How to disconnect from your laptop and reconnect with nature this school holiday

Technology makes our lives easier. As a teacher, instead of carrying thick notebooks and tons of paper all the time, you get to bring a laptop with all your work contained within this sleek machine. You can work remotely, your mobile phone reminds you of all your deadlines, and offers a myriad of teacher apps to help you do your job in the best possible way.

However, the fact that we can now always access our work with comfort and that we're always available and connected can make us workaholics who will eventually face a burnout. In fact, teachers are at a very high risk to suffer a burn-out, as studies show.

That is why it is so important to disconnect once in a while, and holidays are a perfect opportunity. Silencing your devices is an essential part of real relaxation.

Here are several tips on how to disconnect and relax this holiday.




Limit social networking


Socal networks will be the biggest reason you'll feel the craving to spend time in front of your screen even on your holiday. If your Facebook is mostly work-related, with most of your contacts perhaps being your old students, colleagues, and teaching related pages, consider logging out for a while.

Only you can know how much the time spent on social networks stresses you out. If you're feeling down, nervous or ruminating about work on your holiday after a Facebook session, consider blocking Facebook, either partially or entirely. There are several ways to go about it.




Limit your phone use


Staying away from your laptop won't do anything for your well-being if you don't limit your phone usage as well. Turn off notifications from your (working) email and social networking apps. You don't have to turn the phone off altogether of course. If you're really addicted, consider one of those parenting apps that limit the time spent on your phone.




Escape to nature


Nothing heals modern woes better than getting in touch with pristine nature. You could pick a peaceful nature park to settle calmly into. Contact with nature and witnessing beautiful landscapes truly heals. "Forest bathing", a practice that originated in Japan, is becoming increasingly popular and is even being prescribed by doctors.

If you happen to pick a place where internet connection is limited - that's even better.

Consider getting a pocket guide to plants, birds, or insects of the area your planning to visit. The scientific approach to discovering your surroundings actually facilitates connection with nature for some!




Mindfulness and meditation


Practicing relaxing breathing exercises, mindfulness, and meditation goes hand-in-hand with a disconnected, nature holiday perfectly. In fact, some people won't be able to relax until they start actively working on relaxation. Consider getting one or a couple of good books on the topic to bring with you.




There is this common assumption that teachers are privileged because they get to take three months off to go on a holiday. People so easily forget that teachers work hard throughout the year, and don't have the resources to waste time. No business lunches, no business trips, no checking Facebook during working hours. Every job has its perks, and you don't need to work on your teaching vacation in order to show that you're a worthy member of a community. You've done your part. You've done your best and worked hard to deserve this. And you do. So relax, unwind, and take this time to just be. 



How to incorporate Ramadan into the western classroom

Ramadan is one of the most extraordinary events in the Muslim culture. Ramadan takes place during the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. In the west, this holiday is most well known for the practice of strict fasting throughout the daytime - it includes not eating food or drinking water.

Due to its modern history, Islam has become a touchy subject in the Western world. That presents a challenging task for teachers, as they are trying to explain and teach about the culture outside of the sad stereotypes we see on television.

The good news is that there are things you can do in your classroom during Ramadan to help and deeply educate both Muslim and non-Muslim children in your class about the cultural importance of Ramadan. 


Be aware of your Muslim student's limitations during Ramadan


Although it is not required for children to fast, many Muslim children as young as 8 will fast by their own will. That means they won't be consuming any food and water during the daytime. It is important that as their teacher you respect their decision to participate in the fasting. To help communicate your respect for them you could try to show your support for Ramadan by making life a little easier for them by using a combination of the following ideas. 

During lunchtime, organise a separate, special activity for Muslim children in the classroom, or create a temporary "resting room" for them to relax in while other children eat and drink.

Cut on your demands - don't make them do difficult sports activities, especially on a hot day. Also, be aware that Ramadan is a busy month for Muslims when they spend a lot of time at home praying, doing charity work or providing voluntary services in their community as good deeds, or tending to guests. Because of all of that, consider giving lighter homework during this particular month if you can, or center their homework around their own celebrations.

Talk with Muslim children about their needs during Ramadan - if they need some time to pray, perhaps it can be organized in the already mentioned "resting room".



