Building a stress free environment for students

Mukhtar Ahmad Farooqi
Education has become a crazy rat-race and our children have to bear the brunt of this as they continue to be caught in this trying and demanding net. Children are under too much pressure to fulfill the expectations that have been set by parents or society not their own.
Educators as well as parents are getting sucked in by the vortex of marks and markets as this trend has ruined the very purpose of education. The terms ‘tress and studying in contemporary times have practically become interlinked. Short bursts of positive stress or eustress controlled by stress hormone cortisol is conducive for learning as this actually helps us perform better in tests and exams but sustained subjection to distress on a daily basis may be counterproductive as it leads to development of emotional weak personalities and chances of drug abuse at certain stages of life. COVID 19 pandemic has also accumulated the already stressed children .Too much stress would in due course impair both our physical and mental health.
To ensure that education is a positive, purposeful and joyous experience we need to adopt certain measures to create a stress free environment in our educational institutions. Some of these measures can be:
* Cultivating positive experiences rather than academic skills at pre-primary level: Teachers at his stage of schooling should provide kids with experiences that help them cultivate a warm and positive feeling towards school and learning so that they feel secure and comfortable in new environment. Socio-emotional skills can be emphasized through group play, collaborative activities and solitary time keeping in mind the needs of both extrovert and introvert children.
* Address bullying: Mariam- Webster Dictionary defines Bullying as”abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by someone stronger, more powerful”. Bullying is a distinctive pattern of harming and humiliating others, specifically those who are in some way smaller, weaker, younger or in any way more vulnerable than the bully. It is a deliberate and repeated attempt to cause harm to others of lesser power.(PsychologyToday)
Bullying has become one of the key factors of teenage stress due to the rise of uncontrolled exposure of children to internet and electronic media. Bullying can start at school level and continue right through college thereby destroying the emotional lives of children and teens. Educational institutions should proactively address this issue by having strict no bullying policy and create awareness among teachers and children about the the signs of bullying in themselves.
There are various forms of bullying like tripping a kid on the bus to incessant name-calling, on the basis of physical features, bullying can also assume online avatars that shadow kids even after school hours. Both the victim and the bully may need counselling to get out this trauma like situation.
* Building culture of resilience: Resilience is the process of adapting well in the face of adversity, trauma, tragedy, threats or significant sources of stress such as family and relationship problems. It simply means bouncing back from difficult experiences. Teachers can play a vital role in moulding resilient kids by promoting 3 P’s – permanence, pervasiveness and personalization according to positive psychology stalwart, Martin Seligman. Suppose if a child fails in subject in an exam, then teachers in that institution have to refrain from reinforcing negative thinking in that child by not giving comments like, “If you can’t even pass this simple test, what will you end up doing in life?” as they make the child interpret a single failure as permanent and pervasive. Instead of this teachers as well as parents should motivate the child that mistakes are temporary, and do not necessarily impact all aspects of a person’s life and encourage that you have the ability to bounce back and do better next time.
* Encourage physical activities: As the famous proverb goes, ‘all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.’ When it’s about studies alone, students feel stressful. Therefore, it’s important for them to indulge in some kind of physical activities in school. While all students do not have to take part in competitive sports, or even be athletic, physical educators may encourage children to exert themselves as exercise has immense benefits for the body and mind. In adolescents’ participation in co-curricular activities is means of channelizing their surplus energy towards their benefit so that they do not indulge in immoral activities or get attracted towards drugs.
* Motivated learning environment: The basic aim of any scholastic activity is that we want students to become intrinsically motivated learners so that they excel in their respective academia. Too much home work even to small kids, home work during summer vacations and tedious projects have made them less motivated learners rather have to be forcefully dragged to complete these activities. Motivation to learn can be enhanced by providing them autonomy to make their own decisions in age appropriate ways and space to explore.
We as parents as well as teachers categorize kids by marks, talents or other criteria, that has restricted their growth as they believe obtaining high grades and getting white collard jobs is the only motive of education. Believing that all children are capable of learning and excelling on their own terms can indeed be liberating for students for which teachers have to play a significant role to change this type psyche of masses.
PS: While trying to impart academic skills and knowledge to students, we should not lose sight of the deeper aims of education. Educators at early levels have the responsibility of producing well rounded and life-long seekers of knowledge that have understood that education is about full life that includes physical, social, moral, emotional cognitive and spiritual domains not just ability to mug up the facts which is only possible if they are provided with stress free environment in educational institutions.