Phumlani Kubheka, a maths, technology and natural science teacher. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN
Phumlani Kubheka, a maths, technology and natural science teacher. Picture: JACKIE CLAUSEN

Unemployment‚ poverty‚ crime‚ violence and gangs are leaving teachers on the Cape Flats traumatised. Now academics at Stellenbosch University have found that a technique that involves inducing "shivers and shakes‚ quivers and quakes" can help them deal with the stress of working in "high-risk schools".

Psychologists Sharon Johnson and Anthony Naidoo tested three stress-relief approaches on 43 teachers from four schools. All the techniques had benefits‚ but the "neurogenic tremors" — advocated by US doctor David Berceli and depicted in numerous YouTube videos — "yielded a significant reduction in teacher stress".

The so-called trauma release exercises induce tremors with the physiological changes said to have a positive psychological knock-on.

The other stress-relief techniques in the study‚ taught in group sessions for 15 hours over 10 weeks‚ focused on stimulating the limbic system in the brain with song‚ dance and massage "to bring about heart coherence and calmness", as well as a more traditional cognitive and behavioural approach that involved group discussions and role-playing.

Writing in the South African Journal of Psychology‚ Johnson and Naidoo said: "All interventions were designed to deal primarily with issues of learner discipline‚ the greatest reported stressor of teachers in the study’s high-risk schools. The trauma release exercises allowed teachers to release tension in their bodies and perceived stress levels to be reduced. They were better able to handle learners in a more pro-social classroom."

TMG Digital

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