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Virginia Journal of Education

Your Classroom

Clear the Air

Indoor air quality is an important part of a safe and healthy learning environment.

According to the federal government’s Environmental Protection Agency, a full 20 percent of the American population (approximately 55 million people) spends their days in elementary and secondary schools, largely indoors. Further, studies show that one in five schools suffers from unsatisfactory indoor air quality and one in four has inadequate ventilation.

The NEA Health Information Network (HIN) believes that all students and educators have the right to a safe and healthy learning environment. Hazards such as mold, extreme temperatures, chemicals and asbestos don’t belong in classrooms.

But such environment-bashers are in our schools. Check out some of these results from an educator survey done by NEA HIN:

• 46 percent of respondents say they’ve been exposed to mold or moisture problems from high humidity, leaks, condensation or standing water.

• 27 percent say they’ve been exposed to asbestos from damaged building materials or floor or ceiling tiles.

• 47 percent report extreme temperatures that are either too hot or too cold.

• 53 percent think that environmental factors in school buildings adversely affect the health of their students, and 51 percent say it affects staff members’ health, too.

• 63 percent say they’ve had allergy-like symptoms.

• 45 percent say they’ve had headaches caused by environmental factors.

• 22 percent say they’ve missed 1-5 school days this year because of environmental factors; 19 percent say their students have missed time for the same reason.

• 94 percent say that indoor environmental issues are important to them.

Here are some steps that you can take to lower the risks of environmental contaminants in your school and classroom:

• A lot of nasty stuff comes in on everyone’s feet. Make sure your school’s entryway has good mats for wiping feet and that school entrance areas are vacuumed daily.

• A vacuum is better at removing dust than a broom. Make sure that floor surfaces in your classroom are vacuumed or damp-mopped regularly.

• Another place that needs to be vacuumed is around ventilation areas of heating and cooling systems.

• Don’t mess with asbestos materials that are undamaged. Don’t cut or rip them and prevent them from being damaged—removal is not always the best way to reduce exposure.

• Request fans or shades. And be cautious with window air conditioners—they may really cool down the room, but they don’t supply much outside air. If you have window units, you may need to alternate using them with periods of open doors and windows.

• Create a local association health and safety committee.

To help you learn more about environmental health factors in school and what you can do about them, visit for the EPA’s Tools for Schools program. HIN is a cooperating partner and co-sponsor of this program.


Quick Tips for Teachers


1.  Discover at least one thing each student is really interested in.
2.  Create a bag of books for kids to take home at night or over the weekend. Include books parents might enjoy.
3.  Ask students questions that really make them think.
4.  Don’t be afraid to say no to your students, but do so politely.
5.  Give children healthy snacks.
6.  Watch out for bullying, especially in unstructured situations.
7.  Be an impeccable role model.
8.  Laugh with students every day.
9.  When possible, let kids do things for themselves. Even if they fail they’ll learn from the experience.
10.  Compliment students on their effort, creativity or manners.
11.  Discipline firmly but calmly and don’t hold a grudge!
12.  Teach soft skills like honesty, cooperation, teamwork and responsibility that students will need in their future.
13.  Have a classroom discussion on respect.
14.  Acknowledge students’ efforts more than their results.
15.  If you are worried about a child talk to others.
16.  Do something charitable as a class project and let the students decide what the project should be.
17.  Add feeling words to your classroom vocabulary.
18.  Apologize when you’ve done something wrong.
19.  Attend students’ activities.
20.  Talk hopefully and optimistically about kids’ futures.

Source: ReadyChild, the North Dakota Education Association


Can You Solve the Puzzle?

Here’s an easy way you may be able to incorporate some of the best Discovery Channel programming into your instruction. Discovery Education has several resources for teachers, including lesson plans and Brain Boosters. You can also create free puzzles, including word searches, criss-cross puzzles, mazes and math squares, with the Puzzlemaker function. Pre-made puzzles are also available.
 To get a look, go to

Help Kids Steer Clear of Prescription Drugs

The National Association of School Nurses, as part of its “Smart Moves, Smart Choices” campaign, has created a free tool kit for educators to help educate and empower school staff to fight the growing abuse of prescription drugs by students. Recent statistics show that one in four teenagers has misused a prescription medication.

The kit, which includes assembly videos, posters, parent flyers and lesson plans, can be found at

Gay Students Face School Harassment

Virginia middle and high schools can be rough places for students who are lesbian, gay or bisexual, according to the Virginia School Climate survey, conducted by GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network.

Survey findings show that lesbian, gay and bisexual students in our state’s schools face regular harassment because of their sexual orientation or gender expression and often hear anti-gay slurs from students and even staff.

Some survey results:

• 9 in 10 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) students (90%) regularly heard homophobic remarks (e.g., “fag” or “dyke”).

• 37% of LGBT students were physically harassed (e.g., pushed or shoved) because of their sexual orientation.

• 14% of LGBT students were physically assaulted (e.g., punched, kicked or injured with a weapon) because of the sexual orientation.


Have You Seen These Websites?

Here are four websites you may find handy for adding something a little offbeat to your instruction:

WORDLE  Is your class particularly interested in a topic? Type some of their comments into Wordle, and see a visual interpretation of all the words they used. (

PREZI  Are your Power Point presentations putting kids to sleep? Prezi has fun and interesting slide transitions to keep your students guessing about what will happen next. (

TEACHER TUBE  Is YouTube blocked at your school? Or worse – did you use it, only to have a less-than-appropriate video pop up as “suggested?” Teacher Tube has classroom-approved videos. (

DIPITY  Create visually appealing and interactive timelines. Each event can have an image, and a link to more information. Users can scroll through the timeline and click on the events that interest them. (



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