My friend suggested I write about what, if anything, a teacher could do in his or her classroom to help students learn. There are definitely things one can do in a classroom, but what exactly can be done has a lot to do with who and where you are teaching. This friend of mine is actually in her home country of South Africa right now but we lived in Prague together as English teachers many moons ago, so that got me thinking about the differences in cultural classrooms and also the differences in ages being taught. We taught adults in Prague but we both have experience with kids too, both as teachers and parents.
One thing just about anyone can do is to bring in fresh plants. This is something parents or students themselves can actually take the initiative on to freshen up the air in a classroom and depending on the plant, actually have added benefits. There are certain plants that cleanse the space of specific toxins, and the fragrance of herbs and flowers can actually benefit the moods and brain functioning of people. One year when my two kids were still in elementary school, I gave their classroom teachers each a pot of Rosemary before the state testing began, thinking the teachers would already know that Rosemary is great for brains, benefiting focus, clarity, and memory. The teachers were surprised to hear that Rosemary was traditionally used in such a way and I’m not really sure if they believed me or not, but the plants stayed in my boys’ classrooms for the rest of that year.
If you travel from classroom to classroom, then plants might not be practical. Luckily, essential oils are portable and can be used in a couple of different ways. Diffusing essential oils in the classroom can help promote positive mental and emotional health. There are different options when it comes to diffusing, including plug-in ones, light bulb rings, ceramic discs, and candle fueled ceramics. Orange or Bergamot essential oils would be good uplifting choices for returning to school after a long break. When it might be necessary to keep a class calm, Lavender is the obvious choice. When taking a big test, nothing beats Rosemary essential oil for clarity, focus, and memory help. When going through a study guide, if you have any essential oil scenting the room, it will help to have that same scent in the room during the actual test. (Just as at home studying can be amplified with essential oils and then the brain triggered during the assessment with the same scent.) It’s important to switch up the essential oils if used in this way, so assigning certain subjects with certain essential oils can help the brain function best. Also, doing blends might be the best option of all so the scents will be truly unique to a certain class and its specific material, so that way students won’t automatically think of the pythagorean theorem every time they smell Cedarwood for the rest of their lives, or whatever scent has been married to whatever subject. It’s truly something to consider! The role scent plays in memory cannot be overstated, due to the construction of the brain, so making use of it is wise, but being thoughtful about it is kind.
Besides diffusing essential oils, making sprays can be another way to scent the room, and also to combat germs. Thieves oil is the classic germ buster, but many essential oils have anti-bacterial properties, and some are even anti-viral. Thyme is especially good for cold and flu time of year, and besides being antiseptic, antibacterial, and antiviral, it is antifungal too. You can use the spray you make not only as an air freshener, but also to wipe down desks and tabletops. You can also use sprays made from distilled water and essential oils as a body spray to help keep yourself or your student healthy. Just diffusing the essential oils into the air will help keep down the germs, and almost all the essential oils have some antiseptic properties so you can’t really choose badly in that respect. While more essential oils are antibacterial than antiviral, the following have both antibacterial and antiviral properties: Cinnamon, Clove, Lemon Eucalyptus, Garlic, Lavender, Onion, Oregano, Tea Tree, and Thyme. (Reference: Valerie Ann Wormwood’s The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy.)
Although winter is an especially good time for bringing plants and essential oils into the classroom, students and teachers can benefit year round from a bit of nature in their shared space. Instead of gifting teachers apples, a potted plant or a bottle of essential oils might be the healthier option for all. Wishing you all the best in health and happiness~ do what it takes. You are worth it.