A teacher’s role starts with remembering the social- emotional development in children and the importance of belonging.
Children start valuing the opinions of the peers and needing to fit in with the group around second to third grades. This same age group needs help to accept ALL peers that are different or left out of the group.
It is imperative in suicide prevention to ensure these students have learned to accept ALL children. Otherwise those with disabilities will experience an increased stress of non-acceptance that takes a greater toll on the student the longer it continues.
Fourth to fifth grade students become critical of their peers abilities and more-self conscious of their own abilities. Students that are ostracized by the group experience greater self-doubts about their abilities. Their peers reinforced these doubts and devalue the self-worth of these students. This creates a downward spiral as they get older and depend on the peers for self-identity.
These kids develop such a low self esteem and worth that it makes it even harder for their peers to accept them. The expectations placed on the social engagements of high school and to date only add to their difficulties.
Children place such a high value on their peer groups and needing to belong that it becomes easy to understand this source of anxiety and stress in children and the toll the school environment has on the mental health well-being of students. That is only compounded if the child also has a disability.
The teacher’s role is twofold. First, teachers must help ALL students to feel accepted. It is the perception of acceptance by the individual that is vital.
Students must perceive they are accepted which also means that accepted students may not perceive they are really accepted for who they are.
Some students mistakenly believe they have to act or behave in a certain way to be accepted otherwise they will be ostracized by their peers. Thus, teachers also have the role of keeping their classrooms mentally healthy for ALL students in addition to promoting a feeling of acceptance.