Teachers are the unsung heroes of the educational system and tend to be underrepresented and overworked. Studies show that teachers face a high turnover rate in schools due to burnout. Stressors at work and in their daily lives may impact their ability to be responsive and effective in the classroom. Even though teachers face time crunches, there are simple practices that can be implemented to boost energy, reduce stress, and set a good example for students.
Eating healthy can be difficult when time is constantly a factor, but simple tips and tricks may ease the stress of implementing a healthier lifestyle. Making sure to have a nutritious breakfast is always encouraged for the students for improved brain power and focus and the same goes for teachers. Prepping the night before can come in handy, for instance, soaking whole grain oats overnight in a low fat or plant-based milk with berries or other fresh fruit will provide a ready-to- go breakfast in the morning.
Getting in the habit of bringing healthy snacks to class like sliced peppers, cucumbers, carrots, and fresh fruit is a great way to incorporate more fruits and vegetables during the day. Plus, they are easy to prep and pack. If the students see the teacher eating healthy they may be more inclined to mimic the behavior as well.
Structured water breaks throughout the day is a great way to enforce the importance of staying hydrated are a way to develop healthy habits. A quick walk to the drinking fountain for the teacher and the students can add a much-needed short break to the day.
Sitting at a desk all day can cause back problems due to poor posture. Decreased activity during the day can lead to tired and sleepy feelings. A good approach to this problem is for every 2 hours of sitting, implement a 5-minute stretching routine at your desk for you and the students to perform to boost energy and refresh the mind. Simple yoga inspired bends and twists will bring awareness and focus to the body.1
Studies have shown that mindfulness training including short guided meditation and/or breathing exercises are positively associated with emotional regulation and awareness, recognition, and understanding.2-3 Setting aside 5-10 minutes per day for mental health has been proven to be extremely beneficial. There are many resources that can be used to implement these practices in the classroom for increased mental wellness for teachers and students. Dartmouth College offers Relaxation Downloads through their Student Wellness Center website that can be played and followed along to in a classroom setting or on a personal device.4 WeAreTeachers.com also highlights mindfulness teaching techniques that are aimed for different student age levels.3
The promotion of teacher health and wellness is just as important as student health and wellness and may lead to a more positive and effective learning environment overall. More resources to improve health and wellness are listed below.
Dawn Ernesty, Extension Educator, Michigan State University
1. Rukat, J. (2015, April 15). 7 Yoga Poses You Can Do at Your Work Desk to Relieve Stress. Retrieved from https://www.doyouyoga.com/7-yoga-poses-you-can-do-at-your-work-desk-to-r….
2. Emerson L, Leyland A, Hudson K, et al. Teaching Mindfulness to Teachers: a Systematic Review and Narrative Synthesis. Springer. 2017;8, 11367-1149. https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih-gov.cmich.idm.oclc.org/pmc/articles/PMC5605579/ Accessed February 22, 2018.
3. Flook A, Goldberg S, Pinger L, et al. Mindfulness for teachers: A pilot study to assess effects on stress, burnout and teaching efficacy. Mind Brain Educ. 2013;7(3). https://www-ncbi-nlm-nih gov.cmich.idm.oclc.org/pmc/articles/PMC3855679/. Accessed February 21, 2018.
4. Fusco, K. (2017, July 15). 3 Quick Activities for Teaching Students Mindfulness at Any Age. Retrieved from https://www.weareteachers.com/teaching-students-mindfulness/
5. Relaxation Downloads. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.dartmouth.edu/~healthed/relax/downloads.html#deep.