How do you help a student who has poor hygiene?

Dilemma: How do you help a student who has poor hygiene?

At the beginning of school and in the spring, I make a hygiene speech. I mention the importance of bathing and wearing clean clothes. I say, if anyone has a problem, see me privately. I offer to bring soap and deodorant if a lack of toiletries is an issue, and assure students that anything shared with me is confidential.

Anjanette M. Clark High school communication arts teacher St. Louis, Missouri

I attempt to gain the confidence of the student, and then ask if he or she minds if I talk with a parent. If the answer is no, I pursue it tactfully with the student. I-let the student know they have a friend in me. That hasn’t failed. Attitudes have improved and, in some instances, grades as well.

Jeanne Franklin Middle school administrative assistant Richmond, Virginia

I work with elementary special education students and we do a hygiene unit. A dental hygienist visits to discuss brushing habits. We’ve used trade books on hygiene topics in our reading groups. I also use a workbook on life skills for students with special needs.

Lindy Beckman Elementary special education teacher Corunna, Michigan

I used to refer students to the school nurse, who would contact the parents. She occasionally would give that child a bath and a change of clothes. Years ago when I first taught, I helped students by providing clothing from my nieces and nephews. When I see a child wearing a school uniform that needs a wash, I mention it to the classroom teacher.

Jacqueline Shak Elementary ESL teacher Honolulu, Hawaii

Before each school year, I go to a discount drug store and raid bins of sample-size deodorant, shampoo, and toothbrushes. Every year, I give a hygiene speech and explain that it’s students’ responsibility to make being close to others as pleasant as possible. I tell them personal hygiene items aren’t inexpensive. If they need these items, I have some. If there’s still someone who offends others, I tell that person a better effort is needed. I provide a bag of hygiene items, and tell him or her that more are available if needed.

Nancy J. Compton Vocal music teacher Wolcott, New York

Our school nurse talks with individuals or the entire class and gives out personal hygiene packets.

When I taught Behavior Disabilities, a committee that included parents put hygiene goals in students’ Individual Education Plans. Now, when I deal with hygiene issues in class. I remind students to take baths. They earn play money for completing assignments, which they use to buy prizes. These include toothbrush kits and soap. The children buy these up quickly! I let them pick out another prize if they choose a personal hygiene item.

Tammy Tankersley Special needs teacher Hopkinsville, Kentucky

First, I find out if there’s a financial issue or abuse that might hinder a child’s efforts to be clean. If so, I find away to provide the child with hygiene items, and we have a private talk.

I use humor, discussing how hot it is and what it would be like with lots of stinky bodies. I say I’m only a teacher and can’t afford millions of dollars for air freshener and gas masks. That may sound crude, but the kids laugh and get the point.

Susan Titus Seventh grade math and science teacher Jacksonville, North Carolina

For elementary students:

Read personal hygiene books about children of the same ages, emphasizing social rejection.

Role play games and songs such as “This is the way I brush my teeth.”

If the problem is really bad, talk to the parent.

For middle and high school:

Show videos on personal hygiene.

Hold panel discussions on hygiene and stopping the spread of illnesses. Stress the pain of rejection due to poor hygiene.

Invite a public health department speaker. Amy Frost

Education student and substitute teacher

Decatur, Alabama

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