There are some skills you learn in school you won’t use until later on in life.
Health teacher Korri ClarkWilt is giving students information they can use immediately. The topics she covers range from alcohol and drugs to eating more healthfully.
“It’s pertinent to what they’re doing right now,” she says of the subjects discussed in her class. For example, they can use refusal skills learned in class at a party this weekend or decide to make better food choices vs. heading to McDonald’s every night.
ClarkWilt, a teacher with the Norwalk Community School District, teaches health to freshmen and upperclassmen. Most of her students are ninth graders.
Bolstering students’ self-esteem is critical in her ninth grade health class, Clark Wilt says.
“The goal is to increase their self-esteem and enable them to use their self-control in any high-risk behavior situation,” she says. That includes drugs, sex, smoking, alcohol, texting while driving, not wearing their seatbelt and getting into a car with someone who has been drinking.
ClarkWilt says studies show that if you have a good self-esteem, you usually make good decisions.
There’s also a word she likes to use frequently in class.
“I probably say it a billion times, and it’s abstain,” ClarkWilt says, referring to any high-risk behavior.
The topics they cover can be tough to talk about. It’s challenging to create a classroom environment where students feel safe to express their thoughts, she says.
“Because of the sensitive topics that we discuss, I want them to feel comfortable to be able to come to come to me and talk about anything,” she says.
This is just her second year teaching health to freshmen. The class was previously for sophomores, but students requesting the information be taught earlier, along with data from a couple years ago showing a high number of teen pregnancies occurring freshman year, prompted the change, ClarkWilt says.
“I love what I do,” she says. “It’s not a job. It’s a passion.”