Back in the day was better(because now is often unbearable)

Have you ever seen or heard of students…
…compromising their identity to put on someone else’s?
…blasting their music through headphones so they don’t have to answer another question
…not quite knowing where they are going or who to ask for directions?
…taking that swig, puff, or hit to show the crowd how much they are like them?
…dressing like cookie cutter versions of each another just to feel safer in the pack?

The problems I listed above were all problems 40 years ago when I was in junior high school and they are still around today. Except now since everything is bigger and better than the good old days, the issues facing our youth have evolved in their complexity and impact on lives.

Now I ask, have you ever seen or heard of students…
…stressed out about getting into a “good” high school?
…anxious over a test, project, presentation, or recent assessment results?
…taking days off to destress over misunderstandings resulting from social media posts?
…refusing to eat because of a thoughtless and cruel comment about their appearance?
…self-harming or self-medicating in order to deal with feelings of helplessness, rejection, loss, anger, or sadness?

If so, these students belong to a growing population of students who are feeling the pressure of the 21st Century like never before. I wish this was a group that never welcomed anyone, but our world is not wired this way. What is most alarming about all of this is that it seems to have been downloaded from high school now as many of the concerns happening above used to await our JK to 8 students once they arrived at secondary school.

This year a portion of my instructional time has been dedicated to the role of Guidance Counsellor, and it has been a very eye-opening experience thus far. Imagine all of the above happening at schools across the province and around the world? It is not a pretty picture to realize that our students are hurting. The numbers must be in the millions and that I think that fingers need to be pointed in all directions because it is the adults who have made the mess in the first place and now they are trying to make the kids clean it up.

What our students need more than ever before are increased access to programs and personal supports through education and health care. How are we going to improve this when the elected bodies managing our money are making cuts to appeal to an undertaxed political support base? How can so few people dictate blantantly harmful funding cuts without gauging the socio-economic short fall they are creating by trying to pinch pennies.

A recent CBC broadcast highlighted an increasing need for more guidance counsellors in schools, but it focused more on the side of career counselling without much mention of the impending crisis lurking in the hallways of our elementary schools. In my blog Illness, I shared that schools are too often on the front lines of mental health and well being care in our society, but it is coming with consequences that will cost us billions in the long run if we fail to invest millions now to fully support our learners.

“Teachers are not trained psychologists. Schools are not clinics, and school boards are not health networks. Yet everyday, educators are on the front lines of care for those who suffer. This includes themselves. How can we address a growing need in our profession to support one another while supporting our students in areas where few are trained to inhabit?”

We need help. There is more demand for supports on already maxed out educators than ever before. Our students need help. We all need to be talking about this. Our union needs to exercise its collective voice on behalf of all learners. So even while students continue to reach out, there are an equal number at risk of being over-looked because, they’ve lost their voices or there are not enough ears to listen.

Our students need help. There are neither enough hours in the day nor teachers in our schools to deal with the depression, anxiety, and doubt plaguing our youth. If we allow government to cut education funding in the hopes that everything will get better, then we are saying to a generation of learners that they weren’t worth it, but “Hey, look at this sweet ride we just got.”

40 years ago, there were already plenty of problems facing our students, but there was always hope to be gained from the security found in education.  Now we see things have only deteriorated due to downloading the costs onto the next generation. Our students are struggling to see the present, let alone the years to come. This has to stop. We need to pay for the future now so all of our students to look forward to instead of dreading. What we don’t need are cuts to education or mental health funding that would leave any of our students vulnerable.

And we definitely don’t need a used party van for a self-serving party politician and his sycophants.



Updated: February 28, 2019 — 9:46 pm

The Author

Will Gourley

J/I lead learner and SERT at Adrienne Clarkson PS in the YRDSB. Focused on disruptive, and divergent modern learning. Member of the global TED-Ed(Club) movement, 1 of 110 TED Ed Innovative Educators, and Global Math Project Ambassador. Twitter @willgourley Proudly blogging here and at

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