Amongst the litany of topics that came to mind at the outset of this writing, the lingering question I continuously returned to was, “What professional goal have I set for myself recently?” Skills-based health education brings into focus the adaptability and functionality of knowledge, with which we as educators attempt to pass on to our students. Today, trends in health culture seem to transform at an alarming rate. By focusing on teaching students a particular set of skills, it allows one to consistently adapt the content of lessons to meet the current needs of the scholastic landscape. As health educators we have the unique opportunity to assist students in developing the necessary skills to be healthy not just during our tutelage, but throughout their entire lives, by providing authentic assessment strategies.
It should come as no surprise that social-emotional learning is at the forefront of today’s education. Skills-based health is social-emotional work. What better time than now to make the change to one’s curriculum? With this in mind, my goal became clear: transition to an overarching skills-based district health curriculum. “But… how?”, one may inquire. I thought you’d never ask!
First, present the idea to your colleagues. Not everyone understands what skill-based health education is exactly, and let’s be honest, change is intimidating. After you get your colleagues on board, present your goals and objectives to your administration (both building and district).
Next, determine what professional development would look like for your department and the resources required to implement what changes you’d like to make. As a personal anecdote, our district values health education tremendously and therefore received funding for our initiative directly from them, as well as find support from a local community non-profit. We knew our health program already had a strong foundation, but thought it worthwhile to bring in an additional outside resource to bolster what we had already built. I reached out to professional health consultant Mary Connolly to share our ideas and work with our staff to further enhance our capabilities.
Funding can be a barrier to educators and I can’t stress enough that there is money to be found when you need it. There are community, state and federal resources that assist in educational projects. It is so important to find community stakeholders and build relationships with them, as they will and want to help you bring plans to life.
Last, start the work! We established days and gave ourselves homework to bring to day one. Teachers at each level started to think about what this transition would look like in their classroom, look at their current curriculum to find gaps and determine what support they need to move out of their comfort zone.
Transitioning to a skills-based health education method can be an overwhelming change, especially when most of us are the only health teachers in our building. Luckily, however, we have some phenomenal experts in the field who can provide the endless support and encouragement that our classrooms, and profession as a whole, so deserve.
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