The task of the English teacher is not only to teach English in general – to teach his students vocabulary and grammar, to develop their listening, reading, speaking, and writing skills but also to educate them through the teaching content used, thus helping them also to increase their knowledge and understanding of the world, to develop an appreciation of their cultural heritage, to acquire certain life skills, habits, values, and attitudes, to become useful members of society, and to live more satisfying lives. Educating students in this way, the teacher is sure to pay much attention to the promotion of a healthy lifestyle.
Selecting the teaching content, various study aids and then working on this topic, the teacher should touch upon certain points. It is necessary to discuss with students what is health, what are the most important elements of physical and mental health, how to keep fit (both physically and mentally), what are health hazards, how to avoid them and follow a healthy lifestyle, and how society as a whole benefits from people’s good health just as individuals do.
It is important for the students to understand that health is not merely the absence of any diseases but a state of physical, mental, and social wellbeing. If a person is really healthy, he feels not only well physically but also has a realistic and optimistic outlook on life, enjoys life, achieves his personal goals, and gets along well with people.
To achieve and maintain good health, a person should know how the human body functions. This knowledge will help him to determine what is good for him and what health hazards he must avoid to be in good physical condition, to have strength and energy to enjoy an active life and withstand various life stresses. To provide students with this knowledge in English the teacher may use the approach of Content and Language Integrated Learning. This approach works especially well with the students whose majors are Biology and Medicine, but it also works well when partially used with the students of other majors, as Anatomy is a compulsory subject in the school curriculum.
A special attention should be paid to the practices that help to maintain health – proper nutrition, exercise, rest and sleep, cleanliness, regular medical and dental care.
At the lessons devoted to proper nutrition the discussion of a balanced diet is a must as the latter provides all the food substances needed for healthy growth and development. The list of Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) providing information on how much of each nutrient (water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins, and minerals) a person needs every day may be used as study aids. The teacher selects various texts about balanced diets. After reading these texts, fulfilling various tasks on these texts, and discussing them, students practice compiling their own balanced diets consisting of a wide variety of foods – fruits and vegetables providing important vitamins and minerals; meat, poultry, fish, eggs, diary products, nuts which are rich sources of protein; bread, cereals, potato providing carbohydrates.
Proper nutrition also means that a person should have the proper amount of food every day, otherwise the problem of obesity may arise, and it, in its turn, leads to the risk of heart disease and diabetes. The teacher may use various kinds of project work to stimulate his students to carry diet surveys among their mates and compile healthy diets and menus. Another problem to touch upon is the problem of losing weight. It is very important as nowadays many teens try to lose weight following various widely advertised fad diets and are really at risk especially if such diets are used for a long period of time. The teacher is sure to explain to his students that the safest way to lose weight is to consult a professional (an experienced physician or dietitian) and to follow strictly the program prescribed. Working on the importance of healthy nutrition the teacher can’t but involve his students into the discussions concerning fast food. Various surveys, projects, role games may be of great help.
Arranging the work on the topic the teacher should also select some information about the role of everyday exercise which strengthens muscles and improves the function of the circulatory and respiratory systems. Physical fitness benefits both physical and mental health. It enables the body to withstand stresses causing physical and emotional problems. To achieve fitness a person should exercise regularly. The teacher may ask his students to share their own experience of such popular activities as cycling, jogging, swimming, playing tennis and badminton, skating, skiing, etc. It is recommended to do it in the form of various presentations including interactive ones. Videos advertising such activities are also very effective. The teacher may also suggest his students to participate in the contest of various special exercises to be then used for relaxation in class. Any even rather a short activity that differs from the normal routine of study can be relaxing – it may be a complex of exercises for eyes relaxation, spine relaxation, hands relaxation, and others (including even some dancing) which may be also used by students at home to relax while doing their homework or operating the computer.
The teacher himself or his students-assistants may carry a survey to monitor his students’ rest and sleep habits and then discuss the information got. The school doctor may be involved into this discussion for the students not only to get professional advice but also practice interpreting.
Cleanliness is another point to be touched upon. It is cleanliness that controls the growth of bacteria and other germs causing various diseases. Students may work in groups trading and presenting their ideas about everyday cleanliness and dental care.
Regular checkups by a physician and dentist also play an important role in safeguarding health. The teacher may suggest his students various role games to consolidate their practical knowledge of the necessary vocabulary while performing the roles of physicians, dentists, and patients.
As it was said above, physical health and mental health are closely connected. Mental health defines how people feel and behave. It is the duty of the teacher to create a comfortable atmosphere in class while teaching his students English and help them to avoid stresses. It is of great importance as experience during childhood strongly influences a person’s mental health throughout life. No one can avoid stress, but a person can do certain things to lessen its effect, and it is also the teacher’s duty to teach his students to relax during hard work in class or at home while preparing for tests and exams. When serious stress occurs, a person should determine the source of the stress and try to eliminate or diminish it. Discussing a problem arisen with the teacher may also help to relieve stress. It should be also remembered that social relationships have an important influence on mental health. Close relations with mates provide opportunities for communication, sharing, and emotional growth. Such relationships can also provide strength and support for dealing with challenging situations and personal problems. If the teacher organizes team and project work properly, it is of great help for his students.
It should be also taken into consideration that the nature of health problems has changed dramatically during the 1900’s. Until then, most people died from infectious diseases. Today, however, the main diseases causing death are the diseases related to the aging process, unhealthy lifestyle, and environmental hazards.
According to many surveys, cigarette smoking is the principle cause of unnecessary and preventable illness and early death – smokers mostly die of heart disease, lung cancer and other lung diseases, and some other types of cancer occur at higher rate among smokers than among nonsmokers. Many people use alcohol, narcotics, or sedatives in this way trying to solve their problems or to improve their alertness, mood, or self-confidence. However, it leads not only to addiction and serious damage to the body but also increases the risk of many social problems. Environmental health hazards caused by modern technologies are also very dangerous for human health. Air pollution may cause various respiratory diseases such as asthma and bronchitis, and even lung cancer and emphysema. Food and water supplies contaminated by insecticides and industrial wastes and extensive noise are also very dangerous. To avoid occupational health hazards special precautions are to be taken.
So health education provided at schools plays a very important role in maintaining and improving the general health of the country’s population, and much depends on the teacher, his professionalism and enthusiasm. Nowadays there are a lot of various study aids, teaching methods, and techniques using which the teacher can affect his students and help them to follow a healthy lifestyle.