Author: Sarah Coulter
Published: Wednesday, October 5, 2011
Wow. That was the only thing that went through my mind after I observed a nutrition education in a school setting. I had just been amazed by the entire interaction and did not know how to respond to what I had just experienced.
I am currently spending my health promotion rotation with BJC School Outreach and Youth Development. This rotation is extremely rewarding! I have been able to observe numerous nutrition educations in various settings and with different age groups. I have also conducted my own nutrition educations, which have been excellent practice for our upcoming school educations in the spring! The mission of SOYD is to “empower youth to make the best possible decisions regarding personal health, safety, and health care career exploration.” The employees of SOYD are extremely passionate and are amazing individuals that want to make a difference in the community. It is very refreshing to see this type of workplace!!
My first assignment at SOYD was to observe a nutrition education, by a RD, at a school located in North County St. Louis. At the initial visit, I observed the children to be very polite and recognized that we were visitors. Once the lesson started, there was confusion among the coordinator from the school and the educator from SOYD. I found that communication could be difficult if one person does not want to be flexible. We started with the girl’s classroom. From the start, the students were very rowdy and were not able to pay attention to the lesson. They seemed interested with who we were, but not so much with what we were trying to teach. Many girls would talk out in class without raising their hands; others would even scream out answers in order to get attention. In the boy’s classroom, it wasn’t much better. They were constantly laughing and telling jokes and not paying attention to the SOYD educator. She was able to keep her composure, but only a third of the lesson was completed because of all of the interruption.
After the education, we discussed it in detail as a group. Our thoughts were that these kids were acting out in class in order to get attention. There is an extreme lack of discipline in the school, which may be why these children feel they can get away with acting out. The problem is that they do get away with it. From what I observed, the educators did not address the issue or if they did, it was handled in a very inappropriate way.
On day 2, we tried something new. Each child was given a note card to write a question down. The educator I am working with said she would answer each student’s question by writing the answer on the back of the card and returning it to them the next day. I thought this was a great idea! It gives the student individual attention, without taking up class time. This idea also eliminated some of the side chatter during the lesson.
The note card idea worked very well! Many of the students asked insightful questions and showed a genuine interested in what we were trying to teach them. I think that showing the students that they were important and what they had to say mattered, made the students more at ease and trustworthy of us.
This rotation has really opened my eyes to the education world. With our own nutrition educations coming up in the spring, I enjoyed observing an experienced RD educate in the classroom. It has taught me a lot on how I should handle my education sessions. First, communication is EXTREMELY important. As our lessons approach, we need to make sure we have notified the teacher we are coming and we plan an appropriate lesson for the space that we are provided. It also is important for us to keep in mind that it may rain during our lessons in the garden; we have to be flexible and plan activities to do in case this would happen. Second, it is very important to be creative. When something is not working in the lesson, we have to be able to think on our feet and try to make our lesson run as smooth as possible. Finally, if the students in the lesson are acting out, it is very important to keep our cool. Observing the RD in the classroom setting, I was amazed by her composure. I was beginning to feel frustration and I was not even conducting the lesson. If she did not have her emotions under control, the students would have sensed vulnerability and acted out even more.
Long story short, things do not always go the way we have planned. To be effective educators, we need to have good communication skills, be creative, be flexible, and stay composed. By combining these four things, we will reach out to more people and make more of an impact on the population’s health!