Health Tips from an Educator Walkout

Over the past few months, educators across America have staged walkouts and demonstrations to bring attention to abysmal conditions facing our schools and students after decades of funding neglect.

It took courage, and also stamina. Marching and rallying for hours a day, several days in a row, in the elements, is not for the faint of heart. But neither is standing all day in classroom or walking around a school full of kids. As we head into the last weeks of school, Audrey Cunneely, a health assistant in Tucson and Arizona ESP of the Year, says the healthy lessons she learned during her state’s walkout can be applied to your school day, too.

Get Enough Sleep

Not only does lack of sleep cause physical exhaustion, making it difficult to stand on your feet all day in a walkout or in a classroom, it impairs your judgement, lowers your ability to cope with annoyances – like a heckler at a demonstration or a disruptive student – and makes organization and planning much more difficult. You need the mental acuity of a good night’s sleep to advocate for your cause in a walkout and to manage a classroom full of students.

Eat Healthy Meals and Snacks

Say no to the donuts! While delicious and filling in the moment, a donut is full of sugar and refined carbs that will cause you to crash. You need a nutrition powerhouse for breakfast to give you the energy you’ll need during a walkout or a full day at school. Go for lean protein and fruits. Keep your energy going all day with more lean protein, like chicken or fish, nuts and vegetables. Pack a tuna fish sandwich on whole wheat bread or a chicken salad. Snacks like almonds and apple slices are tasty and healthy, and will keep your blood sugar stable. Avoid sugary, salty snacks that will dehydrate you.

Audrey Cunneely (right) during the Arizona educator walkout with Jason Freed, president of the Tuscon Education Association and Margaret Chaney, vice-president.

Stay Hydrated

Speaking of hydration, drink plenty of water. You need water to maintain your temperature during the heat of a walkout or in a stuffy classroom. Every part of your body, from organs to cells, rely on water for overall health. To avoid scrambling to find a bathroom during a walkout or having to leave your class for a bathroom break, take frequent but small sips of ice water.

Protect Your Voice

Drinking water will help a lot, but shouting at a rally or talking over a rowdy class can be very taxing on vocal chords. Avoid shouting – use a megaphone if you have access, or join in a group chant to amplify your message. Try to project without screaming. In your classroom, take frequent breaks from talking while students work independently. To get students’ attention, turn the lights on and off or clap your hands rather than shouting above the din.

Get – and Stay – Fit!

You can’t be a couch potato and stage a walkout with our colleagues or be at your best in the classroom. You’ve got to be heart healthy, and that takes exercise. During the school day find time to go for a brisk walk. If you have recess duty, walk as much as you can. During lunch, take 10 minutes to walk around the building outside for fresh air, or up and down the halls on a rainy day – add a flight of stairs if you can – or invite colleagues to walk laps in the gymnasium. If you have planning time with colleagues, suggest an outdoor “walk and talk.” All of it adds up quickly, and if and when you march on your capitol, you’ll have the stamina to go as many days as necessary.

Stress Less

It’s very stressful to walk out of your school and fight for your rights and the rights of your students, but with a positive mindset, it’s empowering. The stress of poor school working conditions can also be overwhelming, but finding ways to cope with that stress will improve your mental wellbeing and overall health. Take deep breathing breaks throughout the day – at school or at a rally. Take a moment to gently stretch parts of your body where tension builds. Find something beautiful to look at – a tree, a picture of a child or pet, a patch of blue sky, artwork framed on your desk or in your classroom. Pause, reflect, and breathe. You’ve got this.