Guest Post by Jessica Lawernce
As I hear stories of districts’ dire need to balance a budget that is hurting and has been hurting for years and years, I hear that some might cut the one content area that not only could have prevented the widespread infection rates of COVID-19, but could have helped so many young people and adults cope, advocate, & access to keep themselves and loved ones safe… health education.
Many adults outside the education field still remember their health education experience as memorizing the bones of the body, or learning about the birds & the bees in binary male/female groupings. School administrators still stereotype health education as a thorn in their side with controversial topics such as addiction, suicide and sex education. This is not what current, quality health education is about anymore. In fact, if you haven’t viewed Andy Milne’s TEDx, This is Not Your Parent’s Health Class, watch it now! His message is delivered in three parts – an apology for many of the bad practices from health class, a message of hope from the direction in which todays health class is focused, and a plea for community members to embrace our students for their passion, vision and drive so that together we can improve the health of our community.
I’d like to educate the public on what K-12 health education is. Sharing what we teach in health classrooms to the average American doesn’t always work to promote our field. But, putting the knowledge and skills expectations within the framing of COVID-19 surely allows any adult to understand the importance of our skills-promoting subject area. Ask others if they’ve used these knowledge and skill expectations in the last few months to prevent the spread of disease, or take care of themselves and others that were COVID-positive.
If adults you know can’t demonstrate these skills, you might consider making the case for health education locally or nationally to decision makers and leaders. Ensure that a certified health education teacher is teaching your child! Ensure that the teacher is teaching skills-based health education, not just sharing information about diseases. When schools are back in session, in whatever way they look… ALL students should have access to knowledge and skills that set them up as 21st Century Learners. These knowledge and skill expectations would be taught in a health education classroom.
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About the Author
Jess Lawrence is an enthusiastic, energetic, extroverted New Englander living in Eastern Kentucky by way of Portland, Oregon after 20 years. She started her career doing exactly what she wanted to do since her own high school experience—teaching 7th graders health education. In 2003, Jess was hired as the Health Education Curriculum Specialist for the Oregon Department of Education, where she provided assistance and professional development to health education teachers across Oregon. In 2006, Jess pursued a career as a national school health consultant, working with state departments of education and health, school districts and non-profits working to create healthier schools and communities for students and staff. She writes health education curriculum, facilitates and trains educators on school health issues and presents at conferences. Her work focuses on the idea of educating and supporting the whole child.
In 2015, Jess fell in love with someone and left her beloved Portland Oregon to be with him and his three children in Morehead KY! They have two dogs Ase and Hope and Jess enjoys cycling, international travel, cooking and watching soccer.
Jessica Lawrence, Director