The start of a school year is a great time to consider endless possibilities. So consider this: What if we educators approached our personal well-being the same way that we approach student improvement and intervention? What if we had the same passion about our personal health that we have about students’ learning?
How to Begin
Start the year with some initial testing and screening to obtain some baseline data. This probably is an annual physical, but could include a variety of things. The “screening data” from the physical will be blood work, blood pressure checks, a weight check, and various other tests and observations. Just as we test and assess our students, getting regular checkups helps us to monitor for problems and intervene if necessary. Most insurance plans cover these appointments 100 percent, so the only cost involved is time.
If this initial testing shows any areas “below grade level” (areas of concern), there is probably some “intervention” that is necessary. This intervention can take many forms, but will often include recommendations for more exercise and better nutrition – recommendations that can be the hardest for teachers to master. Most teachers would say the same thing about their health intervention plan that they would say about their intervention plan for their students in the classroom: “I need MORE TIME!”
How to Work Exercise into the School Day
In most school structures, time is not very flexible. Teachers and administrators have meetings or responsibilities both before and after school. Plan time and lunch time are assigned and not adjustable. It seems like the only opportunity for exercise would be well before or after the school day – when family obligations take priority. Time is always in short supply but high demand.
But here are a few ideas for working some exercise into the school day:
- Do GoNoodle with your students. They need to be up and moving, and you can join them. GoNoodle can get your heart rate up a little bit and help you to connect and model for your students.
- Do some yoga and stretching. GoNoodle does have a stretching component, but starting class each day with stretching has benefits for students and the teacher. Breathing and stretching exercises calm the mind, increase blood flow to the brain, and help students to focus.
- Join your students in PE class or at recess. Depending on the activity, it can be both fun and invigorating to join in. You may have to sacrifice plan time, so it may not work every day for everyone. But it’s worth considering.
- Lunchtime walking or stretching. Walk the halls, walk the track, walk the gym. Think outside the box and see if you can discover a way to work in more steps.
How to Maintain Healthy Eating Habits
The other difficult part about “school life” is maintaining healthy eating habits.
- Make sure you get breakfast every day. Take some time on Sunday to shop or prepare for the week. Try to include protein in breakfast in one way or another.
- Be prepared to limit temptation in the lounge. Every school I have worked in has some sort of “lounge fairy” that brings in random delicious treats without warning. If you do indulge, remember that a little goes a long way.
- Suggest having a healthy (or healthier) luncheon or snack day at your school. If your school has a wellness team, they might be the go-to people for this. A snack day or lunch day is a fun event that brings people together – but there should always be some healthy options (mainly vegetables!) available for that day. This can double as a way to introduce staff to different recipes and cooking styles, too.
- Snack with the students. Many teachers I know rely on healthy classroom snacks to get the students through until lunch or until they get home. These snacks can become a great lesson on health, and the teacher can take part. Fewer carbs and more protein help everyone make it through the day. A great resource is My Plate, which also suggests apps to use to track meals and nutrition.
Other Ways to Stay Healthy
Don’t forget these other critical components of a healthy lifestyle:
- Get enough rest. Sleep is so important to overall health. Make it a priority!
- Spend some quiet time. Our world is a busy and noisy place. Find quiet in your life at least once a week.
- Laugh a lot, both in the classroom and outside of it. There is strong research about the impact that laughter has on health, but also on learning. Create a joyful classroom full of smiles, and everyone will benefit.
- Get inspired. Keep your mind in shape with new ideas and information. Stay up-to-date on trends, news, and info with inspiring blogs and industry information.
As you put your plan in place, don’t forget to monitor your progress on the scale and/or with your doctor. Regular feedback is essential for the motivation to continue improving – both for educators and for students!