Am privileged to be a health education teacher. This was a tough year for all of us.
Well over 60 years old and sitting all day in a virtual classroom was dangerous to
my mental, social, and physical health. The importance of a good diet and exercise program were important to me and their benefits and challenges were shared with the students. I am blessed that they share their stories with me, too. During the school year, I walked most days in the morning, but it was often hard to work out. Shared my lack of motivation and willpower with my students. Many students shared that they were depressed, too, and couldn’t go outside or too bored to do anything. We worked on improving our physical activity time together, through sharing motivational stories, activities, and “best practices.” You know, like, “What did you do yesterday? Any exercise? Why? Why not? Here’s something you can do.” Was a physical education teacher and coach a long time ago (no longer teach physical education or coach) and still appreciate physical activity and athletics. Some of the students played on varsity teams, club teams, and some only played video games. Some welcomed competition and some were thrilled with a walk. Some played combat games like paintball and some had heart conditions. It was important to meet each student where they were. Started every
class with several minutes of just checking in. No judgement! It was often followed by “Mindful Minute Meditations.”
Collaborated everyday with the physical education teachers, viewed their lesson plans and tried to do some of their activities (my high school has wonderful physical education teachers, always ready to share). What worked best for me were the music and dance routines in their lessons. So, I added music and dance routines every Friday to my health lessons. Friday became Dance Friday. On Wednesdays, during extra help sessions (asynchronous day), students that wanted to, could show us, through their camera, a short dance for a minute. Only requirement was that I preview the dance. By the way, please allow me to digress. Some students during that time would show me their hobby or art project, or give a cooking lesson! It was fun!! Ninth-grade students in my school have physical education for a marking period (block schedule) and then switch to Health Education or start with Health Education and then switch the next marking period to physical education. Although the students may leave one course to go to another, physical activity is supported in both health and physical education. Physical Activity is so important to helping us develop resiliency and deal with stress management.
All of this leads perfectly to health class discussions on positive mindset. As I said earlier, it was a tough year. There were several mental challenges for everyone and everyone, yes students and me. We all had experiences to share. Several of my students and their families had COVID and/or other health problems. That’s one great thing about health education, it has topics that open doors for conversation. Always came to class early, motivated, prepared, dressed professionally, graded student work promptly, and responded to their emails with compassion. Expressed empathy towards student struggles and offered advice, ways to keep an open mind, and strategies to help them cope. Stories of my friends who had similar problems were shared as well as how to navigate the healthcare system. Met weekly with a student (virtually) who was battling a rare blood disease, another who was suffering from depression, another who was dealing with anxiety regarding his transgender identity. Extended the classroom into the community through the health club. Besides being a health teacher, it is a privilege to be the main sponsor of our Health Club named, W.A.T.C.H. (winning advocates for teen and community health). To help students with their problems, we decided that we would do more in the health club to support community mental and social health. The health club worked with student mental challenges and mental illness most of the year. We met almost every 2 weeks and during the last two months, met every week. We supported students’ mental health, dealt with mental challenges, and discussed mental illness. We had several speakers from the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) come to our bi-weekly sessions and discuss the differences between mental challenges and mental illness and how to talk about both. During Mental Health Month, the health club provided rubber wristbands from NAMI for our students during lunchtime. Earlier in the year, the health club supported Transgender Awareness Week and speakers led discussions with our group.
As members of the Kick Butts Generation, our health club supported several activities that promoted connections to each other. They included the American Lung Association’s Gingerbread House Activity and their Slime event for the community. Meetings were open to the whole school. Furthermore, as advocates for positive health, we met with the Delaware Dept. of Education. DDOE Associates attended a meeting to discuss their future T-shirt campaigns to stay “drug free”. They wanted feedback from our members on new future social media campaigns that seek students to share messages on why they choose to not ‘do drugs’. Students volunteered to help with the projects.
Went to the National S.H.A.P.E. Convention and brought back platforms and programs that supported emotional and mental health and shared them with the health club. Shortly, after that, the students requested weekly meetings. Students made Flipgrid videos on how to discuss mental health, mental challenges, and mental illness. They created positive mindset padlets and made them available to all health and physical education students. We invited all students to attend our meetings.
As earlier mentioned, we share stories in health class. Shared that my parents did not graduate from high school, and had to work too hard in life to make ends meet. However, they instilled in me the importance of getting an education and doing well. Went from having many student loans, eating a lot of Ramen noodles, riding my bike 10 miles every morning to teach school (couldn’t afford the gas) to having a nice home, car, and blessed life. It all started with doing well in school and hope that story and consistent messages to have “Vision”, take “Initiative”, and keep everything in “Perspective” (VIP) resonates in their lives. Health education is a wonderful course. It truly helps students overcome barriers and be healthy and happy in life. What greater gifts are there? Although the students are no longer in health education class, they will always be health education students! It was a privilege to work with them every day. Hope all of this qualifies for a
positive role model.