Teaching is a remarkably rewarding pursuit if one is able to enable and empower learners. However, it is also about being a confident and committed teacher with a sound balance of a healthy mind and a healthy body. Nowadays, the importance of physical and mental well-being of teachers and students needs to be stressed more than ever. Education or any activity that involves an exchange of knowledge should involve a consistent focus on mental and physical wellness. Let us look at some of the crucial aspects that can guide us about focusing on the overall well-being of our teachers and students.
Teaching is stressful
According to a report by National Foundation for Educational Research (NFER), 20% of teachers are tensed about their job all the time. For other professionals, this number drops to 13%. Another report highlights the fact that burnout among teachers could be contagious. Teachers undergo tremendous stress to create an engaging learning experience. Creating a sound teaching plan and finally achieving the “learning-objectives” involves many stages. At each stage, a teacher gets involved and strives to deliver to the best of his ability. In a performance-driven world, it becomes increasingly stressful to fulfil the demands of students while ticking all the deliverables in a limited timeframe
Modern teaching methods involve experiential learning. Teachers should be encouraged to use various tools like documentaries, animation, museums, national parks, art, and craft to educate students about a subject. Such engaging methods ensure participation and improve quality of learning thereby creating a satisfying outcome for both teachers and students.
A mentally relaxing environment brings in positivity. Wellness of teachers has been linked to the effectiveness of teaching. It has a positive impact on the achievement of students. The objective of all teaching activities must be a free exchange of knowledge. Students can always use scores of digital resources to seek information. However, it is the teacher who gives the correct perspective to process this information. A mentally relaxed and blissful teacher brings the much required positive energy to the sessions.
Emotions of teachers have been shown to influence the emotions of students
Medical researchers have discovered that in classrooms of teachers who admit higher level or burnouts, students tend to have higher levels of cortisol – a stress hormone. Similar studies have confirmed that stress suffered by teachers can be passed on to students.
Students look up to their teachers. All actions of a teacher are observed closely by students. Therefore, it is but obvious that the emotional state of a teacher affects the students in more ways than we would like to believe. A happy teacher exudes positivity which directly impacts the learning environment. Whereas, a detached or disturbed teacher is likely to impair the learning environment. An emotionally unsettled student may perform poorly. Therefore, it is very important to ensure the emotional well-being of teachers.
Unaddressed needs of students increase stress for teachers
Even if students are facing problems outside the classroom, ranging from unmet needs to mental health, teachers are held accountable for the overall progress of their students. Teachers know that all students are not the same. Each human individual has a different set of talents, pursuits, and ambition. However, it is not always easy to strike a balance. At times, a teacher may not realise that some demands of students are unmet. More often than not, the unaddressed needs of students increase stress for teachers. Therefore, it becomes increasingly more important to pay careful attention to each student. This ensures that the teacher is more attuned to the behavioural aspects and refine the learning experience.
Focus should not just be on self-care but also building systems that reduce stress
Teachers and students need to be healthy and happy. Any teaching or learning activity is incomplete without the inclusion of physical and mental fulfilment. Any study-plan that doesn’t focus on nutrition and exercise fails to create happy teachers and students. One of the most crucial aspects of well-being is peace of mind. Focus should not just be on self-care but also building systems that reduce stress.
Teaching schedules and administration work expected from teachers must be rationalised. Students should get ample time to indulge in extra-curricular activities. Meditation sessions are highly beneficial for everyone including those actively involved in the pursuit of knowledge. Practising yoga and physical fitness helps trigger hormones within the brain which reduce stress. Appointing in-house counsellors or psychologists who can interact with teachers and students suffering from stress is no longer an option. Students and teachers must be oriented through multiple sensitisation programmes about the importance of opening up as well as being mindful about what their colleagues might be going through.
Schools must think out of the box and deliver holistic solutions that would ensure both mental and physical well being of teachers and students. These solutions should be implemented consistently keeping their long term impact in mind.
BY: (Karishmma V Mangal – Director and Trustee Thakur International School Cambridge)