Learning First Alliance

Strengthening public schools for every child

Blog Posts By NEA Healthy Futures

Sometimes, you know you have to get involved because you can make a difference. That’s why Sara Brown, a health room assistant at Bordeaux Elementary School in Shelton, Washington, got involved in fighting student hunger. With more than 70 percent of her students’ families classified as low-income or homeless, hunger was a real issue in her school.

“We know that hundreds of children come to school without eating breakfast, and skipping breakfast can make kids feel tired, restless, and irritable,” said Sara. “This can lead to moodiness, changes in energy levels, and low retention.”

So, Sara and her fellow educators took action. With the help of her school’s community and staff members, Bordeaux Elementary School is working closely together with families to end student hunger. One of their great ideas to alleviate the issue is their school’s share bin.

“Our share bin is simple. If you have a piece of fruit or other food in your lunch that you didn’t eat or touch, you place it in the share box. This food is still good to eat and can easily be given to a student who is still hungry,” said Sara. ...

Spring forward! My least favorite Sunday morning of the year. Sure, spring is coming and the daylight will linger in the warmer temperatures, but losing that hour can be rough for an already sleep-deprived nation. But it’s even worse for our nation’s teenagers, who already get less than the recommended hours of sleep needed for their growth during this time of transition into adulthood. And this is not just about being overscheduled or overstimulated, up all night texting with their friends; it’s about the science behind the adolescent need for more sleep. ...

At every school and in every community there are children who feel like they have no friends and quietly suffer through each day – especially at lunchtime, recess and other moments where friends gather together.

Start With Hello, one of the many prevention programs started by the Sandy Hook Promise, helps students develop the social-emotional skills they need to reach out to and include those who may be dealing with chronic social isolation, and work to create a culture of inclusion and connectedness within their school or youth organization.

Social isolation is the overwhelming feeling of being left out, lonely, or treated like you are invisible. It is a growing epidemic in the United States and within our schools. Excessive feelings of isolation can be associated with violent and suicidal behavior. In fact, one study reports that chronic loneliness increases our risk of an early death by 14 percent. Furthermore, young people who are isolated can become victims of bullying, violence and/or depression. As a result, many further pull away from society, struggle with learning and social development and/or choose to hurt themselves or others. ...

The National Education Association (NEA) is guided by the mantra “A Great Public School for Every Student,” while NEA Healthy Futures is committed to “Improving Schools, Improving Lives.” Each motto offers the vision of a society where all students have equal access and opportunity to lead successful lives. Unfortunately, the fact remains; the journey to achieving this success is mired by pitfalls and potholes that have permeated this society for far too long.

As a result, access and opportunity for all remains a mirage of hopes and dreams for many students; especially, for students of color. Why is this? Why in the 21st century are we still having the same conversations we have had in 18th, 19th, and 20th century? What is the stumbling block denying the “American Dream” for so many students? Two words—Institutional Racism. ...

Recently, I was honored to present to 350 Utah education support professionals (classified school staff) on bullying prevention. These workers truly are the eyes and ears of the school, but unfortunately are considered the “Rodney Dangerfields” of our schools because “They Don’t Get No Respect.”

It is clear from a 2010 NEA nationwide survey of education support professionals on bullying; we need to change this perception if we ever hope to win the war on bullying.

Even though ESPs have played a crucial role in preventing school shootings and student suicides, we sometimes forget that ESPs are on the front lines when it comes to witnessing bullying and can play a major role in whole-school bullying prevention. We need to make administrators more aware of this and provide ESPs with the resources and training they need NOW!

I believe we can accomplish this by:

First – Understanding the Vital Role ESPs Play in Schools: ...

Tests. Homework. Sports. Volunteering. School clubs. A social life. Family interactions. What do all these things have in common? They are potential sources of stress for students, especially for older ones.

Even if the activity is something that a student loves, it can still cause stress. Is there enough time for it? Are they doing it well? Are they losing sleep from too many activities in a day or from lying awake at night, worrying?

Students may exhibit stress by acting angry, moody or irritable, showing negative changes in behavior, feeling sick a lot, and acting out in certain settings. Stress takes a toll on a person’s health, and students are no exception. What’s worse, chronic stress can make a student feel stuck and overwhelmed, which can impact their ability to learn and thrive at school.

So what can be done? We've pulled together these resources to help students cope with stress through mindfulness and meditation. ...

Bullying means many different things to different people, but one thing is certain: bullying hurts, and it can impact any student. Did you know the latest data shows that 24 percent of female students and 19 percent of male students report being bullied at school?

1. What is bullying?

Bullying is “systematically and chronically inflicting physical hurt and/or psychological distress on another. Bullying can be physical, verbal or social. Bullying is not just child’s play, but a frightening experience many students face every day,” once every seven minutes. ...

You’re in the midst of returning to school, adjusting to new schedules, learning new names and faces, and gearing up to make an impact. You’re prepared…you’ve got this! But when it comes to school and student safety, you can never be too prepared. 

Here are five ways you can help make this school year a safe and healthy one:

1. Talk about School Bus Safety ...

Somehow the precious weeks of summer have quickly gone by and it is almost time for school to start again. The great thing about being an educator in a school setting is that each year you take a break for an extended period of time and then you start fresh again in the fall. Unlike other careers, you get to take time, six to eight weeks, to think about what you liked about the previous year and what you want to do differently in the upcoming school year. Each year I like to find something I could do better. If I expect students to be life-long learners then I, too, need to be one.

I recently read an article that suggested, “assume good intention” in all that you encounter. I thought about my work in the school over the past 10 years and questioned, have I assumed good intention when working with colleagues, administrators and parents? Have I assumed that their efforts and comments were made with good intention in mind? Or did I snap to quick judgment? Unfortunately, I think more times than not, I snapped to quick judgment. ...

Mud pies. Gardening. Digging for buried treasure. Puddle jumping. Burying a time capsule in the backyard. None of these opportunities should be missed in the span of a young life. There are a thousand ways that dirt is not only good — it’s FANTASTIC. Simply put, dirt is an essential ingredient to a happy childhood.

So if you find that your children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, or heck — even yourself are far too clean these daysunplug from your electronic device of choice and go outside and PLAY. It’s good for the body, mind and spirit. (Watch this video from Persil detergent for more inspiration).

And quite frankly, so many children and teens today have no idea what they have been missing. We are raising a very indoor generation, comparatively speaking. So be a little patient with them; it might take them awhile to get the hang of good old fashioned outdoor play and adventure. But they will. It’s in all of us — naturally.

Check out these resources to help get your kiddos or family outside:

Nature Rocks ...