The Teachers’ Lounge Podcast – Dr. Charlene Myklebust
The Teachers’ Lounge, a Youth Frontiers podcast hosted by Sally Koering, dives into meaningful topics relevant to teachers, parents and those invested in the growth and well being of young people. Our 14th episode features a conversation with Dr. Charlene Myklebust, an educator who has worked in the field of education for decades with a wide array of titles and responsibilities.
While Charlene currently serves as a mental health consultant for schools, she also has experience in school administration and social-emotional learning. Charlene frequently presents at conferences focusing on the brain science of learning and mindful education.
The following are some highlights from our conversation. Charlene’s responses are paraphrased with direct quotations in quotation marks.
On why we should be concerned with mental health:
“We come from a history of being a little afraid to dip toes into the world of mental health. We educate the whole child, not just part of the child, and a child’s mental health functioning is an integral part of their personhood.” While we train our teachers to look for early warning signs of more serious mental health issues, mental health applies to everyone, not just extreme cases. It means building supportive relationships and communities that protect our students throughout difficult times.
On obstacles to learning:
Students experiencing serious trauma, poverty or chaos at home or in their community are physically and mentally unable to learn. You cannot access the part of your brain that allows for reflection and learning when you are in fight-or-flight mode from the moment you wake up. We see students who go from 0 to 60 when asked to take out their homework, but what we don’t realize is that they walked in the door at about a 59. If we think about what might be going on in the background of our students’ lives, we realize it really can’t stay in the background when they walk through those doors.
On mindfulness in our schools:
Mindfulness means that in the moment you are paying attention without judgment. You are aware of your surroundings and notice more. “There is no way we are going to hurt kids who don’t have mental health disorders by developing positive relationships with them, teaching them social skills and being supportive adults. In fact, what we have seen is that when teachers use mindful approaches with students, it impacts their own wellness. Teachers begin to feel more mindful in their own lives!” Being more aware of our environments and surroundings holds reciprocal benefits for students and teachers alike.
On building positive relationships:
“If a child is suspended three times by the time they reach ninth-grade, they are almost certain to drop out of high school. Every time a child is suspended we have to take a closer look at the damage we are doing to them.” When we build positive and trusting relationships with students, we get a better understanding of what might have triggered a certain undesirable reaction. “As adults, we have a responsibility to help students put the struggles at the front and center of the discussion by figuring out what is really going on. We need to use more phrases like: ‘What’s your concern? How can I help? Tell me more!'”