I'm going to relate the lessons I've learned from my students in my health classroom through stories I have from our class discussions, assignments, and interactions. Feel free to share some of your own "lessons learned" through the lessons you've taught your students. If you're not in education, perhaps you can relate lessons you have learned from children at some point in your life. Look forward to sharing stories!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Life of an Athlete

This summer, I have had the opportunity to attend a conference called Life of an Athlete. The program is an international program that our state athletic association hosted for all school districts in the state of New Hampshire. Life of an Athlete is a program for students athletes and coaches to improve athletic performance related to all sports. The program focuses on sport training, nutrition, sleep, alcohol/tobacco/drug use. It is a fabulous program that gets students focused on maintaining a healthy lifestyle while they are involved in high school athletics. I attended with several coaches from my high school and learned a tremendous amount about improving performance. Our high school sent about 15 students to the Life of an Athlete training following our workshop to get trained in the same concepts. They attended a 3 day seminar.

The training addressed the need for 8-10 hours of sleep for athletes (teens also) to allow their brain (CNS) to recover from sport activity. Intense performance may take 48 hours for full CNS recovery and about 24 hours for physical recovery. Protein and carbs are necessary to get into your system within 10 minutes of sport practice or game. One episode of being drunk results in 14 days of lost performance. A person will not reach their peak performance ability for two weeks following that excessive drinking. For more: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Life-of-an-Athlete/157110224306768

Lesson Learned:

Give a kid an inch and they'll take a mile! I love that this saying fits with these concepts. Today I attended a Life of an Athlete meeting with our student athletes and coaches and administrators. It was so incredible to hear the students plan our Athletic Awareness night and care about educating their peers on these concepts. Our students are going to share what they learned and the expectations they have for their peers at an awareness meeting next week before all fall sports start for the season. The lesson I have learned from this is that there are high school students who really do care about doing the right thing in regards to decision making, sportsmanship, drugs/alcohol/drugs, and team goal setting. I am very excited to see students invested in changing the school culture and the culture of the community. I realize this takes time and I think the students do too. I am hoping to see the positive change (even a small one) this year.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tweeting Into Trouble

We have probably all heard of incidences where our students or students we know have misused social media in some way and dealt with consequences. Prior to this past year, I had never had a personal encounter with a student inappropriately using SM. At the end of the year, unfortunately, I had several incidences. One of my students tweeted something vulgar and inappropriate about me (as their teacher) on twitter. This post was written while she was in my class and using her phone at a time that she wasn't supposed to be. She ended up getting in trouble faster than I even knew about it. Another student reported her post. One other incident that comes to mind is former students who are still in high school Tweeting vine video clips of themselves at parties, which could get them into a lot of trouble due to their alcohol consumption in the videos.

Lesson Learned:

First thing to learn from this is that more social media education needs to be occurring with students. This girl tweeted her frustrations without thinking them through. Whispering your opinion to the person next to you is a lot different than tweeting your opinion for all your high school friends to see at once (as well as comment on or retweet). Posting incriminating information like videos or pictures with your friends tagged in them could be detrimental in a lot of ways. Secondly, twitter can be a great tool for getting information out quickly to your students and parents when it is used appropriately. Smartphones and other tablet devices are welcomed in our school so many students and parents are accessing web 2.0 tools all the time--mostly social media. Using this in a classroom could really increase engagement, which I feel is one of the benefits of using them.

social media tips for teachers
Picture taken from http://www.edudemic.com/2013/08/my-5-best-social-media-tips-for-teachers/

Monday, August 5, 2013

Reality Check

Last year my students completed an electronic portfolio to demonstrate their learning and growth in the health competencies. The students created a webpage that had pages for each competency followed by uploaded assignments that were considered artifacts. These artifacts, or assignments, showed evidence that these students had met the competencies. Along with the artifacts students had to write reflections about each artifact explaining what the assignment was and how the process of completing the assignment/assessment/project helped them meet the competency. We also included a page called, "Health in My Life." This page was devoted to students reflecting on experiences they felt were valuable in the course and how they would use what they learned to live healthy lives in the future. It was neat reading them because many students reflected on the assignments that were most valuable and the life skills that they said they gained from them. Some of the things they mentioned included: Food Shopping on a Budget, Fitness Planning, Supplement Analysis, Addiction Analysis, Eating Disorder Analysis, Restaurant Project called Eat This Not That, and more.

Lesson Learned:

Keep your assignments and your lessons relevant to real life as often as possible. Students are more likely to be engaged if it something of personal relevance to them or they can use in their future. Many students shared with me that they were glad that they had the chance to practice shopping for groceries because they have never had to do it before. They learned a lot of strategies for shopping with a limited budget and they also learned how to plan out healthy meals while making their food last all week so that it wasn't wasted. What assignments do you give that are teaching life skills or information for the future?

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Practice What You Preach

I'm not sure if this applies to all disciplines, but I think it applies to who we are as people in society. I think that as teachers we are placed under more scrutiny to practice what we preach because students see us as these people that operate out of the school building and don't go to the grocery store like normal people, or shop, or wear sweats out in public like everyone else. And the reason I know this is that I've been shopping in the worst clothes, with bed head--seeking that favorite kind of ice cream on a low key Saturday night, and I run into a student. The student is with a parent and after they think you are the next aisle over, say, "That's Ms. Strey. She's my health teacher." And I quickly glance in my basket to see if the ice cream I was so excited about is hidden beneath something healthy or if the kid saw it.

