IMPORTANCE OF TAKING REST: AN EDUCATOR’S PERSPECTIVE
Education is a profession that requires a lot of hard work, dedication, and passion. As an educator, you are not only responsible for the academic growth of your students but also for their social and emotional development. That is why periods of good rest are as essential for teachers as any other professionals. Rest is an integral component of health and well-being. Rest helps recover from stress, a significant aspect of a teacher’s daily life. Teachers are perennially stressed and over-burdened in the world of increased evaluation, monitoring and assessments. The adverse outcomes of a tired and overburdened teacher have ripple effects; it negatively impacts their health and well-being, the classroom environment, and their relationship with their students. It can reduce teacher motivation for student engagement, which can diminish students' motivation, enthusiasm and engagement in the classroom. Tiredness can decrease focus and attention and lead to oversights. It can also reduce the teacher’s ability to manage student behaviour with empathy, thereby increasing students’ stress levels and lower student-teacher relationship quality (Schonert-Reichl, 2017). The latter is essential in learning and development in an educational setting and can adversely affect academic performance.
On the other hand, if our teachers are well rested, it positively affects the classroom environment and students with whom they share a close social relationship. Rest also serves several functions for our brain; Different types of rest are associated with different kinds of brain waves; for instance, slow and synchronised waves during sleep help memory consolidation and promote physical and mental recovery. Serotonin, a neurotransmitter released during sleep, is associated with calmness and relaxation, whereas dopamine release promotes rewarding feelings and increases motivation. Rest also down-regulates stress hormone cortisol and activates the brain's self-reflection and introspection network (Raichle & Snyder, 2007), all of which are necessary healing requirements for a teaching profession.
In conclusion, rest is crucial for teachers' well-being, promoting mental and physical recovery, reducing stress, and increasing resilience. It also means practising self-care, which includes eating well, exercising, and engaging in activities that bring joy and relaxation. By prioritising rest, teachers can create a more positive and productive classroom environment, leading to improved academic outcomes and better social and emotional development for students.
RELIEVING STRESS THROUGH SEL: FOR TEACHERS
Although rest in the form of sleep is vital to managing stress, teachers can also use other techniques that promote mental well-being and reduce stress. For instance, social and emotional learning (SEL) has provided an avenue for just that. Social and emotional learning (SEL) allows teachers to manage stress and promote well-being.
SEL is important for teachers because it can help them to create a more positive and productive learning environment, build stronger relationships with their students, and better manage the demands of their profession. Teachers with high levels of social and emotional competencies can act as positive role models for students to help the development of students own social and emotional skills.
One of the key benefits of SEL for teachers is stress management. When teachers develop self-awareness, they can recognise their stress triggers and take steps to avoid or manage them. For example, teachers can use mindfulness techniques to bring awareness to their thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations. Mindfulness involves paying attention to the present moment without judgment, which can help teachers stay focused and calm in stressful situations. Mindfulness can also help teachers regulate their emotions and reduce negative thinking patterns, which can contribute to stress.
Another benefit of SEL for teachers is relationship building. Teachers who develop social awareness can better understand their students' needs and perspectives. Teachers can use this understanding to build stronger student relationships, leading to better academic outcomes and higher student engagement. Teachers can also use relationship skills to communicate effectively with students and parents, resolve conflicts, and create a more positive classroom climate.
In conclusion, SEL is a powerful tool for teachers to manage stress and promote well-being. Teachers can practice different activities to develop their SEL skills and manage stress. At UNESCO MGIEP, a course dedicated to teachers’ SEL development (https://mgiep.unesco.org/sel-f...) trains teachers in several such practices, including mindfulness techniques to bring awareness to one’s thoughts, feelings, and bodily sensations, focus on calming the body and mind through short mediation sessions and being mindful of self, others, and the surroundings.
Nandini Chatterjee Singh Programme Specialist - Science of Learning at UNESCO MGIEP
Anya Chakraborty Associate National Project Officer at UNESCO MGIEP