The Wise teacher programme, designed on positive psychology-based techniques that teach self-care and awareness, includes methods of breathing and Biodanza dance. Photo: Supplied / Thaabit Jacobs
The Wise teacher programme, designed on positive psychology-based techniques that teach self-care and awareness, includes methods of breathing and Biodanza dance. Photo: Supplied / Thaabit Jacobs

Spotlight on teacher stress levels amid community problems

By Staff Reporter Time of article published Oct 15, 2019

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Cape Town – As the final school term starts this week, the spotlight is on teacher well-being and stress in the classroom.

Non-profit organisation Wellbeing in Schools & Education (Wise) said international stress tests it used had shown significantly high levels of stress among South African teachers, with many reporting burn-out, especially in schools in disadvantaged communities.

The organisation is working on expanding its teacher training workshops so it can reach more teachers across the country.

There is a desperate need for morale upliftment and motivation in these schools, not only at this time of

year.

Carol Surya, psychologist and Wise co-founder, said: ‘‘Over and above the jam-packed curriculum, a big challenge for these teachers is keeping spirits up when faced with the harsh realities of community problems.”

The programme has been active in schools across the Cape flats since 2017, offering awareness tools to children that include yoga, dance and self-esteem games.

Since working in schools, the organisation said it had noticed the high stress levels in teachers and the impact this could have in the

classroom.

This year, the organisation started “Dance Assembly” training, based on the international Biodanza system, with teachers at Sentinel Primary School in Hangberg, which inspired the development of further teacher training roll-out.

Teachers of Christian Davids Moravian Primary School in Coniston Park recently participated in a Wise teacher workshop and reported feeling calmer and more positive afterwards.

Principal Tina Steyn approached Wise when she realised how demoralised the teachers were.

“The fourth term is a very strenuous time for both learner and educator. It’s hard for teachers to keep positive when they work in these kinds of harsh situations day in and day out.

‘‘Our pupils are very poor and come from broken homes, with gang violence being a major concern.

‘‘I believe a happy teacher equals a happy school,” Steyn said.

She said that after the workshop staff realised the value of self-care and had a refreshed understanding of how their actions and attitudes influenced the pupils’ behaviour in the

classroom.

One teacher said: “I learnt how to de-stress and felt so much calmer and positive after the session. It reawoke my passion for teaching.”

Another said: “In spite of the given situation, we can still bring out the best in a pupil.”

Cape Times

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