By 8th grade, students come in with enough background knowledge in the subject that we can hit more philosophy and debate within the Health topics. In-depth discussions and challenging units include Social Intolerance, Mental Health stress as well as depression and suicide, Illegal Drugs and commonly abused substances, and Teen Relationships.
The National Health Education Standards, as life skills, are as follows for our 8th Grade experience:
Goal Setting (Wellness; Habits)
Analyze Influences (Social Health; Stereotypes/Discrimination)
Self-Management (Mental Health; Stress & Self-Esteem)
Accessing Valid Info (ATOD)
Decision Making (HIV; STDs; Relationships/Reproduction)
Our “Sticker Wall” activity each Friday grows from something seemingly simple to one big analogy for life.
It is within these units that I find myself learning just as much from students as they do from me. Some topics infuse fun off-shoots like Sleep & Dreams or the History of Health as we "time travel" through the decades and into the future. Other discussions are as difficult as it gets because they include death, disease, and in essence the opposite of health and well-being. Yet if we back away from all of these topics, if we refuse to teach or learn about certain things because they elicit an emotional response, then we are doing a disservice to students and to education itself.
This is why 8th grade Health class is my comfort zone... the place I feel most relevant and most needed. At least at this point in my teaching career. And it is here in Health that I get to decide how to embed important lessons of life-- whether to use wit and humor, thought-provoking questions, or reflection and solice.
Sometimes the answer is D. All of the above.