EPISODE #18  |  April 26, 2019

Guest: Brian Dugan
High School English Teacher, Staunch Cardinals Fan, Former Podcaster, Soon-to-be Graduate Student at the University of Chicago

Most of the first-generation students at the high school walk through the school doors each morning, carrying with them more daily stress and pressure than myriad adults collectively experience in their lifetimes. Even before the first bell rings, many of the teens find themselves behind academically, because the resources they need for their learning don’t exist within their neighborhoods. Others struggle with meeting the high hopes and expectations their parents have for them to attend a top college that will provide opportunities they never dreamed of attaining. And some face the very real possibility that their parents may be deported. The strain of those realities weigh heavily on both the students who bear them and the teachers who try to lighten the load.

When he first started working at the school last August, Brian Dugan thought that the Spanish language barrier might be the most difficult test he would experience when teaching English to 135 juniors and seniors, most of whom are Mexican-Americans. It turns out that the most challenging lesson has been bridging the gap of understanding between how he grew up in middle-class suburban St. Louis and what his students experience. In this week’s episode of Mental Health Matters, Executive Director Tom Duff, MSW, LCSW and Brian discuss what many teens of immigrant families face, day-to-day, and how teachers strive to best meet their needs. Tom, an Illinois native, and Brian, hailing from Missouri, also share some friendly barbs about their favorite baseball teams – the Cubs and the Cardinals, respectively – and how the words Brian and his brother heard from their mom every morning on their way out the door, “Do your best and be your best,” actually may have helped to shape (despite the boys’ objections to the daily reminder and much to their mother’s glee) Brian’s perspective on what “best” and “success” really mean in life.