When Teachers are Resistant to Change…

We all have resistance to change. It’s scary and unknown and we are creatures of habit, routine and comfort. The habitual brain is actually part of a survival technique. If we had to truly think through every step of everything we do each day as if it were our first time doing it, we wouldn’t get anything done. If you haven’t read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg, I strongly suggest you do.

We need not only skills-based health education, but skills-progression health education.

Many best practices or updated lessons don’t get implemented as a result of many reasons:
• Teachers hardly receive the amount of professional development they need to guide new practices, try new things and develop innovative, relevant approaches.
• Teachers do not have the time or energy. Being a teacher is so emotionally and physically exhausting. I wore a pedometer when I taught and averaged 8 miles of steps in a day. That’s the physical exhaustion. The emotional stress of working with over 100 children with 100 different needs is a challenge, both rewarding and leaves you with not much else to give to planning, changing, adapting and innovating.
• Many teachers do not have the support due to a lack of job-alike positions. In many schools, there is one health or physical educator, not a whole team to collaborate with.
• Lack of funding to purchase evidence-based materials/curricula is rare/minimal.
• Systems are in place as a result of textbooks lobbyists that keep evidence-based curricula from even getting on the state adopted/approved lists (don’t get me going on that one!).

These reasons that prevent educators from excelling, innovating, varying their curricula are out of teachers hands in many cases. Although, if you’re the only health teacher at your middle school, the opportunity to engage on social media, watch webinars, listen to podcasts, read books can help with a decrease in isolation.

However, I want to focus on resistance to change. I’m talking about the teacher that teaches the same 10 tobacco prevention lessons for five years in a row without adapting, updating, or determining if the students need it the way it’s always been taught. In the business world, people adapt their approaches to marketing, processes, creating, communicating constantly. They have to, to make a profit. Teachers are held accountable, but it’s not a profit like a business. I mean, the health and education of students is, but even then, I think we can do better.

Teachers that teach health education sometimes give our profession a bad name. And, I hate saying that, because I want to embrace all of them and give them tons of PD and help them teach through the lens of effective practices. However, it’s true. So many teachers are still using old practices and teaching from textbooks (and trust me, I’ve reviewed all the ones ya’ll think are good- they aren’t. They are FULL of un-functional knowledge that students do NOT need to know in order to lead to behavior changes). The amount of content is ridiculous and unimportant. If you want students to drink more water, they do not need to draw their digestive system and color it in. If you want students to learn about the harm of secondhand smoke, they don’t need to know what the chemicals look like under a microscope or even, really, how to spell the chemical names. I’m not going to mention these textbooks by name, but let’s just say, none made the cut when reviewing for a State DOE (un-named) through the lens of comprehensive skill-based health education. Do they incorporate the skill-standards? Yes, many do. But, it typically looks like this at the middle and high school level- 11 pages of content and one skill activity at the end. That is NOT skills-based health education. There is no logical skill progression over the lessons in order. There’s no scope and sequence that tells, you, the teacher, when the skill is introduced, reinforced and mastered. There are rarely rubrics and performance checklists. So, I urge you to ditch the textbook, or encourage your district to not buy it in the future. Save the thousands of dollars and purchase something stronger. Or, develop something on your own.

Textbooks don’t allow you to actually make local data-driven curricular decisions. They are written with assumptions on what your students need to know, when they need to know it and how. I’m not suggesting teachers change everything at once. Maybe take one unit and really look at the skill you want to incorporate and use RMC Health’s Health Skills Models (trust me- these are awesome!) to look at your grade level band to determine what mastery looks like for that skill. Check out the rubrics that accompany that skill. And, build a unit using a progression of the skill (see the Health Skill Model- it outlines it out!) and use content (unit topic) as context for teaching the skill. In fact, I guarantee the skill practice is more important than the content taught.

