Sub Tips

Health and Wellness Tips for Working in Schools

Learn some ways to keep yourself healthy and happy in the classroom
germs and a sanitizer bottle

School Settings

Working in schools is extremely rewarding, and it makes a huge difference in the lives of students and their learning! Like other professions that work with large groups of people, schools put an emphasis on following good health and wellness practices. There are a number of precautions that you can consider as well as regular habits that can put you and students in the best position to keep a healthy and happy classroom community.

The tips below are suggestions for you to consider, but it is recommended that you consult with your personal medical care provider as you make health decisions. Individual schools may also have their own health and hygiene policies in place, which can give you guidance on expected student behaviors around health.

Physical Health Tips

Breakfast and Lunch 🍳

Start your day off right with a healthy breakfast, and bring a lunch that will give you a nice energy boost midday. It can be helpful to prep meals the night before so that you aren't rushed into throwing something together or skipping meals. Consider passing on foods or beverages that give quick energy followed by a crash. When you arrive at schools, simply ask the front office where you can refrigerate and heat your food, if needed.

Interested in ideas for healthy, low-cost meals? Click the links below to see some ideas, or do a search online!

Hydration 💧

With the busy-ness of the school day, it is easy to forget to stay hydrated! There's also the worry of not being able to take restroom breaks when you might need. It is always a good idea to ask staff at the start of the day how you can get support when you need a restroom break. With a plan in place, you can keep a water bottle handy and stay hydrated. Flavor packets can break up the monotony if you struggle with plain water, but consider products that won't throw your energy up and down in large swings.

Vitamins 🍊

It can be helpful to give your immune system a boost by making sure that you are getting enough vitamins and minerals. You can plan foods for breakfast and lunch that are rich in these nutrients or work with your medical care provider to decide on supplements.

Seasonal Preventative Shots 💉

Seek the advice of your medical care provider to decide if seasonal preventative shots are appropriate for you. The most common are the annual flu and covid shots, which may lessen your chances of getting sick when these viruses are spreading.

Personal Hygiene Practices 🧼

Remember to follow basic hygiene practices, such as washing your hands with soap and water, using hand sanitizer, and sanitizing classroom surfaces (hypoallergenic wipes are recommended in case there are student allergies). Set an example for students by coughing and sneezing into your elbow and using tissues.

Student Hygiene Practices 🤧

Remind students to use good hygiene practices, which are the same that you are following yourself––washing hands with soap and water, using hand sanitizer, sanitizing classroom surfaces, coughing and sneezing into their elbow, and using tissues. In addition, encourage students to keep their hands to themselves, to use their own materials, and to only eat and drink their own things.

Steps 👣

Get your daily steps in by staying active in the classroom! Circulating the room not only helps you manage behavior and provide support to students, but it can also boost your energy and endorphins. During any breaks, such as lunch, a teacher prep period, or taking the students out to recess, you can walk around and get some fresh air.

Bodily Fluids 🩸

Protect yourself by taking proper precautions when dealing with student fluids, usually blood from scrapes and nosebleeds, or rarely, bathroom accidents in the youngest grades. If available, provide students with supplies to handle their situation, such as tissues or bandaids, or contact the office to get support. Use gloves or request school support for cleaning blood or fluids in the classroom.

Mental & Emotional Wellbeing Tips

Daily Positives ✅

As you lead the busy activities of the school day, take time to look for the positives, big and small, that are happening in the classroom. It is easy to get caught up on frustrating moments, but take time to notice––and praise––the students who are meeting expectations and the things you appreciate about the class. It may take time to build the habit, but as you become more purposeful about noticing the positive, you will see a noticeable rise in your daily wellbeing.

Mindfulness 😌

In general, mindfulness is the ability to reflect on yourself (feelings, current state of mind, circumstances, etc.) and bring yourself to a healthy, calm state. This can be as quick as taking a breath to pause before reacting to something, or it can be a longer exercise when you have time, such as during a lunch break. Activities such as stretching and measured breathing can help you relax, giving you the opportunity to reflect and feel happy and balanced.

Mindfulness can also be helpful for students, but as a substitute, you should keep it brief so that students aren't losing significant time to work on their assignments. An easy example is starting class with 60-90 seconds of mindfulness, asking students to keep their voices off and keep their bodies still. You can invite them to picture something calming in their mind, such as waves on a beach or walking through a forest. You can also do this kind of activity later in class if you notice that students are "bouncing off the walls" and could use a short moment to refocus.

Body Language 🙌

One thing that is often overlooked is how our body language and facial expressions can shape how we feel. They can also influence those around us in positive or negative ways. Think about the difference between a substitute at the front of the classroom with crossed arms and a scowl versus a smiling substitute, circulating the room and checking in with students. These two subs are setting themselves up to feel very differently throughout class, and students will respond back to the positive or negative vibes that they notice.

Support 📞

Classrooms are fun and energetic places to be! They can also become overwhelming at times, especially when it comes to student misbehavior. It is very important to recognize within yourself when you need support and then take steps to ask for support. When arriving at a school, it is always a good idea to ask the office and nearby teachers what you can do if you need support with student issues.

Work-Life Balance 🏠

Having a good work-life balance is another way you can maintain mental and emotional wellbeing. School settings require a lot of energy and management, and it is easy to get burned out if you don't take time to take care of yourself. As an independent substitute, you have the flexibility of choosing which days, times, and places that you want to work. Make sure that you set a do-able work schedule for yourself and that you are able to participate in some activities that you will enjoy outside of work.

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