A Spring “To Do” List for School Health Professionals

Ty Oehrtman, ASHA Vice President

Ty Oehrtman, ASHA Vice President

I don’t know about you, but I’m pretty excited about the start of March. After the blistering cold and snowy winter we have had, March means that spring is just around the corner. Some people use the spring to clean up around the house, get back outside to enjoy the weather, prepare the garden for spring planting and a myriad of other things. For anyone who works in or with schools, spring also signals the homeward stretch to the end of the school year. This makes March the perfect time to reflect on where you’re at and prepare for where you want to go with your school health program. With that in mind, here’s a spring to do list for school health professionals:

Prepare for state testing…let’s just get this one out of the way first. We all know that schools exist to educate kids. We also know that standardized testing is the way most states measure progress towards that mission. As every school health professional knows, healthy kids learn better and will perform better on tests. So, I suggest using your state testing period as a reminder of how vital school health and wellness services are. Let it be an energizer for you.

Build your team. Don’t try to be the school health hero alone. Surround yourself with supportive allies. If your school health team hasn’t met in a while, call them together to check in on progress. If you don’t have a school health team, start one.

Assess or reassess your school health environment. Perhaps you started off the school year using the School Health Index, or some other assessment tool, to gauge the success of your school’s health policies and practices. If you did, take some time this spring to quickly reassess and check in on your progress. If you haven’t already completed an assessment, take some time this spring to do that.

Start planning for next school year. Now that you have your assessment out of the way, you know exactly what needs to be done to continuingly improve your school health environment. Get a jumpstart on next school year by developing an action plan now. Start securing resources and working towards gaining the support of building and district administrators, school staff (teachers and support personnel), parents and the students themselves.

Make personal wellness a priority. Above all else, don’t forget to take care of yourself. Remember, you are a role model for the students you interact with every day.

Catch up on professional development. Keep up on the latest trends and learn from the successes of others. It is an important part of becoming the best school health professional you can be. Attend a webinar, read some professional articles—might I suggest the Journal of School Health—attend a conference or seek out some self-paced learning opportunities. ASHA’s 89th School Health Conference will take place October 15-17th in Orlando, FL. If you haven’t already done so, start by reading up on the new Whole School, Whole Community, Whole Child Model (WSCC).

Celebrate successes. The work you do is important, but it’s also challenging. Take time to celebrate the big and small victories you have had along the way. This also includes recognizing all of the champions, allies and supporters who helped get you to where you are now.

Renew your ASHA membership. The mission of the American School Health Association is to transform all schools into places where every student learns and thrives. The network of multidisciplinary professionals that you find at ASHA can help you accomplish many of the things on this list. Joining a network of professionals can provide encouragement, support, resources and access to professional development that will help further your goals of creating healthier school environment.

What other activities have you found helpful to re-energize, get ready for action and plan for improving your school’s health environment? Share your ideas here! Did you have a great success this year? Share that here as well, we would love to celebrate with you!