December 2009/January 2010
| Volume 67 | Number 4
Health and Learning
EL Study Guide
Promoting Healthy Habits
In "Taking Charge of School Wellness," former U.S. surgeon general David Satcher shares some alarming statistics regarding the obesity rate, poor dietary habits, and lack of exercise among children and adolescents today. He suggests that "educators have an essential role to play in advancing student health and preventing childhood obesity" (p. 38).
- What role do you believe schools should have in promoting better health among students? How can schools fit this priority in with the need to promote academic achievement?
- What kind of food does your school serve in its lunch and breakfast programs? What sort of healthy food options are available, and what does your school do to make these options attractive to students? Compare the availability and attractiveness of healthy foods with those of unhealthy foods. What can your school do to improve?
- How active are your students during the school day? Do they have opportunities to move? Discuss ways that you can incorporate physical activity into the school day—every day.
- Satcher suggests forming a school wellness committee to assess health promotion efforts in your school or district. Does your school or district have such a committee? If not, consider starting one.
The Essential Eight
In their article "Coordinated School Health: Getting It All Together," Joyce C. Fetro, Connie Givens, and Kellie Carroll list eight components essential to promoting health in schools:
- Health education
- Physical education
- School health services
- Counseling, psychological, and social services
- Staff wellness
- A healthy school environment
- Family and community involvement
Consider how well your school does on each of these components. In which areas is your school doing well, and in which areas is improvement needed? Choose one of these areas to research further. Look for stories of how schools have promoted this aspect of health, and develop a strategy for what your school can do. (The December 2009/January 2010 EL
includes example programs you might consider as models.)
True wellness does not begin and end with physical health. Mental health is also crucial. To achieve and maintain mental health, students need to learn to cope with stress in healthy ways.
- What stressors do you see interfering with students' mental health? How do your students cope with stress? What, if any, changes have you noticed in the nature of student stress in recent years?
- In "Success with Less Stress," Jerusha Conner, Denise Pope, and Mollie Galloway describe a study in which they discovered that many high-achieving students feel overwhelmed by stress. They indicate that "the stress these students feel not only compromises their learning experience, but also takes a toll on their health and well-being" (p. 56). At what point does academic pressure become too great? What can teachers do to reduce academic stress without reducing rigor? Consider the strategies the authors suggest on pages 56–57. How well do you think these strategies would work with your students? What other ideas do you have?
- In "Helping Self-Harming Students," Matthew D. Selekman discusses cutting and other coping mechanisms that preteens and adolescents use to alleviate anxiety. Have you encountered students who engage in self-harming behavior? How did you respond? What did you learn from the experience? What, if anything, might you do differently today? (Keep student confidentiality in mind when sharing your answers.)
- What mental health services does your school have in place? How well are these services meeting students' needs?
Beyond Student Health
Some schools have established staff wellness programs to help teachers improve their own health. See the Winter 2004 Curriculum Update at
www.ascd.org/publications/curriculum_update/winter2004/Keeping_Teachers_Healthy.aspx for an example of one such program.
- What does your school system do to promote staff wellness? What is one step you could take to improve your own health? What support would you need to take that step?
Copyright © 2009 by Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development