This teacher's viral 'check-in' board is a beautiful example of mental health support

Update: We have found the teacher who created the mental health check-in board! Kudos to Erin Castillo for the brilliant idea and for sharing how she's using it to help kids. She is offering a free download of the board as a poster along with instructions for utilizing it on Teachers Pay Teachers. Thanks, Erin!

This teacher is making a difference in her students' lives, one simple Post-it Note at a time.

Excellent teachers do so much more than teach. They can be mentors, role models, guides, and even confidants. Sometimes a teacher is one of the only trusted adults in a child's life—a fact that drives home the immense responsibility educators hold in their hands.


Perhaps that's why a photo shared by Facebook user Tara Mitchell Holman has touched so many people. It shows a teacher's whiteboard with "Monday Check-in" written on top and sections underneath labeled, "I'm great," "I'm okay," "I'm meh," "I'm struggling," "I'm having a tough time & wouldn't mind a check-in," and "I'm not doing great."

Wow. This teacher has her students write their name on back of a sticky note and place it on the chart each Monday. She...
Posted by Tara Mitchell Holman on Thursday, March 21, 2019

"Wow," wrote Holman in the caption. "This teacher has her students write their name on back of a sticky note and place it on the chart each Monday. She then talks privately throughout the week with each child about where they placed the sticky note and if they need to talk. A weekly check in on her students. ❤️❤️ Maybe we could pass this along to teachers."

The photo has been shared more than 135,000 times.

This kind of "check-in" is a beautiful example of supporting students' mental health.

Childhood can be hard. Being a teen can be even harder. That's nothing new, but studies have shown that mental health issues among young people are on the rise. Some of that may be due to the pressures of social media or the ubiquitous 24/7 news that stresses all of us. It could also simply be that we are getting better at understanding and diagnosing mental illnesses like anxiety and depression.

Whatever the reason, kids and teens can use all the mental and emotional support we can give them. Since young people spend the majority of their waking hours in school, teachers are in a prime position to offer that kind of support.

But figuring how to do that most effectively can be a challenge. Most teachers are already tapped out from their actual teaching work, and it's a lot to expect them to act as counselors on top of that. At the same time, people who work with students understand that so many issues can be remedied by staying in tune with their emotional well-being. This Post-it Note method of checking in with students is simple enough to help teachers determine which students might need some extra attention or help with their challenges outside the classroom.

This board is also a good reminder of how incredible teachers can be.

I started my professional life as a teacher and have known countless teachers in my lifetime. Few people I've encountered have been as dedicated and caring as the folks who educate kids, and their work always extends far outside of their classroom teaching hours. Teachers don't just impart knowledge; they are emotionally invested in their students and care about much more than just their academic performance.

I wasn't able to track down the identity of the teacher who made this check-in board, but perhaps the anonymity of it is fitting. So many teachers regularly go above-and-beyond the call of duty to care for their students, and this photo is a great reminder of how awesome educators find ways to help kids in every way they can.

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Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

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Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

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