Read and analyze a story from One Thousand and One Nights


One Thousand and One Nights is the best-known collection of Arabic folk tales, with many of them being very wise, morally uplifting, and suitable to analyze in a classroom. It is a good way illuminate some aspects of Arabic and Muslim culture. Find a story that you like and that you consider suitable for your student's age, and then find a shorter version or take a passage for students to read. A lively and enthusiastic discussion is sure to follow, especially if you pick the well-known ones: Aladdin, Ali Baba or Sinbad the Sailor.



Traditional Rice Pudding


If none of your students are on a strict fasting regime and you have a kitchen you can freely work in, you can try to teach all of your students about the Muslim culture through its unique cuisine.

A "suhor" is a light meal which is prepared and eaten slightly before dawn during Ramadan, and it is the last food Muslims will eat until another evening sets in. Rice meals are quite common as a suhor. Dates are also cherished during Ramadan since it is believed that The Prophet Muhammed ate them, so this can be a conversation starter about Ramadan in itself. You can find the recipe here


At the end of the day, the most important part of bringing Ramadan into the western classroom is that you respect your Muslim students culture while also educating the rest of your class about a culture that may be significantly different to their own.


Looking for a low prep option this Ramadan? Why not check out my Ramadan Celebration Study? Students love this resources and learn so much about Ramadan from it. 




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Five ways to teach your students how to be sustainable citizens this Earth Day

With the environmental and climate crisis proliferating, the Earth Day, celebrated on April 22nd, is becoming increasingly important. So, how do you convey that importance to your students and engage them in saving our Earth for generations to come? Here are five creative ways.


Recycling experiment


The easiest type of recycling that you can do in the classroom is paper recycling.

>> Use some of the paper you have lying around (it must be plastic-free), whether some old drawings or pages from old notebooks.
>> Soak the small, torn pieces of paper in water and let them sit for a couple of days.
>> You will need a kitchen mixer to turn the soaked pieces into a paper pulp.
>> Take a window screen (with mesh) and strain the pulp, then press it into the shape of the paper.
>> Use a cloth and press it on top of the paper to remove excess water.
>> Let it dry for another day or so, and use it to draw or write Earth-friendly drawings and messages.

Besides giving an example of how recycling works, this exercise shows that recycling takes a lot of work (tearing the paper, soaking it), resources (water, electric power) and leaves a residue (excess pulp or trimmed paper edges). Recycling is not a miracle solution to excessive waste. Point out the other solutions - reducing the amount of waste and reusing whatever can be reused, and note that recycling is actually the last resort of responsible waste management.



Plant something


The most impressive action to do with students is perhaps to plant a tree or a shrub. Use the opportunity to talk about the overall importance of trees as oxygen makers, natural pollution filters and animal habitats. If you don't have space, or lack special permission for the planting a tree, you can plant seeds of trees or flowers. Planting the seed mixtures made for pollinators gives you an excuse to talk about the significance of bees and butterflies to the living world and human agriculture.


Debate


The Earth Day is a perfect opportunity for older students to debate on relevant hot topics such as climate change, fossil fuels, pollution, future of food production and consumerism. Create teams that will approach the chosen topic from different standpoints and give them about five resources each. A debate is a dynamic way to learn, as well as to debunk some myths that can the children have probably already encountered through the media.



Glasshouse experiment


Climate change, or global warming, is a phenomenon in which certain gasses prevent the heat from escaping from the Earth back into space, much like a glasshouse would. You can explain this with a simple experiment. You will need a larger bowl, a thermometer, a black cloth or a paper, and plastic foil.

Put the thermometer into the bowl, cover it with a black cloth and leave it in a sunny spot. After several minutes, check and note the temperature. Then, remove the black cloth and put the plastic foil. By using a permanent marker, write chemical symbols of glasshouse gasses - CO2, CH4, CFC, etc. - on the foil. Watch as the heat rises, but be careful about the thermometer - it can get so hot inside the bowl that it could pop.


Exchange and give away unwanted things


Excess litter and waste are one of the main environmental issues today. A responsible citizen of the Earth should act responsibly towards his belongings to avoid adding to the problem of waste generation. Tell your students to bring their unwanted clothes or toys that are still in good condition. They can exchange items among themselves first. After that phase is complete, you can collect them into a box to give away to charity.


Explain that through this practice you're doing two good deeds - you're making someone happy by giving them things they might need, and you're preventing the hardly-recyclable items from ending up and piling up in a landfill.


Looking for some low prep options this Earth Day? Why not check out my Earth Day Craft Activity, Earth Day Celebration Study, or Earth Day Scavenger Hunt? Students love these resources and learn so much about our earth from them. 






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