Playing the Get-Out-of-Jail Card: Improving Mental Health in Schools (Summer Series) | Alden Blodget | 8 Min Read

June 21, 2023

This article by Alden Blodget is the first in our summer series about the findings of neuroscience, their connection to meaning-making, and how we apply this new knowledge to meet the present and future needs of our kids.

“I’m walking. I’m walking right out of the door. I won’t ever be back.”

The gray-haired teacher who was filmed during her classroom meltdown shouting those words to her students and doing exactly what she said became an instant nucleus of condensation for the torrent of frustration and stress felt by thousands of teachers. The number of psychologically exhausted educators that are mad as hell and not going to take it anymore is increasing. Teachers are looking for more tolerable jobs, while fewer of the best and brightest want to enter the profession in the first place.

And the mental health of the students also reflects stress and despair. Rates of teen depression and suicide continue to rise, along with an increase in “acting out,” which seems a woefully inadequate description of student behavior that includes violent acts of stabbings, shootings, and fights that have resulted in students being body-slammed and handcuffed by “resource officers.” 

I have been a teacher for 50 years—38 years in the classroom and the remaining 12 as a guardian ad litem (working in family and criminal courts with abused and delinquent children) and as a pro bono tutor (teaching students who want but can’t afford a tutor). During that time, in addition to the usual alienated students (the misfits, the bullied, the rebels) that hate everything about school, I have listened to countless students talk about how much they hate the classroom. Not the sports fields, not the opportunities to interact with their friends, not the adults who clearly care about them—just the classroom. No one encapsulated the feeling more succinctly than the student who characterized his experience as “the state-imposed mandatory four-year sentence of high school.”

This image of school-as-prison suggests that just as the mental health of the inmates and guards suffers in prisons so does the mental health of the students and teachers in schools. God knows, the sources of mental distress today are numerous. The apocalyptic visions of our future engendered by the collapses of major systems that sustain life and human dignity—our dying planet; political, religious, and economic corruption and incompetence; social, bigoted, and…

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Alden Blodget

Veteran teacher and administrator Alden S. "Denny" Blodget is the author of "Learning, Schooling and the Brain: New Research vs. Old Assumptions." He also helped create the Annenberg Foundation's Neuroscience & the Classroom. He is the editor for, a free online resource focusing on issues affecting young people and the adults who work with them.