom.
Having a teacher that builds a sense of humanity in their classroom can go a long way toward making a student feel safe and comfortable because it can sculpt a healthy environment for their students. This not only means that the teacher is engaging and human but that teachers see students as human as well.
“I think it’s important to make a safe space for students because in order to properly learn, they need to have a good environment. A bad environment could hinder their learning. So, being in a place where they feel like they matter, they will most likely learn better.” English teacher Maureen Grandchamp said.
Having a safe space like this works to motivate students throughout their day.
Personally speaking, my English teacher last year took an extensive role in helping me through my junior year. In this class, I did not know anyone, nor was I prepared for the workload throughout the school year. The passion and effort that my teacher put into teaching her students and lessons inspired me to do well in class and build a connection with my school work. Not only was I extremely engaged in my work, but I became excited for upcoming assignments. This classroom and teacher became my safe space and favorite spot in this huge school.
Not only does a teacher’s kindness provide a safe space for students, but a student’s own passion can also work to improve their environment in school. Being in a classroom with a subject that the student is passionate about can not only make a student feel secure but also bring them excitement for the day.
Whether that is algebra or environmental science or psychology, students’ creativity can expand in a classroom where they feel safe and confident in the subject matter.
A major subject that can often bring a student comfort and even relaxation throughout the day is an art class. Students are offered a variety of visual and performing arts (VAPA) classes that can range from ceramics to filmmaking. Even if students are not confident in their final product, they know that their work is validated because it is their own unique product.
“Ceramics is a class I enjoy very much because it allows me to take a step back from my overwhelming school days. Being able to have a hands-on class where I can express my creativity is therapeutic for me in a way,” Senior Valentina Ulloa said.
Having a class that helps students explore their creativity can both excite and calm a student throughout a hectic day of school.
When a friendly smile or fun project can’t calm students’ mental health issues, the school social workers are an essential resource. Granada Hills Charter provides a Wellness Center for students. This Wellness Center is also a place where students can go to relax and sit in silence if they feel overwhelmed or just need a quiet space.
Amongst all these different resources that are provided for students, they all connect by acting as a safe space. All of these examples are there to aid students throughout the day and the school year. These safe spaces serve as a place for students to feel comfortable despite all the chaos around them.