If you want to see an example of a high school unit with skill progression around analyzing influences- check this out. I wrote this unit (fee/accessible to all!) from the perspective of the unit being about the skill, not the content. So, I understand that may be a leap that’s too far for many of you, and that’s ok. Look at the 5 lessons and the assessment to see how much emphasis is put on the skill. Starting with the assessment (lesson 6) in mind, I developed the lessons to lead up to it. Lesson 1 begins here. There’s a menu at top to view the rest. I’m working on a middle school unit now- so stay tuned. Since I know it’s nice to have examples, here is the scope and sequence I’ve developed for middle school. This shouldn’t be your scope and sequence, since you need to use your own student data to inform when topics and skills should be taught. However, it’s an example.

So- as far as resistance to change... I’m not saying to teach all units through the skills lens versus content. I know as a field, we aren’t there and we don’t know if it actually works. However, I am asking that teachers push themselves to use local, county, state health YRBS data to drive what their students need, and focus on skills-progression. Not only skills-based health education, but skills-progression health education. What are the steps that students have the opportunity to practice multiple times through a planned scaffolding approach? Consider that and see where there might be gaps in your program!

Health Education Blog Post Series Part 1: Health Education Needs a New Identity

The entire K-12 content area or discipline of health education needs a new identity. My generation and older remembers health ed as the class where you learned to Just Say No, or that having sex means you'll have blisters on your genitalia. We remember reading Chapter 11 on smoking cigarettes and answering 5 questions at the end of the chapter to assess our knowledge that smoking is bad.

Unfortunately, health education has continued to be branded in peoples' minds as drug ed and sex ed. Those embarrassing activities or conversations that felt uncomfortable and forced. And sadly, due to a lack of professional development and support to people teaching health, how health was taught 30 years ago is still happening today. 

If the goal of K-12 school health education is health literacy, the ability for students to use, analyze, interpret, access, advocate for resources, information and products that are health-enhancing, we still have a long way to go. Many of the textbooks, activities and instructional methods used are about teaching content and it's time we leave those practices behind.

Fortunately, over the years, we have more adolescent brain research to understand how the tween/teen brain makes decisions (or fails to). Teenagers behave in irrational and sometimes harmful ways and we question why. Science proves that many times, it's because making decisions and solving problems isn't thought out like the fully mature adult brain. Brains continue to mature through young adulthood, in fact, the frontal cortex, the area of the brain that controls reasoning and helps us think before we act, develops later.

An article on the Teen Brain: Behavior, Problem Solving, and Decision Making by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry shares that based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:
-act on impulse
-misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
-get into accidents of all kinds
-get involved in fights
-engage in dangerous or risky behavior

Adolescents are less likely to:
-think before they act
-pause to consider the consequences of their actions
-change their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors

Some health teachers aren't aware of the research, nor are organizations, content specialists and non-profits that are writing content for health education. This is not to point blame, but rather, due to the lack of knowledge and professional development support. Much of the curriculum out there is still based on assuming youth can make great decisions every time if they just read about the risks and dangers.

Health education has gone through quite a paradigm shift. Teachers are just catching up.

Health education has gone through quite a paradigm shift. Teachers are just catching up. Understanding the adolescent brain is one piece of research that has been helpful, but another shift is skills-based instruction, learning, demonstrating and assessment. We've started to ask better questions...

  • Does answering 5 questions correctly at the end of a tobacco unit mean that the student will have excellent refusal skills when offered a cigarette?
  • Do students need to know the names of the germs in order to effectively wash their hands?
  • Do students need to memorize the 206 bones of the body in order to fit a helmet properly, wear elbow/knee pads and wear a seatbelt consistently and correctly 100% of the time while riding in a vehicle?

Having the skill to memorize and recite Martin Luther King's exact words doesn't mean you understand the Civil Rights Movement. The answer is NO! to all of these questions above. If our goal is health literacy, every lesson, activity, demonstration, video, assessment should lead to healthy behavior outcomes (HBOs). And, if it doesn't- let it go! (You can find a list of HBOs in the HECAT, in the boxes on the front page of each module.

