In the ever-fraught public discussion of kids and psychiatric medication, the proper role of school administrators and teachers often comes up. What teachers should or shouldn’t say to parents about medication treatment for their students is an understandably touchy subject.
Many parents are wary of being told to medicate their child because an overwhelmed teacher “can’t deal” or because medication would be cheaper than providing special services.
Teachers and administrators, though, are are in their own bind. They may have opinions about what would be best for the kid – going on a drug for the first time, adjusting a dosage, trying a new out-of-school therapy – but they are also wary of meddling.
The subject is so delicate that at one point about a decade ago, a number of states even passed resolutions seeking to ban teachers from mentioning medications to parents.
Ten years later, the landscape has shifted a little, partly because of the demographics of the teacher workforce. Many of today’s young teachers were yesterday’s medicated kids.
Many of them, that is, know what they speak when they identify a child they think may be depressed, or may benefit from psychostimulants for ADHD.
But do these teachers, by virtue of their personal experience with psychiatric disorders and treatment, have anything additional to offer when they counsel students and parents about medication?
Or is one person’s history just that – a single, anecdotal experience, not applicable or transferable to any other person’s?
I would argue that the answer probably lays somewhere in the middle.
Teachers who have had any personal experience with psychiatric problems at any age probably have some enhanced understanding of what a child may be going through. They may be able to offer some insights or advice that are a little more nuanced or just thoughtful than the average teacher who has not.
And a teacher who happens to have gone through the same problems at the same age is especially likely to have an enhanced understanding of the child’s particular challenges.
What do you think? Is this true? And if so, does it change the boundaries for what constitutes an appropriate conversation about medication vis-a-vis a student? Does it mean such a teacher has the license to speak more candidly to parents and/or students, to offer a different kind of advice? Is it a teacher’s place to talk to students about mental health and illness in the first place?
I’d be especially curious to hear from current and former teachers who have taken medications themselves. How did your experience with drug treatment inform the way you thought about your students’ problems, and how did it affect the way you talked to parents about them? How did it affect the way you talked to the kids themselves?