Tips for Teachers to Stay Healthy All Year Long
Setting the Foundation
My first year teaching I wanted to know what makes an effective teacher, so I attended numerous seminars with all the latest research. I learned about learning-focused instruction, differentiated instruction, cooperative learning models, and much more.
I also ate a lot of food.
By December I needed a nap after second period. My pants were too tight. I had grown three chins. And I spent my lunch hour in the fetal position under my desk snorting sugar and ingesting lard.
While seminars are all well and good, it won't help you much if you don't have the energy to carry out the teaching ideas you've learned. What I should have done was focused some time on my own health and fitness. This is more important than you think!
Ten Tips for Success
These health tips are applicable to teachers of all fitness levels.
- Stock Healthy Snacks - Let's not make these health tips for a new school year too complicated. If you are hungry at 10:30 and all you have to eat are Snickers and Peanut Butter, you will get fat. If you have nothing to eat, you will run to the teachers' lounge and buy potato chips and a Three Musketeers, and you will get fat. If all you have is carrot sticks and an apple, you will not get fat.
- Exercise Before You Go Home - What makes an effective teacher? Preparation. Bring your exercise clothes with you to work. After work, put them on. Exercise.
- Exercise Before You Get to Work - A half-hour to an hour of weight-training or cardiovascular exercise will have you doing cartwheels and jumping jacks in front of the class. Your students will have to remind you that you teach science and not P.E.
- Expect Miracles Over TIme - Be consistent. You will not become a world-class triathlete in one day. It takes time. It will happen.
- Avoid Junk - Students love to bring donuts...when they're tardy. Enforce tardies and stay healthy by refusing impulse junk food eating.
- Work During Lunch - At most high schools, lunch arrives before 11:00 A.M. Nobody eats lunch at 11:00 A.M. Instead of lunch, bring a light, healthy snack or a healthy sandwich. It'll take you five minutes to eat it (or 5 seconds if you eat like I do) and you'll have 25 minutes to grade papers, write lesson plans, or surf the internet for lesson ideas. I have a friend who lost 75 pounds. During his lunch hour (he's not a teacher) by eating a small snack as he geo-cached. it works.
- Watch Practice - Being around physically fit people will motivate you. Watch the football team pound each other, the volleyball team spike each other, or the basketball team run windsprints. Talk to coaches. Talk to trainers. Talk to other physically fit teachers.
- Set a "Do Not Exceed" Weight - When I got married, my wife and I established maximum weights. It was a weight at which we would automatically go on a diet or a fitness program. There would be no discussion or no hurt feelings. It would be automatic. I've approached my do not exceed weight a few times over the years and have lost weight immediately. Make sure you're realistic and make sure someone else knows what the weight is.
- Take a Day Off - Stress causes weight gain. Taking a (school-approved) day off reduces stress. Most districts offer flex-days or personal days. Use them.
- Don't Fall Behind - Another way to reduce stress is to stay on top of your work. Even if it means staying an extra hour or waking up an hour early, it's worth it.
Good luck and have a healthy new school year.