How to Support a Student in Class

When it comes to helping individual students overcome mental health challenges, teachers employ a number of practical strategies. 

For students who have been diagnosed and have individualized learning plans or strategies in place with the school, teachers should become familiar with and follow those plans.

For students who are struggling but may yet to have been diagnosed with a specific illness, you may find the following ideas helpful. (Of course, check with your school or district’s policies before trying any of these ideas:

  • When you sense that a student is feeling uncomfortable, anxious or overwhelmed, reach out with an invitation to talk to you about it, saying for example, “I’m sensing that you’re feeling overwhelmed by today’s class discussion (or nervous about the upcoming test, etc.). Talk to me – we’ll figure it out together.” 
  • For a student who may experience anxiety around test-taking, allow additional time to take a test, or allow him/her to take the test in a separate room and/or at a different time of day.
  • For a student experiencing an anxious moment during class, issue a “break pass” allowing him/her to go to a safe place to relax, regroup and process emotions.
  • Consider accommodating students who may struggle with communication or building relationships by strategically placing them with specific teachers or classmates with whom they have established healthy relationships.
  • Partner with your school’s experts (social workers, counselors or nurses) to plan student accommodations.
  • Requesting coverage for your class in order to step out for a one-on-one discussion with a student when needed.
  • Give the student advanced notice of transitions, and have tasks ready for the student to focus on during times of transition.
  • Allow the student to observe several other students completing a task before he/she attempts it.
  • Use a check-in tracking system to monitor the student’s mood from day to day.
  • Connect academic assignments with student-specific interests.
  • Assist the student in prioritizing work.
  • Help the student use realistic and positive statements about his/her performance and outlook for the future.
  • Use behavior-specific praise for recognition.