So, as we started to focus on skills in the classroom, we have also started to question what content is important? Benes and Alperin define functional information as information that is useable, applicable, and relevant. It is not arbitrary, traditional, or extensive. Functional information is the context in which the skills will be taught and the base for students’ developing functional knowledge. (Benes & Alperin, 2016)

I know, many of you are saying, I do skills-based. But, then I hear... it's important for a middle school student to know the body systems. To an extent, yes. But students aren't all going into pre-med in high school. In order to keep your heart healthy, you don't need to be able to diagram it, but rather, what behaviors help keep it healthy? And, how do you set some goals around those behaviors? What do students really need to know and demonstrate in order to lead to a healthy behavior outcome? Not much, actually. They need to practice skills, and be able to master those skills. 

RMC Health's Health Skills Models define what mastery looks like for each of the skill standards by grade level band. For example, for Advocacy, high school students should: 
• Students are able to identify a health-enhancing behavior using peer and societal norms.
• Students are able to demonstrate how they can influence and support others into making positive health choices.
• Students are able to work cooperatively with a group, analyze and solve various barriers they may encounter
• Students are able to adapt the health message to a specific audience.
• Students are able to reflect on the process and make adjustments as needed.

State Departments of Education are shifting to creating State Content Standards that are more focused on the skills and what mastery looks like for the skills and less on content, leaving that to local decision making. And, I agree with that. I think districts should spend the time reviewing any local data they can get their hands on and using student behavior data to drive/inform their local scope and sequences. Write down the concerning data points and determine which HECAT HBOs will address the concerning points. Which skill and knowledge expectations from the HECAT modules will address those student risk behaviors? Limit the number of units you teach. In fact, I suggest calling units the skills, not the content areas. 

I believe instead of teaching mental/emotional health promotion in September, you teach accessing information with 2-3 content areas as context to the skill. And, you move on to another skill... maybe goal setting and you teach 2-3 content areas for context. The district scope and sequence process is guided by those initial concerning data points.

If we go this way, truly, it means we need to re-brand our discipline. Our education leaders still think of drug ed and sex ed. Many do not understand that the skills in health education are life skills (analyzing influences, accessing information, interpersonal communication, goal setting, decision making, self management and advocacy). At multiple events, I have heard from businesses and employers that they expect the people they hire to have communication skills, decision making skills, negotiation skills... that is HEALTH EDUCATION! But, nobody recognizes it, because we still have health educators that aren't here yet. They aren't teaching skills-based, so our field continues to be stereotyped that it's the same it was 30 years ago. 

I want to re-brand our field. This is the first of many health education posts in this series. Upcoming topics include:

  • What does a skills-based unit really look like?
  • How do we re-brand our field?
  • How does the ACES research support health education?
  • How our legislators creating bills to teach content isn't helping the field.
  • How to begin shifting our schools to CSHEIs-  Comprehensive School Health Education Initiatives
     

Next week... SHAPE America, in Boston!

Next week, 5500+ health educators, physical educators, dance educators will be coming together for SHAPE America's annual convention, held in Boston this year. It's not only SHAPE's biggest annual event, but it's March Madness & St Patrick's Day. Let the craziness begin. 5500+ fellow educators creating, learning, facilitating, presenting, sharing, networking and advocating for the whole child. 

The Cairn Guidance team will be there in full force... we will be exhibiting for the Dove Self Esteem Project, booth #519, so come see us for free give aways! We are also thrilled to be sponsoring the General Session on Wednesday morning-

“Creating a Kinder and Braver World”
Maya Enista Smith will discuss Born This Way Foundation’s (founded by Lady Gaga) commitment to supporting the wellness of young people, and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world.  Working together with SHAPE America members, the foundation wants to see a world of people whose decisions and conversations are driven by kindness, acceptance and compassion.

