Teachers work hard to promote the academic success of their students. By actively supporting teachers, school health center staff can help teachers reach all students, while also increasing the health center’s impact on learning.
First, school health center staff have valuable insight and expertise to share. Individual consultations and targeted professional development opportunities can build teachers’ capacity to respond effectively to students’ needs in the classroom context. Teachers supported by school health center staff are better teachers.
Second, teacher allies and champions can advance the school health center’s mission, indirectly contributing to academic success. Teachers know best the strengths and needs of their students and can help school health center staff develop high-quality interventions. Teachers can also be a key referral source. Not surprisingly, the more invested they are in the school health center, the more students they will refer for its services. Finally, teachers can be important advocates with administrators and districts. Ultimately, school health centers supported by teachers are better school health centers.
Many teachers immediately embrace school health centers. Others, however, have legitimate questions and concerns about a health center’s role on a school campus. It’s therefore imperative that school health center staff actively reach out to teacher colleagues.
Tips for School Health Centers
- Build personal relationships with teachers and show appreciation for their hard work.
- Communicate with teachers in consistent, convenient, and natural ways. Consider attending regularly scheduled staff, department or committee meetings, and find out how each teacher prefers to communicate with you (e-mail, in-person, phone calls, etc.).
- Provide an annual teacher orientation to your school health center, as well as ongoing opportunities for teachers to visit and learn more. Include a school health center tour in your orientation, and cover topics such as how to refer students to the school health center, school health center programs and services, and any available services for staff (e.g., flu shots, tuberculosis tests). Talk with teachers about how you will work together to minimize instructional disruptions while also effectively meeting students’ needs.
- Offer individual consultation to teachers. This might mean supporting a teacher in developing strategies for working with challenging or disruptive students, including those with special needs. (You might suggest classroom modifications for a student with ADHD after carefully observing him in class, in the hallway, at lunch, and during P.E.). This might mean educating teachers about a student’s medical condition, particularly if it is rare or requires in-class monitoring. This might also mean helping a teacher prepare to talk to a parent about a student’s health-related challenges. Of course, individual teacher consultation is individualized, and it might mean anything!
- Provide professional development to teachers on health topics that they are interested in, possibly including asthma/allergy triggers, bloodborne pathogens and universal precautions, healthy eating and physical activity, health education delivery, etc.
- Invite teachers to participate in your school health center’s advisory board (or planning committee, if you are in the “start-up” phase). Think about inviting teachers who are already committed to your center, as well as some who want to learn more.
The James Morehouse Project, El Cerrito High School, El Cerrito, CA