Office workers aren’t the only ones who struggle to keep the way their work lives ergonomic. Both educators and students alike at all levels of the education system often find themselves caught within the comfort versus convenience divide. As such, we’re devoting the rest of this month mobile ergonomics in the classroom, so that you can help the teachers and the students in your lives focus on the process of learning rather than musculoskeletal pain.
First up: Teacher Edition.
Teachers spend all day on their feet pointing, bending and squatting down to low tables, so it’s no wonder so many experience such a wide array of musculoskeletal disorders. In fact, a study by ergonomists at the UK’s Loughborough University found 88% of examined teachers had experienced back pain, 73% had experienced neck and shoulder pain, 53% had suffered through knee problems, and 33% reported hip problems. Altogether, 82% of those surveyed reported suffering pain from some form of musculoskeletal at least once a week. That’s got to have a big impact on a teacher’s happiness and ability to deal with the many stresses and demands that arise in the classroom.
What to do?
1. Start With a Classroom Audit
Whether you bring in an outside consultant or you enlist each teacher to do their own, it’s important to start by gathering evidence of the problems at hand. A pain diary can be very helpful here — one in which teachers mark down every moment that causes them discomfort. Is it bending over child-sized desks that puts pressure on the back? Is it hour five of standing that makes those hips twinge? A diary will help you pinpoint just what’s going wrong and when it’s doing so.
2. Get Out the Measuring Tape
When teachers do sit down, their furniture should be ready and able to support them. For that, it’s important to get all of the height requirements correct. A teacher’s chair, for example, should be kept at such a height that the teacher’s feet fall flat on the ground without angling the knees too much in either direction. There should be ample armrest support, and the desk should be placed so that the teacher can type or grade papers while keeping their elbows at a right angle, floating their hands naturally over the desktop or keyboard.
3. Supply Teachers With Support Devices
Sure, education budgets are tight, but bringing support devices into the classroom is a savvy investment, as they’re sure to help keep teachers productive and focused. As more and more classroom teachers and professors work from mobile devices, a [tablet and laptop stand] will help to place these devices at eye level when working from a desk, helping to prevent eye strain and neck and back pain. This is especially so when paired with an ergonomic keyboard, which will provide relief after countless minutes spent conducting fine motor movements in demonstrations and lectures.
4. Change Behaviors
Of course, none of these solutions will be particularly effective if teachers aren’t trained to navigate the classroom in an ergonomic manner. It matters little, after all, if the desk is at the right height if a teacher is still hunching over his work. As such, it makes sense to do an initial training on good ergonomic behavior upfront, and to follow up on regular intervals. It may take time for teachers to adjust, but with a little patience and a lot of dedication, everyone can get there.
5. Encourage a Teamwork Culture
As teachers often tell their students, the best way to change behavior across the faculty is through teamwork. Why not pair teachers together as ergonomic buddies who can check in on each other’s progress and swap stories about their experiences? It’ll all feel a lot easier with a buddy on board.
Whether it’s bending down to pick up a pile of Legos or those countless hours spent hunched over a desk grading papers, instilling a culture of ergonomics amongst teachers is an essential part of keeping the classroom a healthy, productive place.
If you’re a teacher, which activities cause you the most pain, and what steps do you think you can take to change them? Let us know in the comments below.