As a teacher, you only have your students for a short amount of time each day, but your influence can last a lifetime. The start of the school year is the best time to begin modeling positive behaviors and encourage healthy habits in students. Here are some things to think about sharing with students in your classes.

Be the leader they need.

If you’ve never particularly considered yourself a leader before, it’s time that you started. By refining your leadership skills, you can showcase many ideals, such as integrity, motivation, and respect. Remember, being a great leader means doing the things you want your students to do. Kids will follow your lead, and then they themselves will become leaders for their younger siblings and underclassmen.

Let them see you achieve your goals.

Little minds often have big aspirations. But, if they don’t see the adults in their lives pursue their own dreams, they may abandon their hopes by the time they reach high school. Let your students know about your own personal goals and what you are doing to achieve them. For example, if you have always wanted to go back to school for a degree in IT, psychology, sociology, or even liberal arts, let your students know that you’re doing so, and then show off your shiny new diploma once you’ve earned it.

Take them outside.

There are so many benefits of going outside, including better vitamin D levels, lower blood sugar, and boosting your overall happiness. Time spent outdoors can relieve stress and anxiety and bolster social interactions. Talk to your school about whether it would be feasible or not to implement an outdoor adventure curriculum that includes non-gym-related activities, like fishing and archery.

Change your vocabulary.

How we say something affects the response from students. You can change your vocabulary when it comes to your activities. Try to use the word “challenge” instead of “competition” to motivate students to improve. Sometimes we focus on winning and losing, an alternative can be to use ahead and behind. Instead of telling them what they did wrong, share with them what you want to see. It will make a big difference in their mindset.

Talk about how food is grown.

Here’s the sad reality: many of your students probably don’t have access to fresh fruits and vegetables. They may have busy parents or live in a food desert and have to rely on fast food and frozen meals to fill their bellies. Though you may not be able to change their home environment now, consider talking to administrators about starting a school garden. Earth Easy explains that, like being outside, gardening can help moderate mood. It’s also a great way to show children where food actually comes from. Plus, you can send veggies home with those who need them most.

Show the effects of bad habits.

We always tell students you should exercise, eat right, get enough sleep, stay away from drugs and alcohol. We show the benefits of a healthy lifestyle but we should also share the consequences when we don’t. Students should be aware of and see examples of what happens when we don’t take care of our bodies so they can make an informed decision as to living a healthy life.

Discuss the importance of sleep.

You already know that sleep is important for the physical body, but it’s also crucial to kids’ mental health. The brain needs sleep just as much as the body. If you are dealing with school-age kids, they need between nine and 12 hours each day, while middle school and older kids need between eight and 10 hours. Talk to your students about how they can get better sleep, and make sure to include the advice of leaving their phones and devices out of the bedroom.

Every day, the students under your care will always remember the lessons you’ve taught. By being a leader, you can demonstrate that you practice what you preach. Whether that’s being open about your personal goals and aspirations, discussing the consequences of actions, or simply changing the way you talk about your lessons and activities, everything you do now will help them build a solid foundation for their healthy future.