health

Six ways teachers can avoid copping the full brunt of flu season in the classroom.

TerryWhite Chemmart
Thanks to our brand partner, TerryWhite Chemmart

It is a truth universally acknowledged among teachers that you will never get as sick as you do during your first year on the job. That was a fun realisation I came to after graduating from uni and entering a classroom five days a week for the first time.

And while my immune system probably grew accustomed to the constant germ exposure (after surviving that infamous first twelve months, I rarely got sick again) it’s certainly not something to look forward to.

With 2017 seeing one of the worst outbreaks of influenza in Australia since 2009, it’s no doubt teachers everywhere are probably praying to their smart boards that they don’t get sick again.

But rest assured, these are the things you can do to stop the flu season from hitting you (and your classroom) as hard this time around:

1. Make sure you get your flu shot.

The single best thing you can do to prevent the flu is to get the flu vaccine. As the virus is constantly changing, getting vaccinated from the flu every year means you’re best protected against the most recent and common circulating strains.

And it’s easy to get your flu vaccine by walking into a pharmacist or going to a doctor. Pharmacies offer walk-in appointments, providing a quick and convenient way for all Australians over the age of 18 (teachers included) to have the proper protection for the flu this year.

2. Hand sanitiser is your best friend.

Hand sanitiser. Otherwise known as a teacher's best friend. Image via Getty.

If you don't carry hand sanitiser with you in your pockets at all times, are you even a teacher? Serious question. I was a notorious hand sanitiser applier at all points in the day, particularly after recess and lunch. But it's also extra handy to have a big pump bottle of hand sanitiser on your desk for your students to help themselves to.

After all, ensuring that germs don't spread in your classroom is just as much about your cleanliness as it is your students'. Modelling good behaviour when it comes to personal hygiene and minimising the spread of germs will help to encourage positive health habits within your classroom.

3. Wash your hands frequently (and make sure the kids do the same).

In addition to sanitising regularly it's also important to make sure you and your students are washing your hands at incremental points throughout the day, particularly when you know they've just been to or from the bathroom.

Handwash beside your classroom sink isn't anything new, but ensure you're modelling this good behaviour for your students and verbally reward them when you notice they've remembered to wash their hands.

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Charts that display how to wash your hands correctly are a great addition to any classroom wall too.

4. There's no such thing as too many tissues.

There's a reason why teachers ask each student to bring a box of tissues in at the beginning of every term. Not only do we go through them like it's no-one's business but it's important to have tissues on hand to encourage students to stop the spread of germs in the classroom.

Teaching students they should always cover their mouth when they sneeze or cough, preferably by doing so into a tissue and encouraging them to blow and wipe their nose (as opposed to using their trusty sleeve) is also important.

5. Make spray and wiping a 'fun reward'.

The hands in your classroom when you ask who wants to spray and wipe. Image via Getty.

Another great way to stop the spread of germs is to wipe down surfaces. This is because germs are often spread when a person touches a surface or object that is contaminated with germs and then touches his or her eyes, nose, or mouth.

And thankfully at school, you can turn anything into a game if you really want to. Include 'spray and wiping' in your task chart and you'd be surprised how many kids think it's one of the most fun jobs in the world. Go figure.

6. Red card students and yourself if necessary.

If all else fails and you know you've come down with the flu, don't soldier on. It increases the likelihood of one of your peers and/or students catching it too and we all know how it's goes when the flu goes around school like wildfire. The sooner you take some sick leave the sooner you will be better.

If you believe one of your students is too sick to be at school, also ensure you are bringing it to attention of their parents are reminding them of the importance to keep them at home. It might take a village to raise a child but it also takes an entire school community to thwart the flu.

So this year, instead of being one of the newbies that cops the full brunt of the flu season, or bonding over your shared sickness with a fellow teacher across the staffroom table, follow these simple steps instead. Your future self will thank you for it.

Are you a teacher? Did you come down with the flu last year? Tell us in the comments section below. 

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner TerryWhite Chemmart.

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