Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Elementary school teachers-Attitudes, Education, Urban, Child mental health services, Social and emotional learning, Mental health, Urban teachers


This qualitative study explored urban elementary school teachers' perspectives on promoting mental health in the classroom. Despite the increased research indicating the value of classroom-based mental health interventions and the growing availability of social and emotional health curricula, there is yet to be a widespread adoption of mental health promotion practices in classrooms. As there is little empirical research on what teachers believe their role is regarding the promotion of social and emotional well-being, this study attempts to reduce the research to practice gap by eliciting teachers' perspectives on this topic. Teachers increasingly need to meet the social and emotional needs of their students because one in five children and adolescents are affected by mental health issues in the United States today (Parens and Johnston, 2008). It is imperative to understand their experiences in order to influence a necessary shift towards integrating mental health promotion in the classroom. Interviews were conducted with twelve teachers, ten females and two males, from the San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and Richmond public schools. Teachers were asked about the mental health services available at their schools and their administrations' stance on promotion of social and emotional well-being. In addition, teachers explained their training and what practices regarding social-emotional health were integrated into their classrooms. Lastly, teachers spoke to their perceptions of their role and what barriers they face regarding implementation of social and emotional learning into their classroom. A theme analysis of the data indicated that teachers in this study believe that the provision of social and emotional learning is well within their role as classroom teachers. However, the majority experience obstacles that prevent them from implementation. Two prominent obstacles emerged: lack of time due to the demands of No Child Left Behind and a lack of resources. The study's findings suggest that there is a need for broad educational reform that must include a paradigm shift. Policy makers must increase a child's chance of achieving academically, socially and emotionally by providing teachers with the resources, autonomy and support they need to focus on the whole child.




iii, 81 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 66-71)