Master Teaching

a blog for teachers who follow the Master Teacher

The Ancient Concept of Rest

(This post is the third of four reposts from LEAPAsia’s WeChat page where we are advocating for school children in China by giving advice to parents and teachers.)

Do the children in your home or classroom get enough rest?

You may be thinking, “Didn’t we talk about this last week?” Sleep is one type of rest, but rest is a broader category.

How important is rest?

You’ve heard about tree rings. They’re formed as trees grow and then rest. During the growing season, a layer of lightly colored wood is added to the trunk of a tree. Just before the winter rest, the wood becomes darker marking off a line between this year’s ring and the next.[1]

Did you know that teeth form rings as they grow too (in children and animals)? In fact, teeth grow on daily and weekly cycles of work and then rest. B. Holly Smith, a University of Michigan paleontologist said it this way: “Cells wake up in the morning, make their daily amount of tissue and then go back to sleep.”[2]

What do tree and teeth rings tell us about the importance of rest? The need for regular rest is written into the very fabric of who we are.

What is rest?

Rest is an ancient concept. In fact, in Jewish history it goes all the way back to the beginning of time when God rested from the work of creating the earth. Their concept of “Sabbath” comes from this history. For them, Sabbath is a day (every week) of rest from work. It’s “an oasis of calm, a time of stillness in life.”[3]

For school children, perhaps we could define rest this way: a ceasing of work, especially the working of the brain. For them, rest means a ceasing of anything resembling school or homework. During rest, their body might be moving, and their brain might be processing but only because they want to and not because they have to.

What are some examples of rest?

Some good examples of rest are listed below:

  1. Sleep, of course. (See Zzzzzzzzzz.)
  2. Pleasure Reading: Remember that the purpose, though, is not to learn something but to enjoy. (See our post from March 2, 2016.)
  3. Play: Inside play but also, if the weather (or pollution) allows, outside play. But the play should be unstructured, not in order to learn something, though that may happen, but for the purpose of relaxing and having fun.
  4. Pursuing a Hobby: My friend’s son is fascinated by insects. Much of his pleasure reading involves books and articles about bugs. When he plays outside, he’s often collecting specimens. Inside, he feeds and studies the bugs in his collection. Of course, he’s learning something. In fact, he may be a future entomologist. But his purpose is to pursue a hobby, a relaxing and fun pursuit. This is rest for him.

What happens in the brain during rest?

Do you ever feel like your brain is too full? Imagine, then, what school children feel like. Stuffing the Duck Education 填鸭式教育[4] is a perfect way to describe the conditions under which they learn. They are filled until they cannot move or rather until their brains are no longer capable of “moving.”

In order to understand what rest does for stuffed brains, all you have to do is read the subtitle of an article on brain-rest research: “Mental breaks increase productivity, replenish attention, solidify memories and encourage creativity.”[5] While children are resting from school and homework, their brains are catching up. And when they get back to the work of learning, they do it with better attention and more creativity.

So let’s return to our opening question: Do the children in your home or classroom get enough rest? Do you? If not, what are you going to do about it?

[1]Why are Tree Rings Lighter or Darker?,”, January 26, 2013.
[2] Brett Israel, “Teeth Timing,”, August 25, 2009.
[3]Sabbath,”, last modified July 17, 2009.
[4] This refers to a technique vendors use to get the most for their ducks. By feeding them until food is literally coming out of their mouths, they weigh more and thus cost more. Stuffing the Duck Education refers to filling students’ brains until they are overflowing with knowledge.
[5] Ferris Jabr, “Why Your Brain Needs More Downtime,”, October 15, 2013.

Further exploration

  • If you’d like to read the Chinese version of this post, you can find it here:
    有关“休息”的古老定义.WeChat QR Code
  • If you or a friend would like to join our WeChat page, you can scan the QR code.

What’s your perspective?

  • Of course, we welcome comments on the ideas in this post.
  • We also welcome you to join us in advocating (before the throne) for school children in China.

Post Author

Melissa K. Smith

2 comments on “The Ancient Concept of Rest

  1. Marilyn Lewis
    March 16, 2016

    Love it!!! Sabbath rest. Or. in the case of the current country, the 5th day.

    Your friend and colleague.

    The other M


    • Melissa
      March 17, 2016

      I’m glad you like it, Marilyn. Hope you’re finding time for some Sabbath rest where you are currently, no matter what day it occurs on. 🙂


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This entry was posted on March 16, 2016 by in LEAPAsia on WeChat, Melissa K. Smith, rest.



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