by Mariah Bourne, University of Massachusetts Lowell
It has always been a goal of mine to become a high school health teacher. However, once I began working in the school system, I learned that my goal might be harder to attain than I realized. Recently, I was having a conversation with another teacher at a school where I work as a substitute. After answering the obligatory "chit-chat" questions (e.g. "How long have you been substitute teaching?," "Where do you go to college?", etc.) she asked about my professional aspirations. When I told her that I wanted to be a health teacher, I was met with a very quizzical look. I was surprised by her response because, until then, I had never thought of being a health teacher as an uncommon calling. What she said next stuck with me. "Health is a dying field," she said.
I didn't pay her comment much attention until I started hearing similar statements from other teachers. Then, I really started to wonder: What does this mean for the future of young adults (and my own professional goals)?!? It just made no sense to me that a class that was meant for educating future adults on the importance of making healthy decisions was no longer viewed as being important.
Restoring the reputation of health class is tricky; many don't see it as having the same relevance of more traditional subjects like English or math. However, I think that health class is one of the most important classes offered in grade schools. As Kelly's principle of succession (as cited in Scott & Wolfe, 2015) reminds us, the students in health classes today will grow up to become the community leaders of tomorrow. It makes good sense to educate and help empower children to make healthy lifestyle choices so they can be positive role models and contribute to building healthy communities.
Community psychologists can help repair the reputation of health classes by sharing the importance of prevention and strengths-based approaches to health and wellness. In addition, community psychologists can assist schools in developing and conducting needs and resource assessments to ensure that students are receiving health education that is tailored to their school and community contexts. Delivering health content that has clear connections to the lived experience of students will help generate excitement for new health classes curriculum that being taught the most recent and effective information. The potential benefits from a socio-culturally relevant health class could be life changing for students and have a lasting community impact. Let's reboot health class!
Mariah Bourne is a graduate student in the Community Social Psychology program at the University of Massachusetts Lowell. She is currently enrolled in Dr. Christopher Allen's Introduction to Community Social Psychology course.
Scott, V.C. & Wolfe, S.M. (2015). Community Psychology: Foundations for Practice. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.