Channeling Student Pessimism into Action

Channeling Student Pessimism into Action

”The first thing that has positively shifted the tone of conversations we have in class is the decreasing stigma of mental health concerns,” says Caitlyn Homol, the International Baccalaureate, or IB, Teaching and Learning Coordinator and IB Psychology teacher at Brooklyn Prospect High School, in an interview in Chalkbeat New York.

“At our school, we teach the ‘Abnormal Psychology’ option offered in the IB Psychology course, and students are tremendously open and excited to share their experiences with each other. I would have been so embarrassed to talk about my mental health at that age, but kids are supportive and continue the conversation with questions or their own contributions.

“The second development I’ve seen is less positive: I’ve noticed that students carry more pessimism these days. More students feel that nothing matters, and that there is nothing that can be done to improve the circumstances of themselves or their communities. This is a comprehensible reaction to climate developments, the inertia of systems and institutions to change, and an eroding pretense that a college education is a ticket to financial stability. I also think social media algorithms proliferate a lot of cynical (if not outright incorrect) interpretations of psychological and sociological knowledge.

“I think as educators of young people, part of our role is to inspire students and to teach pathways to change. Of course, we have a duty to portray the world realistically in our classrooms. Many things are actually dire. But I think we also must take care to invite students to construct generative interpretations and applications of knowledge and research. Otherwise, we are left with the status quo and that pessimistic vision does become our fate.

“We also have to let students feel the impact of taking action with others, ‘doing’ things rather than just talking about them. This is tricky for adults too, but my experiences underscore how meaningful optimism comes from collective work and creation.

Chalkbeat New York

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