A Q+A with Back Pocket author, founder Shaney Andler.
Shaney Andler is a special education teacher of 30 years, teaching in multiple classroom settings in Mountain View, California, as well as in Oconomowoc Oregon, and Middleton school districts in Wisconsin. She is currently teaching at a teen health nonprofit in a child and adolescent psychiatric hospital.
CE: Tell me about this book project. What spurred the idea?
SA: My son struggled in 7th grade with some debilitating anxiety. We worked for years with him on getting him the coping skills that he needed to be able to manage his anxiety (he is now 23 years old and does a beautiful job at managing). After working with Alex and hundreds of other kids, the book idea came when I realized that kids are not organically learning coping skills anymore, in large part because of technology.
I wrote the book as a compilation of tried and true, evidence-based practices that I felt were the most effective in teaching kids coping skills and ways to nurture their mental health. After writing the book I decided to write a 5-session (45 minutes per session) workshop to bring the book to life, allowing kids to practice the tools in the book. I felt if kids were able to feel how these strategies made them feel, they would continue practicing them on their own. The book and workshop are actionable -- kids learn what to do about their mental health issues versus just getting thrown information.
CE: What do you most hope people get out of it?
SA: My number one goal of the book is for kids to learn coping skills, ideally at an early age (6th or 7th grade initially and then refresher classes in the later grades). I think by learning ways to help themselves, kids are equipped to handle some of the things that life may throw at them. I hope kids feel empowered because they have these skills with them whenever they may need to access them.
CE: What is your advice to school teachers and staff when using this information with students?
SA: When I teach the workshop, I tell the kids that I am going to interchange the words mental health, coping skills and stress management because many times they mean the same thing. It's not scary, and there are ways you can help yourself.
I also want kids to know, though, that it does take work, just like anything (you don't become good at anything without practice). This book and workshop tells you what you need to do, you just need to do the practicing. As far as teachers' mental health -- I can't tell you how many teachers are saying to me, "I learned so many strategies for myself in the workshop!"
The book and workshop are being used all over the state by school districts, Boys and Girls clubs, hospitals, high school sports teams, youth academies, and police departments. So far, the reaction from kids has been overwhelmingly positive. Kids are yearning for guidance in this area, and there is a real lack of effective resources out there.
Read more about Shaney Andler and Back Pocket at backpockettools.com