From the Archives – Inkwell (2008)

May is Mental Health Month. Check out this essay from The Inkwell in 2008 on the importance of kindness to all of us


May is Mental Health Month. Read on for resources you can use.

Mr. Steve Couch, Advisor

Please enjoy this archived article from the old Mentor High School Inkwell, one of the earlier incarnations of the Mentor High School student newspaper that ran from 1992-2021 both in print and online. Special thanks to Mrs. Ford and the GenYes team for scanning and sharing the original article.

May is Mental Health Month as celebrated by Mental Health America. According to MHA: “Founded in 1909 by Clifford W. Beers, Mental Health America (MHA) is the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and promoting the overall mental health of all. Since 1949, Mental Health America, our affiliates, and countless others have observed May as Mental Health Month by reaching out to millions of people to spread the word that mental health is something everyone should care about. It’s a time to share information, stories, and resources, and we invite you to join us!”

The theme for Mental Health Month 2023 is “look around, look within.” At a time when so many are arguing about “parents’ rights” vs. teacher autonomy and student rights – in addition to debates over the role of teachers and what they should or should not be doing – we thought it would be interesting and appropriate to kick off Mental Health Month to revisit this column that ran in the Inkwell in 2008. The anonymous student writer appeals to teachers for kindness, in part, because of difficulties that students may face outside of school, and encourages understanding. It is a great piece worthy of reflection. Let’s all try to be kind to each other. Below the essay are some links to mental health resources, and our Guidance Department, staff, and Mentor Resilience Team (MRT) are always available to help students in need.

– Mr. Couch, Cardinal Nation Advisor

November 10, 2008

Wanted: A Few Kind Words From My Teachers

By An Anonymous Student

It’s more common than we’d like to think. To some students, school is merely a learning environment; to others, it’s a refuge. When a student is verbally abused at home the effects of such treatment can be devastating. Some students will shut down entirely, sending their grades into a downward spiral. Others will bury themselves in their schoolwork, creating a new world for themselves in the academic field.

Verbal abuse renders one unconfident, unsure, and joyless. Such a student may be exceedingly cheerful in the classroom because it’s the only time he receives civility coupled with everyday kindness, and he’s become so starved for encouragement that he thrives in the school environment. Another verbally abused student may instead shut down even more when faced with high expectations, college applications, and impending tests.

To someone who had the good fortune to grow up in a happy, supportive family, it can be difficult to understand how a parent or parents can constantly deride and berate their offspring. Whether these parents truly realize the implications of their actions or not, verbal abuse takes its toll on a student for the rest of his life. If one is told repeatedly, day in and day out, that he is worthless and will never be good for anything, eventually he will begin to wonder if this isn’t true. The anguish one experiences from knowing that his father or mother will never be proud of him, will never value him, is immeasurable. With every bad grade, this self-doubting or even self-loathing grows exponentially. 

How can a teacher help a student such as this? Is it even right to expect a teacher to assume a supportive role when that should be the parents’ job? Questions like these arise more and more frequently as time goes by. The answers to such issues are difficult to ascertain with any certainty, but nonetheless necessary in today’s environment. While demanding a teacher to become a form of surrogate mother or father is unreasonable, teachers should still try to provide the most positive environment they possibly can. To many verbally abused students, teachers become role models when parents refuse to be. Before you lecture your class on their overall poor performance on a test, before you beat your fists on your desk in an expression of your frustration, remember that a few of your students may view this as confirmation of the negative remarks they receive at home. 

Teaching is a highly demanding job and, unfortunately, it becomes more demanding as time passes. Lessons to give, tests to compose, tests to grade, discipline to maintain, questions to answer, grades to record each task serves to eat away at free time and energy. Teaching requires an abundance of patience and, at times, that patience may begin to wear thin. Your students didn’t do as well on an exam as they should have; your wife has the flu; your dog recently passed away; and sometimes life seems to be out to get you. You work hard to reach your students and in return they may give back the bare minimum of respect or attention. Take heart! Somewhere, there’s a student who understands. He understands because, in his own way, he experiences this frustration every single day. While the other students race to escape your classroom as the bell rings, he lingers to ask how your day was. Perhaps he intimately knows how it feels to be disappointed and unappreciated.

Regardless, whether a verbally abused student takes flight from your class in an effort to escape its demands or whether he instead visits you and looks to you for answers, please remember that no matter how bad your day was, no matter how bad the test scores were, someone in your class may be having an even worse day or be mentally beating himself up over his grade. It’s not your responsibility to be his father or mother, but when he’s sitting in your class, it’s up to you what example you give him of a well-balanced adult man or woman. To him, it may make all the difference.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI)

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA)

Help Network of Northeast Ohio