July 25, 2012

Timely Tips for Teachers

My daughter is in her final year of teacher training and will soon be beginning her new career. Do you have any advice that may help her reduce the number of infections she may acquire, as she will often be exposed to influenza and other viruses in her work situation?

You ask a very important question, because teachers are often exposed to scholars and students who have colds and flu, even gastrointestinal viruses such as hepatitis A. Their exposure is often at a time when not even the student is aware of their infectiousness, because many viral diseases have what we term an incubation period. This means that the individual who is infected may not yet have symptoms but may be able to transmit the infectious agent by hand contact and also droplet spread by sneezing and coughing. Teachers are particularly vulnerable because of their daily exposure to their students and scholars. It’s important to note that teachers may just as easily be the source of spreading infection to their students when they themselves become ill. 

One of the most effective methods of preventing the spread of viruses is to wash one’s hands frequently. Hand washing is imperative following visits to the bathroom, but also at frequent intervals when in contact with people and shaking hands, handling items used in common, and being exposed to sneezing and coughing. The hands need to be thoroughly wet, the soap well applied to all areas of the hands and in between the fingers, with special attention paid to the nails; all areas of the skin of the hands should be well soaped and cleansed. The time needed for adequate hand washing to take place is the same amount of time it takes to sing the well-known song “Happy Birthday” through one time (this would be approximately 20 to 30 seconds at least). 

2012 1521 page28Of course, it’s not always possible for teachers to wash their hands. In a classroom setting it’s important to use hand sanitizer; this is an alcohol-based cleansing agent that is effective against more than 90 percent of infectious agents. Regular use can help to decrease the spread of infections. As important as it is for the teacher to practice these preventive measures, it’s also necessary to teach these principles to the students. One of the very best ways of teaching such behavior is to model it.

Another very important way of limiting the spread of infections is to encourage those who have influenza, colds, or other infectious/contagious sicknesses to stay at home until they are well. Again, this also would apply to the teachers! This is important advice, although it’s difficult to implement—especially with the tremendous commitment teachers have to their calling.

Flu injections have been shown to decrease the severity as well as the frequency of influenza in community settings. Provided there are no medical contraindications such as allergies to the vaccine, annual immunization of teachers and students should be encouraged. This isn’t a guarantee that the immunized individual will not get the flu, but the frequency and the severity likely will be reduced.

Classrooms should have adequate facilities for disposal of used tissues to further reduce the spread of disease. Informational posters in the classrooms and bathrooms encouraging regular hand washing and sanitation are helpful in promoting healthier working environments.

I know we need to remain adequately hydrated, but as a teacher, I find that it isn’t always opportune to leave the classroom to refill water containers or go to the restroom. Do you have any suggestions that may be of assistance?
Adequate hydration is essential for teachers and students alike. The inevitable consequence of drinking enough water is that our physiology demands that we excrete the water (and waste products) that the body does not need. Our bladders have very adequate capacity in general, and we are able to “manage” our needs accordingly (just think of how you managed to do just that perhaps during a time of extended turbulence while traveling on an airplane!).

There are some steps that can help achieve greater predictability of the need to urinate, especially when working in scheduled circumstances, as do teachers. First, it is good to start off the day by drinking at least two glasses of water. Thereafter, one needs to take water regularly throughout the day according to one’s thirst; adequate hydration may be attained by drinking the amount of water it takes to eliminate the thirst and adding an additional third of this volume to one’s intake. Depending on bladder capacity and control—which may vary from individual to individual—one would then need to regulate the intake of water to ensure that there’s adequate opportunity to take care of the consequences in a comfortable and convenient way.

The question is often asked, “How many glasses of water should I drink a day?” This varies according to one’s activity level as well as the ambient temperature. A helpful indicator is to observe the color of one’s urine; the color becomes lighter and more closely approximates the appearance of clean water when a person is adequately hydrated. In the classroom setting and within a teaching schedule, this may require drinking more water later in the morning when the lunch break provides adequate time for personal needs, as well as later in the day, when routine classes may be done.

As well as practicing adequate hydration and elimination, principles and teachers also need to instruct students in these basic health habits.

I love teaching, and I love my students; I do find it difficult to unwind at the end of the day, however, as I tend to take my work and student problems home with me. Do you have any advice?
Your question demonstrates so beautifully the vitally important role teachers play in our lives and how blessed we are to have them! Here are a few helpful hints to manage the stress of your wonderful calling.

Make sure that you take time daily for meditation and prayer. This sets the stage for a calm and quiet approach to the challenges of every day. Take time to exercise—the recommendation is at least 30 minutes on most days, but preferably seven days a week. Exercise is just as effective if divided up into two periods of 15 minutes each, or three periods of 10 minutes each.  Exercise should be done earlier rather than later in the day, otherwise sleep architecture may be disrupted. 

Ensure that you take time out for yourself: read a book, cultivate a hobby, and nurture relationships. Take quality vacations. Contrary to the fallacy that teachers have a great deal of holiday time, most teachers don’t allow themselves adequate rest time. One needs to be intentional when it comes to this aspect of our lives and careers.

Never forget that the Master Teacher is always at your side and that He will keep those in “perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on [Him]” (Isa. 26:3, NKJV).*

Thank you for making a difference in the lives of so many! 

* Texts credited to NKJV are from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Send your questions to Ask the Doctors, Adventist Review, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Maryland 20904. Or e-mail them to [email protected]. While this column is provided as a service to our readers, Drs. Landless and Handysides unfortunately cannot enter into personal and private communication with our readers. We recommend you consult with your personal physician on all matters of your health.

Allan R. Handysides, a board-certified gynecologist, is the director of the Health Ministries department of the General Conference. Peter N. Landless, a board-certified nuclear cardiologist, is an associate director of the Health Ministries department of the General Conference. This article was published July 26, 2012.