We are presenting the following sessions:
Tuesday, 8am-noon - Systems Changing; Systems Changing simulation: In an engaging skill-building team session, participants will be confronted with realistic decisions and experiences, be compelled to consider new ways of looking at their goals and their work, be challenged to review what they consider legitimate indicators of success, try proven methods for making system-wide changes in their school setting related to their health education, physical education or school health initiative/program, distill their experience into action-oriented learnings and have fun! 
Wednesday, 3:30-5:30pm - Facilitating Role Plays in the Health Education Classroom: Role Playing is an effective skills-based learning strategy in the health education classroom, as it aligns to most of the National Health Education Standards. This session will guide participants through a variety of activities to increase their comfort and confidence facilitating role plays as well as give ideas on how to overcome challenges. Scoring rubrics will be shared aligned to role plays if using as an assessment tool in the classroom.
Thursday, 3-4:15pm - Enhancing Assessment in Health Education: an update and history of the Health Education Assessment Project and how SHAPE America is updating/revising and supporting this resource for teachers.

We have some other commitments- we are sponsoring the health education track and will be doing a 20 minute Dove Self Esteem Demo on Wednesday from 2-2:20 in the Exhibit Hall.

Can't wait to connect with colleagues, friends, cadre members, clients and partners in Boston! 

 

 

 

A Skill-based Approach to Health Education

When I brought the Oregon K-12 Health Education Content Standards to the Oregon State Board of Education in December of 2004, I was deeply proud of a product that over 30 educators developed together with over 100 reviewers and an opportunity for the public to review. 

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When Authentic Learning Doesn't Align to Assessment

A few weeks ago, I worked with a large school district on the east coast. They loved my activities on the health education, my pitch on the Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child model and how as health teachers they play a role in a bigger health system. They loved my effective practices in health education activity and the energizers I was incorporating in. I had them enthused! Motivated! 

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KAHPERD 2015

Congratulations to my home state’s health and PE professional association for record numbers at their annual conference! The Kentucky Association for Health, PE, Recreation and Dance kicked off with a PGES (Professional Growth Effectiveness System) workshop facilitated by Jamie Sparks and me. Over 75 participants attended the workshop to learn more about teaching enduring skills and assessment within health and PE classrooms. 

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Health Education Student Growth Goals- we got it!

Those of you teaching in Kentucky have heard PGES, Program Review, Student Growth Goals multiple times in different settings. Even if you are obsessed with student achievement & assessment (like I am), the terms may make you groan, roll your eyes or have a stomach ache. It is not because you don't believe in clear criteria for accountability for yourself or your students. 

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Using Health Education Standards & Assessment in the Classroom

I'm incredibly excited to be facilitating this Standards and Assessment training in western Kentucky next week for about 10 health teachers. In fact, two are grade level teachers from the elementary level! It's the first time I've offered this workshop in about 4 years and it's been completely overhauled. 

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RMC Health Board Meeting and Healthy School Leadership Retreat

It has been a fantastic week in Vail, Colorado! I feel incredibly fortunate to be on the Board of Directors of RMC Health, a non-profit that serves those working to improve the mental, physical, social and emotional health of children and youth. We had a great Board meeting that included both a business meeting and some strategic planning for the future. 

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If Only Everyday Could be a Standardized Test Day...

Yup. I said it. Actually, I heard it from colleague Jamie Sparks while he was speaking at an event. What he went on to say was that it appears the only time a school or district actually cares about how much sleep a child gets or what they eat for breakfast is on those dreaded statewide standardized testing days. 

Years ago, teaching 7th grade, memories of healthier breakfast options during that April week of test taking come to mind. Somebody on my middle school staff read something about peppermint helping with focus. Little baggies of peppermints showed up in our teacher mailboxes immediately to pass out to students as they filled in little bubbles with a No. 2 pencil. Never mind the other 179 days of the year when authentic learning and performance-based assessment was occurring. 

What's the end goal of education? That is really the question. I'd say authentic learning with application to the world around us. I'd say demonstration of skills that provide a logical progression of knowledge gain related to all content areas. I'd say social skills and activities that will prepare students for the workforce.

What is the message the education system sends to students, teachers and parents one week of the year but resonates broadly? That message says, "We don't value learning. We value a number." And, it doesn't come from local pressures, might I add. It comes from the top, US Department of Education