POD CARE at DMMS is a mental health and well-being initiative that arose out of a need to build connections with the students and have meaningful discussions with the hope that they can build trusting relationships. The POD CARE initiative helps to create an environment where students know there is somewhere to turn when they need to talk.
The first week of every month, all teachers meet with their homeroom classes for two periods, to discuss issues related to mental health and well-being. The discussion starts with a community circle in which all participants discuss the topic for the month using guiding questions created by teachers. Afterwards, students work on thought-provoking activities related to the topic such as written reflection, role-playing, and the brainstorming of causes and solutions to mental health and wellbeing issues in class, school, and society. All staff is included in the POD CARE.
The last Wednesday of every month, staff have a special POD CARE staff meeting where they learn and review the topic of discussion for the next month's POD CARE meeting with the students. During the meeting, the staff also discusses the questions for the community circle and the activities they will do with the students. The staff continues the discussions throughout the month and try to incorporate the themes into their curriculum lessons such as discussions in Language and role play in Drama classes.
Parents are made aware of the POD CARE discussion themes through school’s monthly newsletter and families are encouraged to continue these discussions at home with their children to help reinforce what was being discussed at school. At the end of the month, students gather at a student-led assembly that celebrates all the learning they did about the topic for that month.
The POD CARE initiative opens a new channel for staff and students to communicate with each other. Students need to be taught coping mechanisms and how to deal with stress, anxiety, bullying, and other mental health issues. In the meantime, staff needs to feel comfortable talking to students about difficult topics. If we could build positive relationships and facilitate open and honest discussions between students and teachers, we are on the right path in building an integrated healthy school community.