Erin Castillo from San Fransico is a passionate teacher and always wants to make her students feel at home and at ease.
The high school special education teacher has been doing this for five years, but over these years, she’s noticed that some of her pupils suffer from severe mental health issues but have no one to talk to.
She’s even had a few students who attempted suicide during her school career.
Erin wanted to help out as much as she could but wasn’t sure how to because the subject is quite sensitive and plenty of students who have problems simply don’t want to talk about them.
When she saw a heartfelt Facebook post of a teacher about mental issues in the classroom, she was inspired to create her own mental health check-in board and hang it up in the classroom. She realized that her pupils probably wouldn’t want to go public with their issues, so she figured out an innovative way to make the system semi-anonymous.
Here’s how it works.
At the start of every week, she asks her students to grab a post-it note and write their name on the back.
I asked my students to write their names on the back of a post-it note 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,” Erin wrote on her Instagram page.
They then have to place the post-it in one of the following categories: ‘I’m great’, ‘I’m okay’, ‘I’m meh’, ‘I’m struggling’, ‘I’m having a hard time and wouldn’t mind a check-in’, or ‘I’m in a really dark place’.
Over the course of the week, Erin talks in private with every student, starting from the bottom. The check-in board gives her students a safe method to tell a trusted person about their feelings and give them some room to vent. She emphasizes that self-care and mental health are of the utmost importance, especially in a high school environment.
According to numerous studies, mental health issues among high schoolers and college students are more common than one would think, and the effects are lasting and severe.
The check-in chart with post-its proved to be a success, and students were more than thankful.
“I was able to start some check-ins today, and holy cow these kids. I love them. My heart hurts for them. High school is rough sometimes, but I was happy that a few were given a safe space to vent and work through some feelings.”
“I also like that students could visually see that they aren’t alone in their struggles. It was a beautiful minimum day focusing on self-care and mental health.”
After Erin shared her own check-in chart on her Instagram page, she quickly noticed that the post started to gather a lot of attraction.
In fact, it didn’t take long before the whole concept of a check-in chart went viral, with dozens of teachers across the world creating their own version.
The special education teacher then made a digital file of the check-in chart and shared it freely, so that other teachers could create one of these mental health check-in boards in an instant.
In a matter of days, numerous of these check-in boards were posted on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, raising awareness about self-care in schools.
“If I’ve learned anything this year so far, it’s that life is much harder at 9-10 years old than I could ever possibly remember. So thankful for [Erin] and her brilliant ideas, looking forward to implementing this in the classroom tomorrow”, teacher @missginfourth posted on Instagram.
The post-it concept works so well because it’s private, accessible and creates a safe space for the students.
Erin couldn’t believe that her check-in board has gone viral, and she was relieved to hear that so many children could get more help thanks to the post-it check-ins.
“So many people think they’re the only ones struggling,” she said to Insider. “Kids need to hear that they’re not alone and what that support looks like.”
“I just started crying,” Erin recalls when discovering her idea went viral. “My husband asked me why I was crying, and I said ‘Because kids are being saved everywhere.'”
What an absolutely amazing idea and a warm teacher!
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Made this mental health check in chart after seeing @missjohnstonsjourney use a digital version for teachers on her #okayteacher Facebook page. I asked my students to write their names on the back of a post-it note 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. ••• I was able to start some check ins today, and holy cow these kids. I love them. My heart hurts for them. High school is rough sometimes, but I was happy that a few were given a safe space to vent and work through some feelings. ••• I also like that students could visually see that they aren’t alone in their struggles. It was a beautiful minimum day focusing on self care and mental health. ••• 💟UPDATE: just added a printable version with detail instructions so you can do this in your classroom! It’s FREE!💟 • • • #mentalhealthawareness #highschoolteacher #secondaryela #teacherorganization #teachings #anchorcharts #teachersofinstagram #teachersfollowteachers #teachersfollowingteachers #iteachtoo #teachertips #weareteachers #teacherspayteachers #teacherideas #teachingideas #specialeducationteacher #teacherlove #teach #weteachsped #teacher #iteachhighschool #elateacher #teachergoals #igteacher #igteachers #teachersofig