Health and Wellbeing: This blog post is written as a reflection on a lecture about keeping our students active, fit and healthy.
Diet? What’s that word? Remind me again.
Children should never hear those four letters blended together in the perimeters of a classroom – unless it’s for The Times National Spelling Bee (for tiny-tots, surely!) Eating sensibly ought to replace the commonplace calorie counting. However, healthy eating is no mean feat when the processed-food list is growing at an unprecedented rate since the boycott of rationing. The detrimental impact of sugar, not just on our dental health, but attention span has been flagged to us many times. This tiny, little granule is drilling cavities in our systems, yet none of us appear to have speed-dialled 9-9-9. No gnawing aches, it seems to be.
If we were to really stretch our brains outside their plasterboard skulls, we could start regarding this addictive molecule as one of sand’s long-lost cousins. Transport yourself back to the afternoons when the sun invited you to the beach, the hub of sandcastle construction. Oh, happy days. Pure bliss. The joinery involved in creating bucket ‘masterpieces’ almost edged me on to apply for an apprenticeship in the trade profession! CVs (of well-thought out, genius scribbles) were devastatingly considered Japanese to any Scotsman. Plan: failed. However, experience sharpened my chisel (again.) Sand wasn’t that amusing when the remainder of your day was occupied by exterminating those grains tickling your toes, almost like ice pleasures in ‘burning’ dogs’ paws. Sugar acts as its double. This sweet rush we seek (as if it’s enlightenment) is a local anaesthetic. Numbs out surface thoughts in your mind, it does. That’s until the mighty grains are ‘resuscitated’… and our decrepit bodies are left scrambling to clear up the mess. Build a sand-castle whenever sugar cuts your line of thought short. Why? It magnificently magnifies the dots, the dots of those life-changing connections. These simple links could transform your final ‘picture’.
Since everyone concludes that life is better in colour, we would be very wise ‘owls’ to clean our palettes of the blacks and whites. The nation doesn’t have to be spotless, nevertheless. For most people, a radical food overhaul would pull the bristles out of their only brush – and there puts an end to their ‘painting’ too. The aim of altering our food consumption habits is also comparable to an attempt in recreating the Mona Lisa, for some. Simplicity is golden. Changes to our plates should be gradual because many top figures have proven that this is how success operates. So, where do we start – and who with? Babies, toddlers, children, teenagers, the twenty-dreamers, thirty-doers, middle-aged and elderly… what a mouthful: they all need educating. Today.
Scientific experts from ‘The Sugar Crash’ documentary alluded to the reality that what we put on our forks as children in fact is cut by our knifes as adults. Slightly scarily, grown-ups exert as much influence on food-intake as that of the children themselves. These findings have undoubtedly provoked me to reconsider my approach in teaching my (soon-to-be) students about health eating. Delivering a series of lessons in which pupils “understand that [their] body needs energy to function and that this comes from the food [they] eat” will rarely result in a desirable outcome if their guardians don’t appreciate this too (based on the CfE E & O HWB 1-27a). A whole school approach sets the scaffolding for implementing positives adjustments. To lay the bricks requires the cement of an equally encouraging home situation. Guarantees for that are limited, especially considering the probability of receiving all the class’ permission slips back the next day is seldom above zero. A universal learning intention sounds like the payment to such a bill; though no-one ever pays with the same change. It’s futile reinforcing knowledge to guardians with impeccable lifestyles (they’re probably wearing invisible ear muffs) yet others may delight in advice and support. Differentiation – in the content and our teaching-style – is the staple in this scutter of a Health and Wellbeing improvement ‘recipe.’
The ingredients: there are many. Teachers, alongside numerous other professionals, are the aliments that could boil together to make a ‘broth’ – without too many ideas spoiling it, of course! Sourcing the method will only be feasible by taking advantage of social media. Those (generally) time-sucking online platforms can be invaluable. Tweeting, hooting and whoo-ing about effective health approaches would help put our hidden owls to bed earlier! Many minutes can fly away into those vast black holes if we constantly ignore other people’s suggestions. My Google tiger had recently built up quite an appetite, so to speak. R became synonymous with ravenous. A pounce upon Search equated to the human thrill of passing Go in Monopoly. In fact, it’s outrageous that I wasn’t more elated. Two-hundred (and counting) free ideas are teachers’ version of winning a million pounds. I would estimate that as being fourth-fifths more joyful than collecting your two-hundred pounds. (Kids, fractions aren’t exclusively for dishing up Dominos.)
The endorphins that waltz around our brains are of paramount importance to our wellbeing too. After firing up those muscle fibres, we are left in a calm-state (no, not from subsequently feeling less guilty about that cheese-dripping margherita pizza last night.) Physical education is a subject that some teachers majorly focus on -or hate. Just as we have zoomed in on the crumbs lying on our plate, teachers are collaborating on ways to motivate pupils to engage in exercise daily. The British Heart Foundation published a report in 2015 with the following recommendation:
“All children and young people should engage in moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity for at least 60 minutes and up to several hours every day.” (The British Heart Foundation, 2015.)
Extensive. Effort. Demanded. But, so does: assessing; marking; and planning. Telling a child to run around the lush playing fields for an hour could welcome many sneers and scowls; pretend they’re smiles! All students, at some point, squealed and screamed (with excitement) in the playground as their ‘tigs’ became tags. Why has it reached the stage that we never question our reluctant students? Carefully converse with any pupil only exercising their finger limbs exhaustively. Tread with caution, however, as this is not small talk. I know. Those sitting-out, or ‘resting benches could have easily moulded to me. Gyms didn’t support radiators, however. (Totalling up the number of sports lessons that little me wasted would give rise to a cracker of a statistics lesson.) Back then, the notion of participating in sports drove me mad; I was as wound up as marathon runner with a pulled hamstring. How the days have turned… my calendar boxes are bursting with running events. Blame it on Carol Dweck.
Low outputs rise inputs: no exercise, more hunger. The United Kingdom needs to keep moving – in the right direction (and closer to Europe, preferably!) Sugar is travelling too close to home; it’s time we lock our doors for good. That would be the best pest control when any diet tries to intrude. Exercise and proper nutrition are as integral as attending school. In my practice, kids will leave the classroom suitably fatigued. Guardians, parents and grand-parents should see kids’ eyes sparkling with that zest for life. That kefi. But when it’s bed-time, it’s bed-time! Curling up with the duvet after a day of commendable choices is the ribbon to the medal. Reward yourself with a run in the morning; the chocolate bars can practice some patience.
Kefi: This is a Greek word with no direct translation (in English). It is essentially the ability to persevere through the storm and see the all-anticipated rainbow. Someone who is upbeat and has a positive outlook in life could be referred to as having that kefi. I haven’t actually travelled to Greece, but learnt this word from reading ‘To the Island’ by Meaghan Delahunt.
Due acknowledgments for this blog post:
- The University of Dundee for their lectures on Curriculum for Excellence and Health & Wellbeing;
- The ‘Sugar Crash’ documentary detailing the harmful effects of additive sugar consumption;
- The following Curriculum for Excellence document – Health and Wellbeing: Experiences and Outcomes
- The British Heart Foundation’s report looking at physical activity in the United Kingdom.