Teaching the Real Basics: Addressing Personal Hygiene

Several months ago, I had a student who couldn’t run properly. Her shoes appeared to be too small, so we went down to the clothing room to find some “new” runners. These new shoes didn’t improve her gait, so I assumed she had an injury.

A month later, this student arrived at school in obvious need of a good scrub. So one of the educational assistants helped her take a shower and clean up. In doing so, the EA discovered why the child was having such a hard time running: her toenails were over an inch long and starting to curl down under her toes.

This experience led our team to examine the topic of personal hygiene. We understood that our intermediate students required several straightforward lessons.

But then we realized that some students didn’t have access to basic amenities—deodorant, nail clippers, toothpaste, lice combs. So our principal came up with a great idea: Why not put together hygiene kits? We could bring in some “health experts” (nurses), have them address a variety of topics, and then hand out the kits.

Thanks to several generous donors, this idea became reality. Diane McGonigle, principal, and I went out on a Friday night, found the best deals, and purchased the necessary supplies. School EA’s put everything together.

Here’s what was in the girls’ kit:

Here is the guys’ kit:

To ensure students were clear on how to use these items, we enlisted the help of nurses from the Tillicum Lelum Health Centre. Vancouver Island University  nursing practicum students presented two fantastic hour-long presentations on personal cleanliness.

I was nervous that students might find the information “babyish,” but they loved it. Of particular interest to them was how to remove head lice and how to use feminine hygiene products (although a few boys had their hoodies pulled over their heads at this point!).

After the second presentation, students received their kits. “Excited” really doesn’t capture the mood. Students carefully examined their new treasures and tucked them into backpacks. The next day, many brought their kits to school, afraid someone at home would use “their stuff.” Some girls started using the bags as “purses.”

Our next step, apart from the occasional review, is to teach students how to access community services if they cannot afford to refill their kits. We will be taking a “field trip” down to the exceptional Tillicum Lelum Health Centre to discover what resources are available.

Thanks to everyone–Tillicum, VIU, donors. It does take a community.


2 thoughts on “Teaching the Real Basics: Addressing Personal Hygiene

  1. Everyone loves “freebies”! And it’s always a good thing when students say Hi to Gene (or Jean). Tip of the healthy hat to Principal Diane!

    • Say Hi to Jean?! Too funny. Thought of the day for you, Ken (I just read it and thought of you): A metaphor is like a simile. (Dang–or was it a simile is like a metaphor??) Have a great Easter weekend.

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