Who knew that Tuesday, April 4, is National Healthy Schools Day? I heard it on CBS Sunday morning news on April 2 and rather soon thereafter sat down to offer up these thoughts. Since I spent the majority of my career working with schools, especially quite a few of the 130,000 K-12 schools in the United States, I’ve learned a few things that contribute to healthy schools. Here’s the link that provides information about the day and its meaning:
While this recognition is focused mostly on the physical environment, certainly a critical factor in teaching and learning, I want to take the discussion beyond the physical to the emotional and cultural health factors at work. Each dimension makes a significant contribution to the environment for effective teaching and learning.
Some questions that come to mind immediately are:
- What does “healthy” mean?
- Is there someone at your school responsible for its health?
- Is the school a place where children feel safe and secure?
- Do they feel free to express themselves without fear of undue criticism?
- Does the school post its values and beliefs where everyone can see so that they are part of the school’s conscience?
- Is the school inclusive of different ethnic, religious, racial and socio-economic groups?
- Is there an atmosphere of respect, honesty, trust and openness?
- Are the adults great role models for the kids?
- Does the school reflect positive energy and activities?
- Is the school a place where kids and adults want to be and enjoy spending most of their waking hours?
You can think of more questions that might address your particular school’s health factors. A round table discussion with both faculty and students that talks openly about your school’s health could be a productive exercise. And finally, these two questions: What do we need to keep doing and emphasize that contributes to our healthy school? What do we need to change to make it even healthier?