If you’re not personally experiencing it, surely you can sense it. Teachers are stretched thin. Distance learning has brought a whole different level of questions and kind of stress. This post adds some positivity…help for teachers. We can get through this time together.
A Crazy Story
The other day, I made an egregious mistake. After supper, I sent my three children (8, 6, and 4) downstairs while I cleaned up the kitchen. About ten minutes later, I heard some very loud laughter followed by one child shrieking, “You’re going to get the floor all wet!”
So, I went downstairs, skipping two steps at a time. Much to my amazement, I saw:
- 1 bathroom floor covered with water
- 4 walls completely dripping wet
- 1 brand new carpet soaking wet
- 3 children throwing wet swimming trunks and a towel back and forth between a bathtub (don’t ask why…I don’t have an answer) and the living room
I wasn’t sure whether to be in awe or irate.
Replaying it in my head, this scenario reminds me a lot of teaching. It was just as chaotic, messy, and stressful. Yet, over time, the shock lessened. That’s right. Eight years into my parenting game, I’m not nearly as surprised by this scenario as I would have been year one.
The same is true for teaching – with and without distance learning. We are resilient.
I don’t claim to have all the answers to managing the craziness that is life right now. But, I think it’s important for us as a teaching community to support and encourage one another…to see each other through this time.
In order to avoid teacher burnout with distance learning, we need to be intentional. How can we stay mentally, emotionally, and physically healthy during this time?
Below, you’ll find a list of ten strategies that teachers around the world are using to….well…stay sane.
1. Less is More
Honestly, sometimes trying to keep up with giving feedback, keeping track of attendance, contacting students and parents, plus Google Meeting or Zooming can leave us feeling slightly woozy.
Less is more.
Focus on less work and more quality. That allows us to give meaningful feedback without going crazy. It also helps us to manage the task of keeping students from being overwhelmed.
The last thing any of us need (teachers, students, and parents!) is to spend hours in front of a screen or completing packets of work.
Online teaching is so much different than what we are used to when we can meet with students in the classroom every day. If you’re stressed out, you’re probably doing too much. So, try scaling back.
2. Focus on Today
When we start to think about how long the school closures and social distancing may last, we can get a little bit overwhelmed. Instead of worrying about what tomorrow may bring, we can focus on today.
Honestly, when I think about one day at a time, it prevents me from the tunnel of “what ifs” and the sea of unknowns that may try to taunt me from the future.
3. Go Outside
If you’re in an area of the world where you can get outside, do it! Social distancing is not the same as social isolation. Sitting in front of a screen all day is demanding and unhealthy.
As soon as you can, stretch your legs. Go for a walk, a jog, a bike ride, a jaunt in the car. Pull up a chair at the end of your driveway and have a social distancing happy hour with your neighbors. Just get out and find some fresh air – even if you don’t feel like it.
4. Coach Yourself
Close your eyes, and imagine yourself a year or two from now. Imagine that life is back to “normal,” and that COVID-19 is in the past. What do you want to remember about how you lived during this time? what you did with your loved ones? your attitude and disposition? the way you worked on your self care or learned something new?
Whatever vision you see, SEIZE IT! Coach yourself through that vision, and make it happen now.
5. Get a Hobby
If you have hobbies you can engage in during this time of social distancing, make time for them! Now is also the perfect time to spend some mental energy learning something new.
- A software program?
- A foreign language?
- Printing the hundreds of photos that have been saved on your phone for the last year or two?
- Planning a dream vacation?
- Organizing your closets (yes, I know you organizational fanatics are out there)?
Hobbies are an excellent way to destress and keep our brains sharp.
6. Listen to Music
Few people dislike music. When I’m in a funk, I turn on the speaker in my kitchen and living room, and I start a dance party with my children. It makes everyone smile…and even brings some laughter…who doesn’t need a little bit of that? Music can be therapeutic, healing, and emotional. All you have to do is press play.
7. Set Limits
Some teachers are choosing to turn their screens off at a certain time of day. If it doesn’t drive you bonkers not knowing how many emails are awaiting you the next morning, this is a great idea! Teaching online means everyone’s screen time has increased, so setting limits makes sense.
Other educators are designating “work” and “nonwork” spaces in their homes. Ideally, we have a zone in our house where the environment is conducive to working. Hopefully, the work vibes are contained to that space so that we can focus on non-distance learning life when we are elsewhere.
8. Create a Routine
I’ve found it helps to put some structure to my day.
Saturday and Sunday, I allow myself to wear pajamas and relax, but Monday through Friday are more structured. I shower, get dressed (in clothes that make me feel good!), put on some makeup, and try to stick to the time frames I’ve set for my family. While we don’t always make them, it feels good for all of us that we know what to expect.
Schedules can be grounding in times of uncertainty.
9. Get Organized
We can save ourselves some time by getting organized. Here are few methods that are working for many teachers:
- Schedule a weekly or daily digital office hour time to cut down on having to answer a plethora of questions over email.
- Add all resources and links to a page or presentation students can find.
- Create comment banks that you can copy from and slightly tweak to expedite providing feedback.
- Talk with your school’s technology department to make sure video links you plan to share will work on students’ devices.
Everyone can be organized. All it takes is finding the right system for you.
10. Choose a Different Lens
The thing is, we can choose to view our current teaching situation through a negative light…or a positive one. Are we using this time to learn something new? connect with our families? work on our relationships? apply for a dream job? make connections with our students?
Difficulty is inevitable; discouragement is optional. I heard this message today, and it resonated with me. In the middle of distance learning, it can be easy to allow discouragement to squeak in. Silent and often undetected, it tip-toes in when we are tired, wearing multiple hats, neglecting self care, or wondering when it will all end.
In the moment when my children drenched every square inch of an entire bathroom in just a few moments, I responded with discouragement and frustration. I mean, I did have to get a ladder and use several towels to soak up the mess on the walls and the floor. But, afterward, my eight-year-old son said to me, “You know, mom, on the bright side, the bathroom is clean now.” Smiling, I recognized that was just the optimism I needed.
And you? How are you learning to be an overcomer during this time in our lives? What advice or strategies would you share with other educators who are looking for ways to avoid teacher burnout during distance learning?