“Who needs to know this information? I’m never going to use this,” said no student in a health class, ever.
Raise your hand if you’ve ever said to your classmate, “seriously? No one actually uses this information…I mean, algebra? What do you even do with it?”
I doubted the importance of lots of topics, too.
As an adult, I learned this: It’s likely that you’ll only use about 30% of the information you are taught in school.
The trouble however, is that we won’t know which 30% we’ll actually use until we use it.
I believe that health class offers some of the most important information that a student can learn in school.
I also believe that health class offers a higher percentage of useful information to the widest number of students. Furthermore, a well-designed curriculum is age appropriate, immediately applicable, and modifiable for everyone in the room, no matter what their situation is. It is hard to believe that a class centered around learning information and skills to increase your own personal wellness and that of the people around you isn’t worth showing up for.
Health education is for everyone.
We all need to know how to care for our bodies and minds, no matter what state ours are in. In this way it offers a level playing field for all students.
One of the most remarkable things I ever saw was this: a health teacher had impressed upon her students the importance of relaxation as a way of managing internal stress – something we all deal with. The students were volunteering to lead five minute guided meditations and deep breathing exercises for their classmates. A different student offered to lead at the beginning of each class.
Patience, public speaking, relaxation, self-regulation, stress management, cooperation, group management, consistency, participation…what isn’t relevant to life here?
A health class is a place where a “this doesn’t apply to me” comment is easily corrected by adding, “…right now.”
You may never be pregnant, but your spouse might be, your child might be, your mother might be. Characters on your favorite show might be, and you are going to want to understand. Chances are good that you will be close to someone who struggles with a substance use disorder or a mental illness. Chances are good that you already are.
Health class is the place where permission is granted to talk about the topics; to learn factual information at an age-appropriate level, from a trusted source.
Health Education is dynamic and ever changing.
- LGBTQ+ issues
- The Me Too movement
- Relationship Violence
- Screen addiction
When I was growing up, we learned about sexual reproduction, a little bit about nutrition and the importance of moving your body and I think we got a little education on substance abuse. I never dreamed that the topics above would be so relevant in our everyday vernacular…but thank goodness they are. Health class is often a peaceful oasis in a sea of stressful classes for students; sometimes it’s even a place where they can get some help and support. It’s certainly a place where students can learn to support their friends.
Health education classrooms are compassion incubators.
Health classrooms are places where one learns appropriate ways to mitigate stress and to intervene on concerning behaviors. In 20 years of teaching health, one thing I’ve learned is that we all have a desire to help the people we care about. Health classes breed the helpers. I can’t tell you how many times students have come up to me after I teach a lesson about eating disorders to express concern about a loved one.
So, if you are lucky enough NOT to experience an eating disorder, it is likely that your friend, brother, grandmother, spouse, sibling or parent will. Knowing how to support someone you love with an eating disorder is an important part of human development and an integral life skill.
Health class is a safe place where kids can learn what they need to live the lives they’ve imagined. Health class nurtures emotionally stable and mentally agile students who care…and you may not have the opportunity to learn that in other classes.