By Amber Ginter, Crosswalk.com
Every year I teach, the students, staff, and shenanigans seem to grow. Within a month, I'm questioning what the students need to learn, how I can most effectively teach the curriculum, and why I need to try and be the cool, hip teacher all the students want to have for English. The first two are necessary, the last one is a bonus.
Nevertheless, one thing that has come easily to me this year is reminding myself and my students of the importance of three things: planning and preparing, staying healthy and hydrated, and prioritizing their mental health and well-being. By utilizing these simple steps, it's my goal to help them and others have a productive and educational school year.
1. Plan and Prepare
As a teacher, the start of every school year can be hectic, exhausting, and confusing. After students have switched classes half a dozen times and my phone finally stops ringing, I often leave work thinking about how I can plan and prepare to get ahead for the future. But teachers aren't the only ones who should be thinking this way.
Although I've always been an organized person, I realize that not everyone thinks this way. My husband Ben, for instance, is a procrastinator who likes things in order, but not necessarily until the very last second. Marriage is fun. But on a serious note, it is, and it's taught me some things when it comes to planning and preparing.
One of the best tips that I try to teach and implement in my classes is the skill of staying organized and on top of things. Whether it be assignments or taking care of their personal organization, it's important to keep a schedule and materials together. For class, this might look like organizing your binder at the end of the day or writing down daily assignments in every class. In sports and recreational activities, this could include inserting deadlines and practice times in your phone calendar or a physical planner. Some adults even find satisfaction in checking off physical to-do lists because it reminds them of their accomplishments–even the small ones.
To be successful this back-to-school year, encourage your students and friends to plan and prepare. Even looking at your to-do's every morning, or making a list before bed can help ease the mind when it comes to all the tasks you need to complete. Planning and preparation now may require some time and effort, but it will pay off in the long run.
2. Stay Healthy and Hydrated
With the start of school also comes the widespread arrangement of sickness, diseases, and snotty-filled tissues. Sounds gross, I know, but that's because it is! It only took one student throwing up in my class a few years ago to instill within me the desire to keep things clean, sanitized, safe, and tidy.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, our school required students and staff to clean the desks between every single period. I maintained this for 2-3 years because I really felt it helped minimize the spread of bacteria. After some research, however, I realized that cleaning at the beginning and end of the day would be just as effective.
While we're no longer wearing masks or cleaning desks every single period, I am strict about washing hands, using hand sanitizer, and encouraging my students to keep their hands to themselves. Even basic behaviors like using tissues when sick, coughing into your elbow, and staying home when not feeling well make for a cleaner and safer environment for learning.
Reminding staff, students, and faculty to stay healthy doesn't just involve cleaning procedures and washing your hands, but it also includes caring for the bodies God's given us. And that includes implementing daily hygiene, eating right, exercising well, and aiming for 8 8-ounce glasses of water a day. The way we model these habits directly influences our students and those around us. So why wouldn't we want to encourage greater well-being through effective health and wellness?
3. Prioritize Your Mental Health and Wellbeing
Without fail, it would be naive of me to mention physical health while ignoring all the aspects mental health brings. As a teacher and author, I've not only lived these tragedies but seen the direct and immense impact they have on students.
I've said it many, many, times, but I will continue to preach it until people take it seriously: Mental health is just as important as physical health.
Prioritizing one's mental health and well-being doesn't have to look like society makes it out to be. In fact, I think a lot of people who attempt to care for their mental health think it just includes focusing on yourself and getting a spa treatment. But that couldn't be further from the truth.
Effective care for your mental health and well-being includes a holistic approach. That means instead of focusing on one part of your body, we learn to take an entire body approach. Body, mind, and soul.
In baby steps, I want to encourage you and your students to remember that taking sick days when you're sick is important, but so are taking days off when you're mentally unwell. Seeking help from a trusted therapist, taking medication, and engaging in coping skills are extremely helpful in managing your mental stability. But not without the pairing of praying, reading your Bible, going to church, and seeking God within those resources. He's the one who has given us these gifts, and to forsake Him and His wisdom along the journey would be harmful to our overall development.
Just as athletes go to practice daily to become fit physically, we must encourage students and staff to care for the whole person. Eating right and sleeping well will only take you so far if your mind is fuzzy and you're ignoring the God who created you. It's a process to engage in each of these elements, but once we do, we will be healthier in the long run.
Photo Credit: ©Mche Lee/Unsplash
Amber Ginter is a teacher-turned-author who loves Jesus, her husband Ben, and granola. Growing up Amber looked for faith and mental health resources and found none. Today, she offers hope for young Christians struggling with mental illness that goes beyond simply reading your Bible and praying more. Because you can love Jesus and still suffer from anxiety. You can download her top faith and mental health resources for free to help navigate books, podcasts, videos, and influencers from a faith lens perspective. Visit her website at amberginter.com.