September 2, 2022

Schools play a crucial role in children’s mental health and future success. According to the CDC, 15.1% of adolescents aged 12–17% report having had a major depressive episode, while 36.7% have persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness. 

Among children aged 3–17, 9.4% have been diagnosed with anxiety, 8.9% with behavioral problems, and 4.4% with depression. All combined, one in five students in any classroom may be dealing with serious mental health issues that could cause problems at school and at home.

We take these statistics at Triangle Day School (TDS) seriously. When students suddenly start showing chronic absence, disruptive behavior, and falling grades, our professional mental health and development experts step in to help them deal with those issues.

More importantly, we have carefully structured our educational and extracurricular programs around our students’ overall wellness. Every student at TDS has access to all the resources they need to excel, including access to dedicated counseling.

These are some of the stand-out features that we believe help nurture strong, resilient students here at TDS.

Small Class Size

Student connectedness is among the most critical factors influencing mental health in middle school. The bond between students and their teachers and students and their peers contributes significantly to students’ emotional wellbeing. 

But constant interaction between students and teachers is only achievable when you have a small class size.

Here at TDS, our classes have no more than 16 students, this allows the adults in the school to be actively involved in every student’s life. Our teachers, counselors, and other stakeholders can focus on each student’s individual needs and support them towards academic, social, and emotional growth.

In a 2016 Gallup study, only 39% of secondary school students in the country could point out a single adult they thought cared about them in their school. We’re changing that narrative here at TDS by improving meaningful connections in the school community.

This interaction extends beyond classwork. Our after-school program and various extracurriculars allow students to interact even more closely with each other and their instructors. These programs promote inclusion across the community and will enable each student to feel seen, heard, appreciated, and loved.

Strong Elective Program

We are proud of our robust elective program here at TDS and consider it equally important as our core classes. Electives give students the chance to explore their passions. We have observed over time that this dramatically improves student engagement and learning ability.

Students who take elective courses show their personality by studying the course material and taking classes from different instructors. This builds an environment where students feel more connected and invested in the community and their success. 

Furthermore, our robust elective program plays a significant role in supporting the core classes. It has been shown that it helps reluctant and failing students stay in school because their sense of engagement increases.

They get to choose their electives in middle school, but in Lower School, they all take art, music, PE, Spanish, library, technology, and have science lab 2 times a week in addition to their core classes. That way, we help to flame the passion in every kid so they can maximize personal growth and self-confidence.

High School Prep-Hit the Ground Running

Teens, especially those transitioning from primary to secondary education, are particularly vulnerable to mental health issues. A CDC survey revealed that 37% of high school students report “regular mental health struggles” either during the pandemic or all the time.

We realized that one of the best ways we can help our students beat this is to get them ready for high school, both emotionally and academically. 

Since this transition occurs during early adolescence, we work to ensure that the kids’ executive function is solid and well-developed. Executive function is an umbrella term for a broad set of psychological skills associated with functions such as:

  • Concentration and mental focus
  • Planning and organization
  • Memory
  • Time management
  • Problem-solving
  • Information analysis and processing

The transition can directly impact future academic success. Some of the most commonly reported issues include fear of increased workloads, loss of peer relationships, and fear of bullying, among other possible concerns.

We focus on emotional development and academic abilities to help our students adjust to the reality of high school. To this end, we have a full-time counselor who visits each class each week for group teachings.

Most students will form small groups, especially in middle school. Joining different groups is vital in promoting social-emotional health because they get to meet and talk about their studies, families, sports, and everything else to their peers.

We also have a host of sports and non-athletics activities with a no-cut policy. Meaning any student who wants to play gets to play. Our sports activities include cross country, tennis, golf, baseball, ultimate frisbee, basketball, and volleyball.

The same applies to our non-athletics activities, such as Chess Club and Robotics, which ultimately maximizes inclusion and diversity in the community.

Be Who You Are, Discover Who You Can Be

We work hard on mental health in school here at TDS, and our students, parents, and teachers love the results. Here’s what some of them have to say:

  • I think TDS does a great job at putting mental health at the forefront and makes it a priority when it comes to our staff and students.
  •  Our admin team worked hard to provide wellness breaks in the school year to give teachers and students a chance to step away and recharge. These days were either workdays or half-days. Making sure there was a punctuated break in the schedule every three weeks gave everybody a chance to relax.
  • This year especially, we worked with parents on how to help their children overcome some challenges that will have some significant social and academic deficits. Our Student Support Team met weekly to address concerns and help students get the services they need.

Mental health in middle school is one of the most critical aspects of future success. As a parent or student, we welcome you to be part of the Triangle Day School community today and experience K-8 education with a difference.

Image: Ground Picture On Shutterstock

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