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ADVOCATING FOR BTS - TIPS FOR SUCCESSFUL SCHOOL OUTREACH

KNOW YOUR LOCAL SCHOOL DISTRICT

  • Attend PTA meetings
  • Attend town/city education or budget meetings
  • Speak with local officials and find out what is going on in the schools.

LOCATE THE TEACHER RESPONSIBLE FOR HEALTH EDUCATION

Be aware that each district is unique in its organizational structure. If unsuccessful with the health teacher move on to administrators, superintendents, school social workers, guidance counselors and psychologists. Whoever teaches health can implement BTS.

  • Call the school and ask who teaches health education. This may be your most direct route to getting this information.  Use a copy of the county school directory to get phone numbers.
  • On the elementary level the classroom teacher is generally responsible for teaching health.  To get your foot in the door try to get a meeting with the following school personnel in this order:

    Elementary school health coordinator
    Principal
    Psychologist
    Social worker
    Nurse
    Guidance Counselor

  • In our experience the lower you go on the bureaucratic chain the more successful you will be. Initially, do not try to get permission from superintendents and school boards unless you are told to do so. 

MAKE TELEPHONE CONTACT

  • Identify yourself as a representative of NAMI.  Tell them you’d like to meet and talk to them about our “Breaking the Silence” education project.  Assure them it will just take 15 minutes of their time. 
  • If they won’t agree to meet offer to send them a brochure.  Include a brief letter with your contact information.
  • Follow up with a second phone call after they have received the brochure and try to set up a meeting.

Principals and administrators are always in need of topics and presenters for mandatory staff development meetings. Offer to present BTS at one of these meetings.

PITCHES THAT WORK
  • I have material that will affect 5 students in each of your classes at some point in their lives.
  • The plans are innovative, easy to use and include posters, games and activities to make class discussions lively and informative.
  • BTS meets national health education standards and the requirements for the NYS S.A.V.E.(Schools Against Violence in Education) legislation character development mandate that requires teachers to incorporate teaching tolerance and civility. (Check your own state regulations)
THE INITIAL MEETING
  • Be prepared to spend about 15 minutes. The meeting is usually an informal one-on-one discussion. Keep in mind that everyone’s style varies. Be yourself. If you are more comfortable with an outline, bring notes. The more meetings you have, the more familiar you will be with your own style and the material.  Refer to the Tool Kit and organize your dialogue mentally or on paper:

      --NAMI “Mission & History”
      --History of BTS
      --Why mental illness education; statistics, stigma, and treatment 
         (pp.9-11 in Tool Kit, Why Teach about Mental Illness)
      --Why BTS: key points about lesson plan package

  • Come prepared with extra brochures and a set of lesson plans
  • Consider offering to send a certificate or award to those schools that adopt the lessons.
  • Offer to present BTS at a district or staff meeting.

POST CONTACT

  • Follow up each visit with a phone call or written thank you note
  • Fill out BTS Outreach Forms.

WHO TO APPROACH OUTSIDE THE SCHOOLS

  • Colleges and Universities (p.24 of Tool Kit, Approaching Local Colleges and Universities)
  • State and County Departments of Education
  • National, state and local health education conferences and conventions
  • National, state and local conferences for school social workers, psychologists, guidance counselors and nurses
  • Mental health programs for teens
  • Religious institutions

“You can’t build a reputation on what you are going to do.” Henry Ford

SUGGESTED RESPONSES TO HESITANT SCHOOL PERSONNEL

We may never have the ability to convince every teacher or every school to teach about mental illness. At some point we use our judgment to move on and concentrate on those schools or individuals who are ready to hear our important message. Below are some of the concerns we have heard raised by teachers in our outreach in Queens/Nassau, NY and the responses we suggest trying to counteract them.

SCHOOL CONCERN:
I am very busy and do not feel I have the time to meet with you. Can you send the material for me to review?

Suggested Response:
Our meeting can be as short as 15 minutes… I’d appreciate the time and I promise you will benefit from our meeting.

I would rather have the opportunity to meet with you personally so that I can highlight some additional program benefits that we can offer you: teacher trainings, classroom guest speakers and suggested mental health resources.

SCHOOL CONCERN:
Our emphasis is on academic excellence and we must keep up our standards of excellence.

Suggested Response:
You can get the most from all of your students if you have an emotionally healthy student body. Statistics show 1 in 10 children are affected by a mental illness, which is on average 2-3 kids in each classroom and no one is talking about it. The more young people are educated about mental illness, the earlier we can begin to help those that are being negatively affected by these diseases. Promoting mental illness education in your classroom encourages optimum educational performance and understanding.

SCHOOL CONCERN:
We are overwhelmed with mandates from the state… we just cannot add another subject to our curriculum.

Suggested Response:
These activities were especially designed to complement what you are teaching in your current mental health unit and can easily be linked with teaching other subjects:  

  • Reading Comprehension
  • Vocabulary Building
  • Math Concepts
  • Social Studies
  • Science

SCHOOL CONCERN:
I do not feel educated enough myself about mental illness to teach my students about it. I fear that they will ask questions I will not be able to answer.

Suggested Response:
The plans were written with just that fear in mind. They are user-friendly and include a scripted dialogue with basic information about mental illness. I would be glad to go over all of the materials with you.

SCHOOL CONCERN:
We cannot introduce new material into the classroom without first clearing it with our supervisor, principal and/or district director of curriculum.

Suggested Response:
I would be happy to meet with your school administrators to help stress the urgent need for mental illness education. If it would help, I can call them directly and arrange a meeting.

“Patience and perseverance have a magical effect before which difficulties disappear and obstacles vanish.”
John Quincy Adams



 
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Breaking The Silence: Teaching the Next Generation about Mental Illness    btslessonplans@aol.com
NAMI Queens/Nassau 1981 Marcus Avenue, Suite C-117   Lake Success, NY   11042     ph. 516-326-0797   fax: 516-437-5785

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