Several times a year, I get asked to introduce new lessons or to talk about class planning with the health teachers in my school district. Meeting with them is always a blast. In fact, it’s one of my favorite things to do as an educator. Talking about my work and how I structure my class helps me clarify my thoughts, and exchanging ideas with others helps make me a better teacher.
Thanks to a friend in San Francisco’s School Health Programs Department, I recently connected with a new teacher who’s taking on his very first health class ever. We talked for almost two hours, and I gave him every resource I could. I explained how tricky this class can be to teach, because to do a good job the teacher really has to become an expert on a whole slate of topics — nutrition, fitness, body image, sexuality, mental health, stress reduction, alcohol and drugs — and then has to figure out the best way to teach about all of those topics within a tight one-semester schedule.
Of course there’s also the added burden of knowing that if some of those messages don’t get through, students might become pregnant, face drug addiction or contract a fatal disease. That adds just a little bit of pressure!
When I was hired to teach my first high school course 11 years ago, I was on “Emergency Credential,” which meant that I started out with little formal training on the ins and outs of how to run a classroom. I taught during the day and headed to the university at night to finish out my education coursework.
Because I’d worked for several years as an health reporter and editor, I knew the class content pretty well. However, I definitely could have used some more advice about how to best deliver that content to young people.
Now that I have enough experience and knowledge to be a mentor for new teachers, I gladly take on those opportunities when they come. It feels good to help others, and it’s an important part of building a community of expert health educators. With a group of smart, dedicated peers, we can support each other, keep up on the latest information, and advocate for health education to be recognized as a subject that’s crucial for students’ lives that should be taught excellently in every school.