Opinion
Student Well-Being Commentary

Helping Teachers Get Healthier

By Anastasia Snelling & Maura Stevenson — August 20, 2013 3 min read

Early in this millennium, public school systems began to expand programs to improve students’ health and to reduce childhood obesity. That public schools should advance healthy habits among children is simply good common sense. Federally subsidized healthy school breakfasts and lunches, physical education, and related health-promoting activities should be a regular part of the school day.

But consider what or, more to the point, who is missing in these initiatives: the well-being of the millions of teachers, those into whose hands we entrust the care and safety of our children. Why this slight? Shouldn’t those we expect to serve as exemplars be helped to better health? And why not in the school, where students can see them practicing what they teach?

Schools are routinely asked to do more with less, but building a healthy school environment for students and for teachers should be a priority if schools are to fulfill their overall mission.

School districts can take advantage of proven strategies and programs of work-site health promotion. Some tweaking of them here and there to promote the health of teachers would pay dividends. A healthier teacher workforce translates into less absenteeism, higher retention rates, and improved productivity. It is also safe to claim that healthier teachers are happier teachers and thus better equipped to handle the demands and stress of teaching.

BRIC ARCHIVE

It is well established that Americans are plagued with health problems and an obesity epidemic. There is no reason to assume that teachers’ health is any better than that of the general population. Currently, chronic disease accounts for 75 percent of health-care expenditures, and behavior contributes to the onset and progression of many of these chronic conditions.

The medical costs for care alone are reason for concern. Moreover, the costs associated with absenteeism, lost productivity, and low morale must be considered as well. Such costs affect any organization’s productivity and bottom line.

By investing in the health of teachers, school districts will potentially achieve three goals: controlling some of the aforementioned costs, maximizing the full potential of teachers, and demonstrating a commitment to the well-being and safety of teachers and those in their charge.

A healthier teacher workforce translates into less absenteeism, higher retention rates, and improved productivity.”

Promoting an active, healthy lifestyle for teachers might be accomplished through time for a walk at lunchtime, a pedometer challenge, a special membership at the local YMCA, or a yoga session before the school day begins. Many schools have athletic facilities that could be made available for teachers’ use. Promoting good nutrition might come from school food-service departments, which are already revising lunch menus to satisfy the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act.

Of paramount importance to any employer is the need to manage stress, which takes its toll on physical and mental health. Teachers are expected to function as social workers, counselors, and co-parents, and now we hear suggestions that teachers should come to school armed just in case the unthinkable happens. No doubt the level of stress will increase in the post-Sandy Hook era as school professionals weigh strategies to protect their students and themselves. Exercise is an effective method of combating stress that comes with a plethora of other benefits as well.

District and state governments spend time and resources to recruit, train, and promote teachers; sadly, 46 percent of new teachers leave the profession within five years. The loss of a high-energy workforce with the latest training has a potentially devastating impact on school effectiveness.

It is imperative that school systems consider innovative approaches for investing in employee-wellness programs to improve teacher health and well-being. Small and large companies, the federal government, and the nation’s armed forces have learned that a physically and emotionally fit workforce is essential to building a productive team and accomplishing an organization’s mission. It is time for schools to consider an investment in the health and well-being of teachers, administrators, and staff members as one strategy to improve schools.

A version of this article appeared in the August 21, 2013 edition of Education Week as Taking Care of Teachers

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Making Digital Literacy a Priority: An Administrator’s Perspective
Join us as we delve into the efforts of our panelists and their initiatives to make digital skills a “must have” for their district. We’ll discuss with district leadership how they have kept digital literacy
Content provided by Learning.com
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
How Schools Can Implement Safe In-Person Learning
In order for in-person schooling to resume, it will be necessary to instill a sense of confidence that it is safe to return. BD is hosting a virtual panel discussing the benefits of asymptomatic screening
Content provided by BD
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Webinar
How Districts Are Centering Relationships and Systemic SEL for Back to School 21-22
As educators and leaders consider how SEL fits into their reopening and back-to-school plans, it must go beyond an SEL curriculum. SEL is part of who we are as educators and students, as well as
Content provided by Panorama Education

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Student Well-Being Whitepaper
Accelerating Learning Through Meaningful PBL
Learn what the experts say about growing student engagement and accelerating learning during this unprecedented time.
Content provided by Defined Learning
Student Well-Being Kids and COVID-19 Vaccines: The Latest News
Follow along here for important updates on the development and rollout of coronavirus vaccines for kids.
3 min read
Student Well-Being 'Growth Mindset' Linked to Higher Test Scores, Student Well-Being in Global Study
The first global study of "growth mindset" found both academic benefits and better well-being among students who think intelligence is not fixed.
4 min read
Conceptual image of growth mindset.
solar22/iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion Why Venting When You Have Problems Feels Good—and Why It Doesn’t Work
When you keep talking about what’s bothering you, it keeps the negative emotions alive. Here’s what research says to do instead.
Ethan Kross
2 min read
Images shows a stylized artistic landscape with soothing colors.
Getty