CREATING A HEALTHY ATMOSPHERE IN YOUR CLASSROOM
Remember when you were a kid and one consolation of being sick was getting an extra day off from school? Even if you loved school enough to know from the beginning you’d be a teacher, we all have days when we want to ditch responsibility, stay in bed, and be pampered.
As a teacher, though, you understandably want to avoid contributing to any of your students staying home sick. You’re of course doing all you can to make school an experience worth looking forward to, and you know about preventing the spread of germs. However, there are other things you can do to make your classroom as healthy as possible—physically and emotionally.
Insist on All-Around Respect
Health goes beyond physical fitness and the immune system: it encompasses everything that goes into self-confidence and an overall feeling of security. One element there is getting along with people one sees regularly, so make sure your students treat each other with respect. (And, of course, you treat all of them with respect as well.)
Maintain a zero-tolerance policy toward bullying, but don’t stop there:
- Shuffle classroom seating periodically, and choose group-project teams by drawing names, so students will get to know a larger circle of people.
- Vary teaching approaches and project types to accommodate a variety of natural learning styles.
- Ban any interrupting during group discussions.
- Make it clear that belittling an idea is the same as belittling the person who voices it.
Keep the Room Clutter-Free
Some messiness is normal and healthy in learning, but do maintain “place for everything and everything in its place” rules. Besides the obvious physical dangers of sharp edges, tripping hazards, and dirty hands, a randomly cluttered environment triggers mental distraction, which has detrimental effects on attitude, relationships, and emotional well-being. (Not to mention schoolwork.)
Organize Regular Exercise Breaks
Everyone needs to stand up and stretch, even do some aerobics, at least once an hour. With small children, every half hour is even better.
Here’s another hint: after each exercise break, have a “water break” to ensure students stay hydrated. You might set up a pitcher or cooler, and include “refillable water bottle” on your students’ lists of school supplies.
Freshen the Air
If you can’t open the windows periodically to let outside air in, get some live plants to bring a little outdoors into the classroom. Nature’s air fresheners and humidifiers are the best; if you must use supplemental sprays or gadgets, choose the most chemical- and allergen-free options available.
Let in Natural Light
If your classroom isn’t blessed with large windows, employ white and yellow wall decorations to magnify the light you do get. You might even hang up some mirrors.
Make Use of Positive Sights and Sounds
Colorful pictures, chimes or mobiles, and water fixtures also encourage mindfulness and emotional health. And healthy minds and souls nurture healthy bodies. Make your classroom a nurturing and enjoyable place, and you’ll rarely have trouble with absences due to “sick of school” attitudes.