It is cold and flu season, and we are all trying to keep healthy. As I type this, I have a runny nose and my voice is almost gone–those nasty germs get us all.
Every teacher and parent can share stories from the trenches about the flu. I could tell you about the time a few years back when the flu was so prevalent in my school that even though I began the day with an almost full class, by the end of the school day I only had two students left, the time I watched a student go suddenly green, lean over, and throw up all over his neighbor’s desk, or even the time I got suddenly and violently ill during a tour of a castle while on vacation in Germany. (Turns out, “Where is the bathroom? I am going to be sick,” translates pretty well without actual words.) I could tell you, but I really think that your imagination will fill in all necessary details.
With all these lovely germs floating around, I want to give you a few things to think about that will maybe help you, your family, and your classroom stay healthier. (Keep in mind that I am not a doctor. These are strictly thoughts and observations from my years as a parent and teacher.)
#1: How do you cover your mouth when your sneeze or cough? More importantly, how do you encourage your students and children to do so?
Some years ago the recommendation to sneeze and cough into our hand changed to covering our mouths with the crooks of our elbows. It seems a reasonable thing to do. People cough or sneeze into their hands and then go about their lives, spreading all those germs to everyone and everything they touch. The crook of your elbow doesn’t touch much, so it seems a logical change. In practice though, it may not be the best plan. I have watched more students that I can count go to sneeze into their elbow and, instead of putting their elbow in front of their mouths, get it too high or not tightly up against said mouth and sneeze underneath their elbow. Basically, they turn their head to the side, hold their elbow in front of somewhere between their nose and eyes, and sneeze all over the person and the desk next to them. I’m not saying that sneezing into your elbow is a horrid idea. All I’m saying is that if this happens regularly in your classroom too, maybe a better practice would be to encourage all students to carry tissue to sneeze into or to allow any student who sneezes to immediately go wash their hands with soap and water.
#2: And speaking of soap and water, how often do you allow hand sanitizer to take its place?
I don’t know when it was, maybe a decade or maybe a little more ago, but hand sanitizer became the must-have item in every classroom, school, and mother’s purse. And don’t get me wrong, it is a wonderful thing when soap and water is not available and you have just used that Porta Potty at the fair or are getting ready to eat that snack at the park. That being said, all too often I see people use hand sanitizer when soap and water is readily available. No matter how good hand sanitizer is, soap, water, and a good hand scrubbing always does a better job of getting rid of germs than rubbing a little alcohol-based gel on your fingers and palms. Look it up–the CDC will tell you the same thing. Hand sanitizer is often much easier and more convenient, but it is not better. Make your students walk to the bathroom to wash their hands before lunch, take the time to scrub your hands well after using the bathroom instead of just pulling that little bottle from your purse, and don’t assume that keeping a bottle of hand sanitizer in the front of your classroom and on your desk for your students to use will keep your students more germ-free and healthier than taking the time to send them to the bathroom to wash their hands regularly would. Don’t throw out the hand sanitizer, just use it appropriately.
#3: Do you take sick time when you ought?
Teaching is not like many other professions. The students are coming whether you are there or not. Teachers can’t just put off work for a day if they are sick and then catch up on the weekend. In my experience, unless you are so sick that you literally cannot drag yourself out of bed or, to put it delicately, have decided that you need to be best buddies with a certain porcelain bathroom fixture for a day or so, it is almost always easier to take a heavy dose of your preferred OTC medicine and suck it up for six to eight hours than it is to get a sub, write plans, and then deal with the several days afterward where everything is thrown off because of being out. This mentality though, combined with a classroom full of students who are then going to go out and mix with other students and family is a recipe for spreading germs, colds, and the flu. I am as guilty of dragging myself to work when I shouldn’t as the next educator, but try to remind yourself that you are human, you do get sick, and just like you wish parents would keep their sick kids home, you should maybe consider using a few of those sick days when you need to. Just because it is easier to come in doesn’t mean it is better for you and everyone else.
#4: What is your diet like?
We all have our weaknesses, be they Diet Coke or doughnuts or potato chips. For me, it’s chocolate. Valentine’s Day is the nemesis of my waistline. Weaknesses aside, the importance of good nutrition on overall health and staying well cannot be overemphasized. Making sure you are getting those vitamin-rich fruits and veggies, eating fresh and whole foods instead of processed ones, and making sure you have a decent breakfast and lunch so you are not tempted to fill up on those treats in the teachers’ lounge can go a long way toward helping you stay healthy in the first place. I’m not saying that you should cut all the treats out of your diet. Heaven knows that sometimes that chocolate chip cookie is really a necessity if you are going to teach seventh hour or correct one more paper. Make sure though that these things are treats, and remember there is wisdom in that age-old adage, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.”
What are your methods of keeping yourself, your children, and your students healthy? Please feel free to share in the comments section below! Stay well, and…
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This Week’s Featured Product
A fun, non-traditional way to help your students analyze characters from any text, this project asks students to identify characteristics, give evidence, make comparisons, create representations, and consider authorial messages. This project works well with both middle and high school students, makes a great individual or group project, and is very useful as a review, a test, or as an alternative to an essay. For more details or to purchase this product, click here!
This Week’s Journal Questions
For the teacher: Is it more important to be a great teacher occasionally or a good teacher regularly?
For the student: What makes what you do everyday valuable?
A Recipe from My Kitchen:
Easy Hard-Boiled Eggs
Today I am sharing a fairly simple recipe, but one that is endlessly useful. Hard-boiled eggs are an extremely versatile and cheap protein. You can eat them as they are with maybe a pinch of salt (great for those “I’m late for work and need to grab something for lunch NOW” mornings), make them into your favorite egg salad, put them into a cold noodle dish with soy sauce and scallions, and so much more.
- Place eggs in a pot, and fill the pot with cold water.
- You can do as many or as few eggs at a time as you choose. I usually do about a dozen, but you can do more or less as you need. No matter the number, just make sure you have a big enough pot that your eggs can sit in a single layer on the bottom and be covered by an inch or a little more of water.
- Cover your pot. Place the pot on the stove, and bring the water to a boil.
- Remove the pot from the heat, and, leaving covered, let sit for ten minutes.
- While your eggs sit in the hot water, fill a bowl with cold water and lots of ice cubes. The bowl needs to be big enough that there is enough ice water to submerge all the eggs in it.
- Place the cooked eggs in the ice water, and let sit for ten more minutes.
- Remove the eggs from the ice water.
- Your eggs are now done. You can put them back in the refrigerator at this point or eat them immediately.
- Hint: If you are having trouble peeling them, roll the egg gently on a hard surface until the shell is well-cracked all over but the egg white is not cracked, and then run the egg under cold water as you gently pull away the shell. The water helps to gently loosen the small pieces of egg shell without pulling away all the egg white too.