Sharing a cuppa – our ‘island of hope’

Sitting together for a drink is an important part of the spiritual development of my class. It is an opportunity to share space with others which can be a struggle, to experience calm when we can all relax and overcome stresses, to try new tastes and to express preference through choosing a drink and sometimes a snack.

When you think about the noise and stress of our classrooms for much of the day you can well imagine how wonderful this moment of calm, our ‘island of hope’ as I call it, can be.

Learners work on their communication, ability to be together, to make choices and wait and to be independent in making drink.

One aspect of this which has been an issue for debate in our school is that I offer tea, a hot drink. Of course, safety precautions are taken to ensure that no injuries are incurred.

Research has found that drinking tea can help us recover more quickly from the stresses of life as it reduces the levels of the stress hormone cortisol in the body.

Steptoe, Gibson, Vounonvirta, Williams, Hamer, Erusalimsky and Wardle (2006) subjected 2 groups, 1 of tea drinkers, the other a placebo taking group, to stressful situations (threat of unemployment, criminal accusation or an incident in a nursing home), which triggered raised blood pressure stress in both of the groups. However, 50 minutes later, cortisol had dropped by 47 per cent in the tea drinking group compared with 27 per cent in the placebo group; the tea drinkers reported a greater degree of relaxation after the task.

‘Professor Andrew Steptoe, UCL Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, says: “Drinking tea has traditionally been associated with stress relief, and many people believe that drinking tea helps them relax after facing the stresses of everyday life. However, scientific evidence for the relaxing properties of tea is quite limited. . . our study suggests that drinking black tea may speed up our recovery from the daily stresses in life. Although it does not appear to reduce the actual levels of stress we experience, tea does seem to have a greater effect in bringing stress hormone levels back to normal.”


If you would like to recreate this time in your own class then do feel free to copy what I do and if you can think of a way of improving the session let me know.

We sit together, I show a symbol and makaton sign for drink, each learner makes a choice as to what drink they want. I mark on a chart the number of each drink required.

An adult brings an urn with hot water over teaspoons, tea bags, a jug of juice and water, cups and milk. The learners take part in making the drinks.

When we have our drinks we calmly discuss the what has happened in the day so far. I display the visual timetable and ask the learners which activity they have enjoyed most. I then write post-it note rewards and stick them up on photos of the learners. On Friday we go through all the post it notes from the week.

When drinks are finished one of the learners returns the cups to the sink for washing up, if there is time one of the learners does the washing up.


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