How This Teacher Uses Post-It Notes to Check in on Students Having a Hard Time
For Erin, a high school English teacher based in San Francisco, one of her class's most important assignments requires no studying, and there's no wrong answer or score to affect a student's final grade.
It's a simple poster board hanging up in her classroom that she's dubbed a "mental health check-in chart."
Here's how it works: "I asked my students to write their names on the back of a Post-It note [and place it next to the heart that matches their feelings] so I could check in with ones in the bottom two sections. I explained the green section as them struggling, but speaking to another adult or trying to work through it themselves."
She discovered after starting the first few check-ins that it was even more important a task than she realized.
"Holy cow, these kids. I love them. My heart hurts for them," she said in an Instagram post. "High school is rough sometimes, but I was happy that a few were given a safe space to vent and work through some feelings."
A hidden benefit of this chart — which offers six different levels of emotional well-being from "I'm Great" to "I'm Meh" to "I'm In a Really Dark Place" — being on public display is that students get a clearer picture of how mental health is ever-changing.
"I also like that students could visually see that they aren't alone in their struggles," Erin added. "It was a beautiful day focusing on self-care and mental health."
"Students could visually see that they aren't alone in their struggles."
If students are uncomfortable placing their notes on the board in front of peers, Erin said they "can also write the category on the back or the colored heart and hand them to the teacher to hang later." She also documents each week's chart to keep track of any trends forming.
"I take photos of the chart to help me collect data of what percent of my students are in the struggling area and take into consideration some factors, like time of year," she said.
It's an easy enough assignment to replicate, but Erin, determined to spread awareness of the importance of these conversations, created a free printable version with detailed instructions so that any teacher can bring this idea to their own classrooms, whether it's in high school or elementary school or prekindergarten.
In fact, commenters on the post — which has gotten more than 7,000 likes — have said they even plan to use this chart with their own staff, coworkers, and families.
Erin added: "It definitely can glue a group together and remind people that they are not alone in this."