Lesson Learned:

We are all human--teachers, students, and parents. We all need a little ice cream and sweats every now and then. But the lesson I have learned in the last few years from my interactions at school and in the community is that there is an expectation to practice what you preach as a teacher. You are seen as someone who is trying to get kids to do their best and work their hardest at being successful at whatever you teach them. We have a responsibility in the eyes of the community and the kids we teach to also do the things we try to teach in our everyday life. We expect kids to be respectful, work hard, follow a dress code, and so on... It is only fair that they expect those things from us so at times we have to consider what we preach and if we are following through with what we expect of students. For me, I teach kids to be healthy by eating right, going to the gym, managing their stress, maintaining healthy relationships, and so on. So when I have a cookie in my hand from the teacher's lounge, I will get called on it. "Ms. Strey, you're eating a cookie!?" If I'm at the gym and there are local kids there, I'll get a friendly hello and kids will also know that I am working to maintain my health. I think there is more credibility to who you are in your profession (at times) when you practice what you preach. It can be challenging because we should all be able to live our lives freely and be who we are :) Discretion is advised!

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Course Evaluations

Every semester my students evaluate their experience in Health Education. I give them a small questionnaire to fill out on one of the last few days of school. I have kids write a variety of comments from,"Don't change a thing," to "Less homework and projects," to "My favorite unit was learning First Aid, CPR, and AED." Obviously some of them I can change for the next semester and some I cannot because assessments are a must. I tell my students that their feedback is valuable to me so that I can make the course better and I can improve my own teaching.

Lessons Learned:

A few things that I have learned from reading the evaluations.
1) Try not to take what students wrote about the course personally. (Hard)
2) Consider giving evaluations throughout the semester or school year so that students can give you feedback earlier. This allows the teacher to fix problems early and meet the needs of the learners who are having issues--instead of when the students are leaving the course.
3) Consider having the surveys completed electronically to save time and keep it more anonymous. Most teachers have a special knack for spotting students' handwriting so electronically keeps it more anonymous if you so desire.
4) Make small changes over time. It is hard to implement a lot of changes to a course so allow time to add new things.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

This One Time...

I'm sure we have all had students that start their stories with, "Ms. Strey, this one time when I was..." These stories usually have something that sparks an emotional reaction--could be shock, disbelief, laughter, a smile, or a shake of a head. All of these things done on the inside of course--or as often as possible. Last year, I had a girl who shared in class how she had planned to kill herself. She shared with everyone the emotions that she was going through and why she wanted a way out. Fortunately, she was in a much better place at that time, but it seemed all the while she was sharing that she enjoyed telling this story of herself. She also didn't recognize that it was something that wasn't appropriate to share.

Lesson Learned:

Our students will share a wide range of stories and ask questions that may be fun to discuss or cause discomfort and awkwardness to deal with in front of an entire class. Sometimes the reaction from you or the class is all they are looking for. In this case, the young girl had autism which prevented her from really knowing that her story was not appropriate to share in front of everyone. At the time, I didn't realize that her inability to handle social situations and interact with others appropriately was the reason for her story. In any case, teachers always have to use discretion in their response and make sure that they handle a question or statement in the way any prudent person would so that boundaries are maintained. Teachers also have to walk to fine line of offering support or demonstrating compassion when the situation calls for it. Bottom line: not all conversations are easy or comfortable but all students deserve to be treated the way that you/I would want to be treated. We are all human. We all come from different backgrounds, which is what makes us all unique. Having a tolerance and understanding of diversity allows us to work with students who come from so many walks of life.

Friday, July 19, 2013

I Need Extra Time

Towards the end of the school year I had a student who came to me in a rush at the end of the period and said, "Ms. Strey, I need extra time for the project that is due tomorrow. I have a really good excuse." (Bell rings--kid walks out the door) I respond to the back of the kids head as he is exiting, "Ben, have the project done for tomorrow!"

Needless to say when the kid came back to class the next day he didn't have a project to turn in, but he assured me that he had a good excuse. He proceeded to tell me that "last night" his sister was in a car accident and he had to spend time with her in the hospital. He was swamped with taking care of her. Of course I immediately caught him in a lie and asked him, "So your sister got in a car accident last night but you told me yesterday in class that you had a good excuse? How could you have known she would get in an accident to use it in an excuse?"

Lesson Learned:

There are times when kids need extra time on assignments and all effective teachers should consider allowing this when it is appropriate and fair. However, there are also times that kids are going to try to push it over a line that is unreasonable. Allowing students to turn things in late or extending deadlines constantly can wreak havoc for any teacher. It doesn't place responsibility on students or teach them life skills for meeting deadlines. Students also have to learn to be honest and know when it is appropriate to ask for more time and when they need to make sure they are using their time wisely to get things done. In high school, time management is a crucial life skill that needs to be developed so they are prepared for college life or the work force. Use your judgement!