Have teachers become less lenient with student mental health?

It’s no doubt that last year there was a heavy emphasis on mental health coming back from Covid. Many teachers began the year telling students their new policies which included considerable policies that were set to help students during any mental battles that they may be undergoing.


Some of these policies included zero consequences for late work, virtual exam retakes at home, and minimal homework. 


The administration also made it clear that students were to get no more than 30 minutes of homework nightly for each class, and for some gen ed classes, no homework was heavily suggested. 


Although this year, that sense of leniency is not there for students and teachers who may not have the same approach toward mental health that they did the previous year. 


There could be various reasons that this could be. This could be some teachers’ attempt at going back to “normalcy” and enforcing a stricter policy because last year may have been too easy.


“Teachers are less lenient because they expect us to have adapted to going back to school and some believe that when we use mental health as a reason for poor performance. They believe it’s just an excuse to get more time and they kind of stopped their “preaching” about how they value student’s mental health and well-being,” senior Maya Mann said 


“It reflects in the workload because teachers don’t care about student mental health anymore. If you have three exams  in one day they just tell you to suck it up and life is life” Mann said 


There are many ways that teachers can support students’ mental health. Some effective ways are offering an open ear to listen to their hardships, providing mental health resources that could help them, and watching for warning signs that students may present. 


Many teachers were very understanding of students’ circumstances because of the pandemic. For example, if a student was consistently submitting late work last year, they would be understanding of their situation and more likely to excuse the work.


However this year, teachers have brought back many late work policies and they have brought policies that take off late points regardless of the situation.


The new grading policy has also caused immense anxiety among students because of the pressure that is put on them when completing summative. 


“I think ever since (the pandemic) I’ve noticed a huge difference in students with mental health needs, due to being at home for two years. I think the impacts of that are still existing,” said school psychologist Laurie Ottehenning 

“I can see how it can be difficult for students to deal with students who are expected to go back to normal now after experiencing the pandemic and I have seen a lot of mental health struggles the past couple of years,” Ottenhenning said


According to the CDC, more than a third of students experienced poor mental health in 2021 due to the pandemic. Because of this, there have been long-lasting consequences for students who have been dealing with these struggles.


However, many teachers are focused on their jobs and teaching the curriculum this year, more than the students that are experiencing these long-term effects. 


“ I hope that my students will let me know if anything I’m doing is putting pressure on them. I always strive to accommodate as much as possible in order to support student’s mental health,”  IB environmental science teacher Stephanie Klien said


“I managed my approach to student mental health this year compared to last year. Covid still affects people, it was traumatic and people still need to be accounted for and supported for their experiences,” Klein said


IB students specifically have been experiencing a lack of compassion and empathy when it comes to mental health support this year from staff.


Last year, there was a very positive approach when discussing mental health in IB classrooms and teachers offered their support if needed in almost every classroom.


This year, however, a similar approach is not there and many teachers are focused on IB exams and IA’s rather than their students’ well-being. 


With college applications, IB assignments, and keeping up with grades, there has been intense pressure on students to perform well.


Because of this, it has created a suffocating environment for students to talk about mental health because it seems as if that is the last thing to discuss as it may not seem like a priority.


This culture surrounding mental health needs to be thoroughly changed because students’ mental health should always be a priority regardless of the importance of the assignments. 


There are little to no policies that are implemented for student mental health and the homework policy is not enforced as heavily as it was last year.


It feels as if some teachers are too eager to go “back to normal” and although that is natural and it will eventually happen, that process should not be rushed especially during this difficult time.


In general, there is no “right way” to go back to life after the pandemic, but there are certain strategies and approaches to take that help student make the transition easier.