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Tools and Tips For Having A Great School Year
How do teachers build community in a new classroom? How do people get better at learning names? PLUS: Ideas for helping the growing number of lonely boys.
Hello! Yesterday was strange for me. I missed one of my favorite days of the year, the “school year kickoff” where all the health teachers in our district come together for professional development, planning, and camaraderie. I’ve been helping plan this event since we started having them almost a decade ago.
So why wasn’t I there? Well, in 2023-24, I’m taking a sabbatical. During this time, my biggest focus will be on writing TALK TO YOUR BOYS, the book I’m working on with , which is scheduled to be published by Workman in Spring of 2025. I’m also doing some public speaking, helping create some great new resources for families, and working with some schools to tighten up their health education programs.
Spending the day writing and working at home is so dramatically different than working in or around schools - I’m sure it’s going to take me a while to find my “flow.” But I am so grateful for this time to explore new things, spend more time with family, and recharge.
One of my sabbatical goals is to grow this newsletter. I work hard to make Teaching Health Today and want to reach as many people as possible. Please subscribe and share it with friends, family members, and colleagues who you think would enjoy it. I really appreciate your support! — Christopher Pepper
Curriculum and Resources
As students head back to school, I’m sharing some of my favorite resources for teachers, students, and families.
Learning People’s Names Is So Important
One of the most important things teachers can do in the first weeks of school is to get to know their students’ name well. In “Teachers' Strategies for Pronouncing and Remembering Students' Names Correctly,” reporter Gail Cornwall gathers a lot of practical suggestions, including some specific phrasing teachers can use:
“I don’t know how to say your name yet, can you explain it to me? I’m working on learning it, and it’s important to me to say it the way it’s meant to be said, the way your parents say it.”
How Do Teachers Learn Names Quickly?
In another essay on learning student names, which he calls “the most important thing teachers do the first week of school,” Jay Wamsted shares these tips:
I will walk around the room slowly, carrying my roll, checking it against the name-tents I will ask students to make and place on their desks. I will pause to look at each child, try to attach their face to their name. I will stop every three or four students and attempt to run back through the list from the beginning, skittering my eyes around the room full of new faces. After I finish I will go out on a tightrope and ask them to put away their name tents before another walk-around. I will either say every student’s name or humbly ask them to repeat it. I will fail as often as I succeed. I will stop class five minutes early in order to walk this tightrope again. I will repeat this entire process every day of the week.
How Do you Decide What To Cover In Health Class?
“There are more skills and content than I can cover. How do I decide what to teach?” That’s the question that Jenny Withycombe takes on in this new essay for Shape America.
She points out that although the schools in Portland, Oregon, where she works, provide more health education than most places in the country, there’s still not enough time to fit everything in. She explains four strategies her district uses to “make the best use of our time with students and ensure that our health education curriculum is comprehensive and optimally relevant to their ever-changing health needs.”
“Before I Come to Your Classroom, Let Me Show You Mine”
One of my favorite educators and writers, Tom Rademacher, author of the fantastic book “IT WON’T BE EASY: An Exceedingly Honest (and Slightly Unprofessional) Love Letter to Teaching,” just re-shared this piece about what he did in the first two weeks of school to set up the space and culture of his classroom. It’s packed with great ideas and links to activities.
The Epidemic of Male Loneliness takes a deep look at boys and loneliness, and why this problem seems to be getting so much worse. I was glad to share my own insights in the piece, particularly about how schools can help:
“Middle school and high school boys are really, really interested in talking about masculinity and talking about what it's like to be a boy today, and with a skilled facilitator, they will really open up,” Pepper said. Sports coaches can be incredible facilitators for these types of conversations, too, but often do not have the training to feel comfortable doing it, so he recommended that schools consider enrolling their coaches in the evidence-based program Coaching Boys Into Men.
Keep On Learning
The Future of Sex Education in a Post-Roe America
Here’s the pitch for the show: “With the U.S. Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade and the end of the federal right to an abortion, many sexual health educators and advocates are calling to enhance reproductive education – for people of all ages. Advocates say prevention and education can help people take charge of their reproductive health, but in many states sex education in schools is limited and under attack. We’ll talk about the state of sex ed in a post-Roe America.”
‘The Talk’: Understanding Sex-Positive Parenting
On August 31st,is hosting a free online event about sex-positive parenting. “Discover how to create an open and supportive environment to discuss sexuality with your children. Our expert speaker will share valuable insights, practical tips, and answer your burning questions. Don't miss this opportunity to gain a deeper understanding of sex-positive parenting and enhance your relationship with your kids. Register now to reserve your spot!”
About half of the world's population "can expect to develop" at least one type of mental disorder by the time they are 75 years old, according to a new study published in the scientific journal The Lancet Psychiatry. READ MORE
One medical doctor in England has set out to evaluate just how ultra-processed foods may drive up health risks. And he turned himself into his first test subject, eating a diet of junk food and sugary drinks. READ MORE
The rate of gun deaths in the United States among children and teens climbed 87% in the last decade. Gun suicides reached an all-time high in 2022, and the gun suicide rate among Black teens surpassed that of white teens for the first time on record. READ MORE
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