What does it take to be and stay healthy? This past year has tested us all. It has taken the subject of health and made it a topic of discussion all day, every day.
Yet many school districts have not seen health education as a top priority. The importance of Social and Emotional Learning has been stressed throughout every stage of the past year without those calling for it realizing that SEL is embedded in quality, skills-based health education.
Every student in every school should be given the foundation for a healthy life that health education can provide.
We have learned a lot about ourselves and our society throughout this pandemic. So many of these universal lessons – that help everyone – are taught in Health class.
● Disease prevention – It became crucial to wash our hands when, why, and how we should. Videos on proper handwashing went viral. Students not only learn to wash well in health class, but they also practice the behavior so they wash well all the time.
● Physical activity – From virtual classes or on-demand workouts to trail walks in the fresh air and sunshine, people found what kept them motivated and set goals to exercise regularly because they realized how much they needed to move.
● Nutrition – Treating ourselves was fun and delicious, but we felt better when we tried to eat real food most of the time. We tried to make healthy decisions about what and how we ate.
● Sleep – What a difference it made to be able to wake to the sun, rested and refreshed, instead of dragging ourselves out of bed in the pitch dark for traditional school/work hours! We analyzed the influences on our sleep habits and tried to limit binge-watching.
● Mental health – It was a lot to handle. It’s still a lot to handle. Self-care and finding outlets for stress made such a difference. And when we were struggling, we accessed resources to help ourselves or someone else.
● Communication and connection – Video meetings and classes brought out all the nuances of respectful communication. The difficulties of quarantining/working from home/remote learning truly tested our interpersonal communication skills.
● Advocacy – Many systemic health and education issues and disparities were brought to the forefront. The health of individuals was dependent upon the behaviors of everyone in the community. There was renewed purpose in fighting for the things we cared about, but also advocating in a way that would lead others to join us.
Quality health education for all students in all schools is essential. Every one of these lessons learned in recent months is taught, explored, and practiced in health class. And a qualified, effective health education teacher helps an entire school community improve their health knowledge, skills, and behaviors. Not just in a pandemic, but always.
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