Soon enough, you will be setting your alarm clocks for 6am, digging out and ironing your work clothes and having the pleasure of teaching our future generation once again. When people say that teachers have the best holidays, they don’t actually realise how much preparation is actually needed for the following school year.
From a teaching and parental perspective, the last thing you’d want is being around sick children or becoming ill yourself. Either way, it would be unavoidable if you work with sick children as a full-time teacher or as a parent, having to look after them at home.
Here are some great tips to minimise germs and, thereby, children getting sick at school:
Prepare your classroom with precautions in mind.
The start of a new school year can be quite busy. As a teacher you’ll be preparing your classroom and organising your classes, as a parent you’ll be getting used to school runs again and as a child they’ll be starting to get out of ‘summer break’ mode. Stock up on essentials that will see you until the next school break. Make things easy for yourself while trying to manage 30 children by buying anti-bacterial wipes for quick clean ups (you can never have too many wipes when children are around!), white board wipes for easier wiping and, for the first aid-kit, medical/antiseptic wipes will be efficient for any small medical emergencies in the classroom. As a parent, don’t be afraid to ask your children’s teachers how they maintain cleanliness and handle health issues in the classroom – after all, you are putting your children into a safe environment and it’s their job to ensure they are safe at all times.
Encourage children to wash their hands as often as they can during the school day.
Warm soapy water should be used to wash hands vigorously for at least 20 seconds – about the same amount of time it takes to sing ‘happy birthday’ twice, suggests Paul Horowitz, a medical director of paediatric clinics at Legacy Health System in Portland, Ore. Washing hands in between lessons, after sharing stationary and books, before and after lunch and during playtime/recess breaks should become standard practise. If parents are concerned about how little their children actually wash their hands in school then packing anti-bacterial wipes in their school bag or packing individual wipes in their packed lunch box could be sufficient
Provide a set of personal stationary and resources, if possible.
Passing stationary from one child to another is basically acting as a germ carrier and some children like to chew on the end of pencils/pens which makes it even worse for everyone that comes into contact with these items. If possible and allowed, each child should have their own art and stationary supplies that they are responsible for, or, as a parent, they could contribute to their child’s education by providing their own set for them. If this isn’t possible then teachers could set 10-15 minutes aside, twice a week, to clean the stationary items as best as they can with disinfectant wipes.
Ensure community toys/equipment is clean.
Teachers should ensure that the classroom toys are regularly cleaned. Stuffed animals can be easily washed in the washing machine on a weekly basis, especially around cold and flu season. Plastic toys can be washed with soap and water, while board games can be wiped down with disinfecting wipes. Unfortunately, we can’t always see or know what exactly children are touching which may include parts of their own body that may be contaminated and then touching or mouthing toys and then sharing them with their friends. As a parent, you have the right to make sure that you put your children in a safe environment so don’t be hesitant in asking your children’s teachers how often the toys and equipment are washed.
Encourage children to carefully wipe down desks and keyboards.
Research done at the University of Arizona found that desk surfaces, computer keyboards and computer mice hold high levels of a range of bacteria. As a teacher, set an example by encouraging children to wipe down their desks before the end of the day and before/after lunch if they eat at their desks. Parents should also set an example by encouraging their children to wipe down common surfaces with disinfectant wipes and teach them the concerns of what happens if they don’t.
It’s impossible to completely avoid germs in a classroom since it’s a very confined environment and children are likely to catch the germs that cause colds through sharing supplies and resources. However, there are easy and effective ways to prevent germs from spreading if you submit yourself to healthy practices. All the precautions in the world won’t completely protect your child from catching the common cold or flu but when they do become sick, it is important to keep them out of school to minimise the risk of infecting their classmates.
What are your tricks to avoid getting sick in the classroom?