Do you remember health class back in middle school and high school? I recall taking the class back in the 1970s—and it was a period different from all the others. Unlike my other classes such as Algebra, English, History or Social Studies, it was a 55-minute period that allowed most students to disengage.
Our football coach taught the class and we all could tell it was a chore for him. It was obvious he didn’t really enjoy it—neither did we. We talked about weird topics that we felt didn’t really pertain to our lives. Or they were topics we felt we’d never talk to an adult about—like personal hygiene, peer pressure or managing our weight.
It seemed to have nothing to do with our future. As we imagined our careers, this subject appeared to be a waste of time, unlike some other courses. It was an easy course to pass, but it felt like it was “hypothetical.” This has become such a common perspective, many school districts no longer require health class in high school.
But is there a better answer?
What Our Students Need Now?
Our society has changed in many ways since I was in high school and college. Because the average student does not work a job, has lower emotional intelligence than past generations and experiences high levels of anxiety and stress, I believe health class could be the perfect time slot to address such issues.
According to Live Science, approximately one in every five teens has a serious mental disorder. The problem has become epidemic, when you consider the fact that as early as the year 2000, the average child in America has the same level of anxiety as a psychiatric patient did in the 1950s.
According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, a good health class includes discussion and assignments pertaining to:
- Personal competence
- Social and emotional learning
- Self efficacy through skill building
- Social influences pressures and influences
In other words, health class could be a course of Successful Life Skills. It could be a time where a caring adult—who is passionate about teaching life skills could engage kids with issues and skills they’ll actually use as an adult and a professional.
Virginia Governor Ralph Northam signed a bill into law in March that requires a mental health curriculum for 9th and 10th graders. It will be taught in consultation with mental health experts, according to the Virginia Board of Education. In addition, the governor of New York, Andrew Chomo, signed a similar bill that took effect this school year. Both are recognizing that social and emotional skills will make a better student.
Four Discoveries Students Should Make in Health Class
Our research at Growing Leaders reveals that adolescent students have four big needs for growth before they graduate. The following concepts could/should be taught in health class:
1. Emotional Intelligence
Employers are begging for this in young employees. Some have told me there is nothing more common than a young team member with high IQ but a low EQ. They sabotage their chances to succeed at work. Emotional Intelligence (EQ) involves:
- Social awareness
- Relationship management
2. Moral Intelligence
This is simply another term for strong character. It includes building a set of ethics and values into students so they don’t require a rule or policy to get them to do what is right. They construct an inward moral compass, by building an understanding of:
- Unchanging ethics
- Social values
- Personal morals
- Respect for law
3. Strengths Discovery
I believe every student should identify their personal strengths before they graduate. This means they recognize the value they bring when they serve on a team. It’s not idealistic but realistic—based on assessments, real life experiences and personal feedback from those who know them well. Their strengths involve:
- Natural talents
- Acquired skills
- Knowledge base
- Personality gifts
4. Leadership Perspective
Truth be told, leadership can no longer be the possession of an elite few students, who serve on student council or SGA. According to the Higher Education Research Institute, every student will need leadership skills upon graduation in today’s complex and ever-changing world. It’s a perspective more than a position.
If this resonates with you—may I suggest you consider Habitudes for Social and Emotional Learning for your school. It is an image-based curriculum that utilizes conversations and experiences to drive home S.E.L.
New Habitudes Course:
Social & Emotional Learning
Our Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning curriculum uses memorable imagery, real-life stories and practical experiences to teach timeless skills in a way that is relevant to students today. Students are constantly using images to communicate via emojis, Instagram, and Snapchat. Why not utilize their favorite language to bridge the gap between learning and real-life application?
Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning helps middle and high school students:
- Develop habits of self-discipline and initiative
- Implement time management skills to do what really counts
- Plan for personal growth outside the classroom
- Identify their unique strengths and passions for a healthy self-image
- And many more social and emotional skills
Click on the link below today to learn more about Habitudes for Social & Emotional Learning!