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As a teacher, you always want the best for your students, both in and out of the classroom. While this includes promoting good study habits and encouraging a strong work ethic, it also includes focusing on personal successes for your students. One way that students are able to achieve personal goals and attain success is through their health. If a student isn’t healthy, he or she is less likely to accomplish tasks that lead to eventual success. Additionally, unhealthy students tend to struggle more personally, academically, socially, mentally, and physically, making it harder for them to feel a sense of purpose, fulfillment, and accomplishment in several areas of their lives.
Even if you are not a health or physical education teacher, there are a variety of ways that you can integrate health-related lessons into your everyday teaching to promote health education and to contribute to the overall health, wellness, and wellbeing of your students. Read on to learn about some ways that teachers can help their students be as healthy as possible.
Encourage Physical Activity & Healthy Eating
Encourage your students to be active regularly, whether that means participating in a sport, taking their dog for a walk each day, or implementing some sort of exercise program into their mornings. One of the best ways to encourage your students to stay physically active is to give them opportunities to do so in class. Maybe one day you go on a nature hike or visit a history museum, both of which involve a lot of walking. Maybe you recreate the events that occurred on a battlefield for a history lesson or you explain a scientific concept by getting students up and moving.
Healthy eating can be challenging to encourage sometimes since students are only at school for one meal a day. Food habits are usually harder to change, but giving students opportunities to explore new foods will be beneficial. Maybe you do a taste test when you’re studying the taste buds as part of a science unit or you learn about and taste certain foods that people ate during a particular era. Encourage students to try new foods and to eat fresh, raw foods each day and to avoid sugary, processed foods.
Avoid Offering Sweets as Rewards
It can be incredibly tempting (not to mention effective) to offer candy to your students in return for their participation in class. Maybe you’re playing a review game or you’re trying to encourage in-class discussions, so you grab a bag of candy and toss it to students who are participating often. This can lead to unnecessary sugar intake and eating when not hungry, which are both negative habits that don’t contribute to good health. Instead, offer reward coupons, such as an extra day to complete homework, or other non-food treats.
Promote Self-Care Habits
Students these days are busier and more stressed out than any other generation of students. Discuss self-care in the classroom and explain to your students the importance of taking care of themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally. Teach them that getting enough sleep is vital to their physical health, but also to their ability to concentrate, maintain a positive attitude, and achieve their goals. Some important self-care habits include good hygiene, drinking plenty of water, and stress management. Students should also learn how to balance the different parts of their lives, such as school, work, time with family and friends, and alone time. This can be hard for very social students, but having a balance will keep them in a better place mentally and help them not to get burned out in any one area.
Clean the Classroom
This one is more about physical health than anything. Get your students involved and clean the desks, tables, doorknobs, and more within the classroom. This will not only get your students thinking about cleanliness, but it will also get rid of physical germs within the classroom that will help both you and your students stay healthy.
Discuss Mental Health
Mental health is running rampant in today’s society, and our middle school and high school students are not immune to these issues. In fact, they may struggle more than today’s adults due to the constant pressure of social media and the challenges they face in living as a teenager today. Have some conversations about mental health in the classroom and do your best to take away the negativity associated with mental health concerns. Encourage students to be honest with themselves and talk to a counselor, parent, or trusted adult if they are concerned about themselves or a fellow student. Poor mental health can ravage a person’s physical health, and it brings about a whole slew of challenges that students shouldn’t have to face alone. Let your students know that you are there for them if they need someone to talk to and allow them to be open and honest about mental health.
Be a Healthy Role Model
“Do as I say, not as I do” is a mantra that has been passed down for generations, but people have long understood the irony behind it. Children of all ages pay more attention to what their role models do rather than what they say, and as adults and role models, we need to remember this. It’s great to educate your students on being healthy and teach them the importance of taking care of themselves, but if they don’t see you working towards better health in your own life, they won’t put a lot of stock in your advice. Drink water in the classroom, bring fruits and vegetables to snack on during the day, stay active before or after school, and take good care of yourself physically and mentally. Ultimately, it’s best for both you and your students if you strive to be healthier and help your students do the same, so be a healthy role model and simply encourage your students to follow suit.