Introduction: Caring is the First Step
For years, I have been fascinated with the work of Nel Noddings and her themes on care. In one of her (2010) articles, she presses educators to become role models who shape healthy and caring students. The students in my class were feeling stressed and overwhelmed by being constantly assessed on their performance, so I decided to create a set of lessons on the theme of stress. These lessons were prepared for a high-intermediate level and each day represents a period of 50 minutes.
Implementing the Lesson
I divided the students in small groups to discuss whether stress affects our bodies and how. After sharing answers, we previewed vocabulary from the TED-Ed video, “How Stress Affects Your Body”. Students worked together to research terms and complete a teacher-made worksheet. We then watched the four-minute long TED-Ed talk, and the students took notes. The vocabulary was quite challenging; hence, a second viewing was necessary. I also gave the class some comprehension questions that the students finished for homework.
We reviewed and checked the answers to the comprehension questions I had given for homework the day before; next, I proposed critical thinking questions to shift the focus from mere comprehension to deeper thinking. I wrote on the board: Your friend is stressed out because the midterm examination is approaching: a. Try to convince her/him that stress is not good for you; b. Suggest how she/ he can reduce stress (e.g. exercise, talk to a friend, go to bed early, etc.). We spent the rest of the class putting together information we had gathered about stress-caused problems and possible solutions.
We watched the video again and wrote down questions we still had about stress. I gave the students some examples: Could stress affect concentration? Could lack of sleep cause stress or vice versa? I encouraged the students to work in small groups and record their answers on chart paper that was then taped to the walls. After that, we combined all the questions in one document. Some of the questions were “Does stress make me fat? Does stress make people cranky? Is our mind affected by stress?” I asked the students to choose one or two questions and, for homework, research TED- Ed videos or other resources on the topic, note down at least three new pieces of information, and make a reference list of their sources.
The students shared the information they found. I then asked the students to hand in the list of sources they used for their research. From their suggestions, I chose two TED-Ed videos and announced we would watch and discuss them together. The first pick was “How Chronic Stress Affects Your Brain” and the second one was “Does Stress Cause Pimples?” For homework, I gave students some questions on which to reflect: What is the most important fact you have learned about stress? Why? What will you do in the future to reduce stress?
I asked the students to share their answers with a partner. Then, students recorded their answers orally for an audio journal that they uploaded in a drop box on our learning platform. Finally, to receive feedback on the activity and how the students liked it, I created a simple anonymous questionnaire for the students.
Post Reflection on the Lesson
The students eagerly participated producing complex answers using academic vocabulary in a context that was easily related to their lives. They produced quality work without being forced by deadlines or marks. They participated because they were interested. According to Noddings (1995), it is the educators’ responsibility to present students with relevant themes that deal with hope, care, and possible solutions to crises and current problems. This lesson may be a drop in the bucket if we look at the big picture, but if we all pitch in, we can help shape healthier and more caring individuals. After all, “The student is infinitely more important than the subject matter” (Noddings, 1984, p.176).
Aguirre C. (n.d.). Does stress cause pimples? TED-Ed. Retrieved from http://ed.ted.com/lessons/does-stress-cause-pimples-claudia-aguirre
Bergquist S. (n.d.). How stress affects your body. TED-Ed. Retrieved from http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-stress-affects-your-body-sharon-horesh-bergquist
Noddings, N. (1984). Caring, a feminine approach to ethics & moral education, p.176, Univ of California Press
Noddings, N. (1995). Teaching themes of care. Phi Delta Kappan. 76(9), 675-679
Noddings, N. (2010). Moral education in an age of globalization. Educational Philosophy and Theory, 42(4), 390–396. doi: 10.1111/j.1469-5812.2008.00487.x
Murgia, M. (n.d.) How chronic stress affects your brain. TED-Ed. Retrieved from http://ed.ted.com/lessons/how-stress-affects-your-brain-madhumita-murgia
17 thoughts on “Caring About Students: A Lesson About Stress”
You sound like an amazing teacher. And what about cranking out an artifact / artefact for the bloody portfolio? 😉
Thank you for your encouraging words.
Do you mean making something that stems out of that lesson? I would love to hear your thoughts. Were you thinking in terms of reflection or an actual product? I look forward to continuing this discussion with you.
I was curious to know whether you and your students took a ‘break’ from artifact collection in order to do this module. At my agency and at many others, from what I’ve heard, the schedule for creating and collecting binder artifacts is so strenuous that most of us can no longer afford to take a week off from artifact generation in order to explore a topic just for the inherent benefit of the topic. Many teachers feel too pressured to either be administering assessments or teaching to the assessments, so that a week dedicated to a module that does not result in a binder artifact (RWT, not just reflection) is something they cannot afford. Some of us get very creative and find a way to squeeze an artifact out of anything, no matter how ludicrous or tenuous the connection between the “real-world task” and the module. Others rebel and include modules they feel are valuable even if they fall behind on the artifact-collection schedule, but often there is hell to pay later.
So a module like the one you describe here, extremely valuable to our clients, cannot be worked into the syllabus because of the pressure on us to fill the binder with those 8 artifacts per skill before the end of the semester.
I hope that makes my comment clearer.
I understand what you are saying. I guess it depends on the program you are teaching. This lesson was done in an EAP classroom and, at that particular time, I had freedom to choose what I tested my students on. I have, however, worked in many EAP and academic transition programs and I understand your concern about rigidity about collecting work.
My suggestion would be to speak to a superior and make this a module, or just practice for the end of term… No assessment needed. Do you think that might work?
Thanks for the thoughtful response. I was concerned more for all the teachers across Canada tasked with filling student binders with 32 artifacts per term, i.e. the big government blunder known as PBLA. I was reflecting on the irony of a module about reducing stress that had originally been inspired by test-induced stress–a module hundreds of teachers across Canada won’t have the luxury of teaching because there’s no time left in the term for a module that doesn’t allow for the cranking out of binder artifacts. My own situation, at least for half my day, is different. I teach seniors; we have been officially excused from “doing” PBLA. My other class is literacy.
Kudos to you! I also like the work of Nel Noddings.
Thank you very much! 🙂
Wonderful lesson. Just amazing!
Thanks! That’s very kind.
A great way to connect language-learning to a topic that is relevant to your students.
Next, make a lesson for how us teachers can deal with stress, haha.
Thanks, Keith! I totally agree with you! Haha! Just out of curiosity, what do you feel is the most stressful part of our job? Very interested in discussing this topic with other educators.
Without a doubt having to comply with a protocol I believe does more harm than good is the most stressful part of my job.
Yes! Complying with protocols, completing modules, very standardized practices can become overwhelming. Do you think all this standardization and need to complete items are going to stifle students and educators’ creativity? If so, how? How can we avoid it?
That’s a great question but one whose answer is too long and complex to address here. On my blog teachers across Canada have been contributing their ideas and answers to that very question for a couple of years now. Some of their ideas can be found here in the comments. https://joyofesl.blogspot.com/2019/08/open-thread-summer-miscellany.html
For me, I find just the general workload and taking work home to be the most stressful part of our job.
I find I spend a good portion of my “free time” outside of teaching doing teaching-related work: lesson planning long into the night, lesson planning on weekends, preparing materials, etc.
Feels like I rarely get time to unwind. Anyone else feel like this? Haha.
I think this is a very common problem in our profession. Yes, I feel like that often. Very difficult to live a balanced life which I advocate for my students… Ironic! Also, many EAP instructors like myself work on contract, so there is added stress every time a contract ends…
I empathize with you a lot!
Thanks for sharing! I’ll check it out!
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