WA // Practising what you preach
A healthy school community involves all partners and sends children the same message in the home, school, and community.
Students learn about health behaviours not just from what they are taught in class, but also by observing what teachers say and do outside of the context of a health lesson. Children are quick to pick up any differences between words and actions.
One barrier to students adopting healthy behaviours is inconsistency between what they are taught, the messages they receive, and what school staff actually do. We encourage educators to model healthy habits to support children to adopt these habits themselves. Positive role modelling doesn’t just benefit students; a healthy workplace is good for school staff too! Research has found that teachers working within a health promoting school have better physical and mental health.
Here are some examples of teacher role modelling in action:
Adults need sun protection too
Most Western Australian primary schools require students to wear hats. Trying to enforce a ‘no hat, play in the shade’ rule is difficult when duty teachers don’t have a hat themselves – essentially a double standard. Wearing a sun protective hat (not a cap) shows students and other teachers that SunSmart behaviours are normal, achievable and important. Wearing sun protective clothing, applying sunscreen in front of students and seeking shade normalises sun protection. Reducing exposure to ultraviolet radiation as an adult also reduces your own risk of skin cancer. This is especially true of Physical Education teachers – who receive more UV than surf life guards! For more information on sun protection in schools visit the Generation SunSmart website.
Food for thought
Schools encourage unhealthy habits when lollies are used as classroom rewards, chocolate is sold in fundraising activities or as part of an Easter raffle, and staff morning teas are packed with party pies and jam rolls. To deliver consistent messages about healthy eating schools can:
- Keep in mind that ‘red’ food and drink (such as those that lack adequate nutritional value) are not to be provided to students unless essential to the learning program under the Department of Education Healthy Food and Drink Policy
- Extend this policy to fundraising, school functions and staff morning teas
- Go for healthy fundraising options such as a mango drive or raffle with sports equipment as prizes. Read more on raising healthy funds here
- Reward students with non-food items such as stickers, skipping ropes, pencils etc
- Teachers to model healthy eating habits at school e.g. avoid soft drink and energy drinks, pack a healthy lunch (and take the time to eat it), and participate in Crunch&Sip each day with students
Raise your (water) glass
When alcohol is present at every social event and celebration, children can come to accept alcohol as a standard part of adult interaction. To play a proactive role in reducing the social acceptance of alcohol and showing children that adults don’t need alcohol to have a good time schools can:
- Be aware that the Department of Education policy Alcohol on School Premises specifies that ‘in general it is not appropriate to permit alcohol to be used on school premises’
- Avoid using alcohol in fundraising drives or as prizes
- Advise families that alcohol cannot be consumed at school events such as picnics, BBQs and fetes – ask your parent body to help get the message out
- Plan functions for school staff that don’t centre around alcohol, for example, a Frisbee tournament and picnic in the park, scavenger hunt, or ten pin bowling. There are some great ideas here!
In order for students to take up the healthy habits they are taught about in class they need to see them modelled in the adults around them. You can have a positive influence on children’s mental and physical health by maintaining consistency between what you say and what you do – practicing what you preach!