Monthly Archives: October 2016

There’s no such thing as wasted time . . .

No such thing as wasted time ….


I’d like to start this post by acknowledging that the idea for this entry was sparked by Claudia Brown (@cbrown_t on Twitter). With her permission, I am exploring the ways that we can take advantage of what might sometimes be seen as “wasted time”.


Claudia has shared two ideas which inspired me! First was what she did when her students had to miss health class because of height and weight data collection. Sadly, it often happens that when things come up in schools, it is health class that students get pulled from or that gets cancelled. However, instead of letting this stop her students from practicing skills, Claudia saw this as an opportunity to practice interpersonal communication. She encouraged students to practice the skills they had learned about effective communication to greet the nurse, and if desired, ask about their height and weight. She further connected this experience to their lives outside of school by discussing the fact that interacting with a medical provider can be intimidating but that it is important to ADVOCATE for yourself and to COMMUNICATE with the provider so that you can have an active role in your healthcare.


Lightbulb! Don’t miss the chance to connect to real world practice opportunities. There are probably so many times in school that can we have students practice skills. Not only that, but then think of all the opportunities we could find for students outside of school. You could talk to local store owners and get feedback on how students act in their stores. Visit a local restaurant and talk to wait staff, cashiers, even bus drivers …. so many people who could all be a chance for students to practice and apply effective communication!


Then Claudia went on to share another example of yet another day that students were going to miss out on health class. But did that stop her? Nope!


On this day, she had students practicing refusal skills out in the hallway as they were waiting their turn. Another lightbulb! There is no such thing as “no health class” because the skills we are helping them develop extend far beyond the health classroom. We can take these unexpected, and often unwanted, moments as opportunities …. opportunities to extend learning beyond the walls of the classroom. Whether it is to practice or apply, we can work on these skills wherever and whenever!


The important thing to keep in mind is that, for me, this isn’t exciting because it means we don’t have as much wasted time. It is exciting because it opens up a world of possibilities and has me explore a new perspective about how we can think about the skills we are teaching and to see interruptions and unexpected events as opportunities.


Do you already do this? Take advantage of the unexpected to provide practice or application of skills? If so, we would love to hear your stories! Even if you don’t, can you think of other ways to extend learning beyond the classroom? Please share ideas in the comments.


Have a happy, healthy week!



Thoughts from ASHA

I got in from ASHA about an hour ago! Wish I could have stayed for the final day . . . what a great conference filled with so many people committed to supporting the health and wellness of students. Conferences are such an amazing opportunity to learn from each other, network and to get reinvigorated about the work we are doing.

Holly and I had the opportunity to facilitate a pre-conference workshop, “All About Those Skills”, on Thursday and to do a brief presentation about skill development today! We know our post is two days late (sorry) but we thought it would be great to share some of the ideas (and hopefully excitement) about SKILLS.

During the two days that we were at the conference, Holly and I kept commenting on how excited and (we admit) pleasantly surprised about the buzz around skills-based health education. There are SO MANY people who are getting onboard and who are enthusiastic and committed to enhancing their current skills-based practice or to make the shift. At our pre-conference workshop we had health educators, but we also had people from community based health programs, from Departments of Education and some school nurses and school staff – it was an amazing group that represented many of the stakeholders involved in educating and support our youth.

There were many awesome ideas discussed and shared, but here are some highlights:

  • At the end of the day, health education aims to help students ACT in order to support or enhance their health. Think of the verbs: avoid, engage, increase, decrease, enhance, maintain, access . . . these are just some of actions we want our students to be able to take. No matter how you look at it, health education is about ACTION – what students can DO!
  • Determining functional information can be difficult but we found that even when looking at different topic areas (avoiding alcohol and e-cigarettes, decreasing stress and increasing physical activity) there were themes that emerged in all of these areas: consequences, effects (short- and long-term, positive and negative), relevance, barriers and resources. Maybe we are on to something . . .
  • There are many data sources that we can use to help inform our decisions about our curriculum. The pictures included here show the groups hard at work and their brainstorm about data sources.
  • Participatory methods requires balancing student engagement with off-task behavior as well as finding methods to support active participation (i.e. how to avoid the crickets we often hear when we try large group discussions). This is not easy! Fostering a positive learning environment is critical for success in a skills-based approach. We included a picture below of some of the ideas the group came up with to support a positive learning environment and participatory teaching/learning.
  • We hope that the “powers that be” will get on board and move toward proficiency based assessment and evaluation for students (yes – as we have been doing in health education). We discussed the challenges of assessment especially in systems that haven’t embraced standards- or proficiency-based assessments.
  • People are ready to take action and make positive changes – whether it was bringing information back to help shape new frameworks or enhancing practice in their classrooms – Holly and I were inspired by the many ways people are planning to affect change.

Attending ASHA reminded me that there are so many of us out there “fighting the fight” and there is no end to what we can accomplish – especially when we support and encourage each other.

THANK YOU for all that you do! And thank you to ASHA for a great conference – looking forward to next year.

Along with the pictures, we are including PDF versions of our PPT presentations. We hope you find these resources useful.

~Sarah and Holly