6 Tips to Keep Your Classroom Germ-Free This Winter
Illness outbreaks can be a nightmare in the classroom. I'll never forget the time during the swine flu epidemic of 2009 when my Texas high school had to shut down for a week because so many people contracted the illness after our homecoming dance. It was proof of just how fast serious germs can spread!
The key to combating the spread of germs is prevention. It may seem impossible to protect your classroom during sick season, but it can be done. In addition to the tips in Sick Season Survival Guide, here are some clean-classroom ideas to get you off to a healthy start this winter:
1. Stock up!
Make sure to stock up on cleaning supplies, like disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and tissues. Be proactive and add these items to school supply lists if they are not funded by your school, and don't be afraid to enlist the help of parents. Consider sending a note home with students that discusses the common symptoms of the flu, suggests when to keep kids home, and asks for tissue donations (if need be).
2. Teach hygiene.
A reminder on the importance of hand washing may seem redundant, especially for older students, but it can go a long way. Make sure to go over the common symptoms of flu-like sickness and encourage students to stay home if they are running a fever. With younger students, teach them how easy germs spread by using a visual: Put a little bit of glitter on one or two students' hands. By the end of the day, most students will have glitter somewhere on them!
3. Create a sanitization station.
This station can be by the door to remind students to use hand sanitizer when they come in and out of the classroom. You can also keep a cleaning caddy at the station with the daily cleaning supplies that students will use when they help with cleaning tasks each day. (Psst: It's also important to keep hand sanitizer next to computers and near tissue boxes to remind students to stay clean!)
4. Disinfect germ hot spots.
This includes all writing pens and pencils, computer keyboards and mice, tablet screens and devices, desktops, doorknobs, and chair backs. Use your own pencils and pens and remind students to share writing utensils as little as possible.
5. Encourage healthy behavior.
Exercising regularly and getting full nights of rest keep your body healthy and strengthen teens' immune system. Eating a healthy diet and staying hydrated will also help fight illness. Suggest that students bring refillable water bottles to class instead of using the water fountain, which can be a hotbed for germs.
6. Give meditation and mindfulness a try!
These practices will reduce stress for you and your students, and perhaps keep the flu at bay! Use tools like our mood-tracking activity from last year to encourage better mental health practices in students. If you're interested in meditation, try bringing it to your classroom like this teacher did.
These resources may help you further discuss winter health in the classroom:
- In Cabin Fever Fitness, students will be introduced to simple strategies that will keep them moving and exercising all winter long.
- Read Are you Googling Yourself Sick? along with this month's Sick Season Survival Guide to start an important health and media literacy discussion about finding accurate health information.
- This Papercut Could Be Deadly will allow you to go deeper on the topic of antibiotic resistance and resulting superbugs.