As a teacher, you want your students to feel healthy and happy. However, you have zero control over factors like what they eat and how much they exercise. How can you advocate for student wellness in the virtual classroom?
Your learners look up to you as a role model, and you can influence their life trajectory even if they never thank you for your tips. Here are eight ways to encourage student wellness in the virtual environment and help children enhance their well-being.
1. Encourage the Sharing of Wellness Tips
Your learners may or may not have access to health and physical education classes depending on your district. While all states encourage such instruction, only 46 mandate it, and programs vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.
One way to enhance student wellness is to encourage the sharing of science-based tips on discussion boards. For example, say you teach chemistry and are studying the formula for fructose and glucose. You can post a question, “what are the effects of too much of either on the human body?”
Make challenging unsubstantiated assertions a part of the learning process. Ask students to provide links to authoritative sources to lend credibility to statements like, “too much sugar rots your teeth.” You teach them critical-thinking skills while increasing their wellness awareness.
2. Introduce Students to Meditation and Visualization
Unless your district prohibits the practice — which may be the case in some religious schools — it’s okay to introduce your students to techniques such as visualization. The human mind and body share an intricate link, and you can point your learners toward further exploration of how their thoughts influence their well-being.
For example, if your students have a critical test approaching, guide them through approaching it with a calm and confident mindset. Have them visualize the proctor saying they may begin and picture themselves confidently working through the first question.
3. Work Health Awareness Into Your Lessons
Even if you teach English, you can build health awareness into your lesson plans. If you are teaching a lesson on Edgar Allen Poe, discuss the controversy surrounding his death. Ask students to analyze what, if any, role they think alcoholism played in his demise.
You can weave similar awareness into history and civics lessons. How did disease and famine play roles in the outcomes of various wars? We’re currently amid a pandemic — how do your students think that COVID-19 will continue to shape the political landscape?
4. Collaborate on Cross-Curricular Projects
Knowledge doesn’t operate in a vacuum, but too many schools treat subjects like biology and English separately instead of integrating learning into a cohesive whole. Take the initiative to suggest cross-curricular projects that can increase student wellness while deepening their understanding of the subject matter.
For example, your team may all teach a class dealing with WWII at the same time. English teachers can have students read “Anne Frank” while journaling and discussing the ways isolation impacts the human psyche.
Biology teachers can explore the impact of long-term sun deprivation on vitamin D stores. Math teachers can calculate how long it takes muscles to atrophy from a lack of physical exercise. You incorporate student wellness into every subject while also furthering a complete picture of what life was like during this historical era.
5. Remain Conscious of External Pressures
The COVID-19 pandemic created new stressors for many. Your students might already feel overwhelmed by their move to the virtual classroom, and piling on too much work could increase their anxiety.
Additionally, their home situation might impact their performance — children aren’t immune to parental job loss and the resulting economic stress. To improve student wellness, pay attention to clues that things might be amiss, such as low self-esteem and excessive clinginess. Some persistently seek attention by acting out while others withdraw.
Pay attention to these behavioral changes. If your school has a student assistance team, consult with them on whether you need an intervention.
6. Initiate Communication With Parents
How can contact with parents increase student wellness? Open communication can alert you to factors like suspected-but-undiagnosed attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) or even conditions like poor eyesight the family can’t afford to address.
Use various means to communicate. Send weekly announcements via a video log so that those with visual impairments can listen to what’s happening in their child’s class. Offer the occasional late-night or weekend office hours to accommodate those who work split shifts and unconventional schedules.
7. Include Physical Movement in Class
Even though you are in a virtual classroom, you can still encourage young bodies to move. For example, you can have a scavenger hunt that requires students to get up from their computers to retrieve various objects.
Another way to engage kinesthetic learners is to have students perform skits or produce how-to videos. If you study ancient Greece, some of your learners might create a YouTube video on building a model Parthenon out of popsicle sticks.
8. Provide Science-Based Reading Materials
Finally, as a math or English teacher, you might feel uncomfortable answering some health-related questions. For example, perhaps one of your students speaks up against wearing masks.
If they do so because their parents insist exposure to germs builds immunity, you might avoid confronting the matter directly to prevent an unpleasant controversy. You could decide that preserving your relationship as an authority figure with the student supersedes your need to engage their erroneous belief.
However, that doesn’t mean you can’t expose them to the truth. You can provide reading materials from authoritative sources in assignments. Use real-life probability to calculate the comparative spread of water droplets with and without a barrier. You avoid confrontation but still enhance student wellness with facts.
Encourage Improved Student Wellness in the Virtual Classroom With the Eight Tips Above
As a teacher, you can do much to encourage student wellness, even in the virtual classroom. Use these tips to promote accurate knowledge and healthy behavior.