LUBBOCK, TX (KCBD) - Jessie Cayton has been a teacher at Cavazos Middle School for seven years. Over spring break, she was inspired by a few posts on Instagram and created a way to check in on her 8th graders’ mental health with a hands-on approach. Now, her idea is being shared nationally.
“I’ve made it a habit and have for the last few years to use a Google form to check in with kids when they’ve spent any real time away from school," said Cayton. “I just want to know where you’re at.”
She recently started a new way to check on her students. She started a mental health check in board. “I realized unintentionally, that by keeping it really private, I was reinforcing the idea that however they felt needed to be this really hidden, isolated thing.”
At the beginning of class, students are given a sticky note. They write their name on the back of the note and some time during class, they place their note on the board in what category they’re feeling.
Cayton says the response from students has been positive, allowing them to share their feelings. “If someone makes a boneheaded decision, it happens. So we talk about that, and we discuss it instead of being defensive. They’re much more likely to be honest and we can reach a resolution that works for both of us."
Cayton has words of encouragement for other teachers who want to try this. “I would encourage secondary teachers, middle school and high school teachers to take 60 seconds to try it with your kids, because any information you gain from that is going to be beneficial for you and for your students. They feel heard and you have a little more context.”
She also says that she utilizes the counselors and other resources at the school to help the students if they check any of the lower two or three boxes on the mental health check-in board.
And an interesting fact about Mrs. Cayton, She won campus teacher of the year in 2014 and 2018 and was LISD’s secondary teacher of the year in 2015.