Your day might now look something like this: morning coffee, make breakfast, teach online, go for a walk, teach online, make dinner, watch tv, mark assignments, bed. It’s a never-ending loop that takes all of two seconds, as the boundaries between home and work become increasingly blurry. The pandemic has forced teachers to make the spare bedroom the office, our kitchen table our place for marking assignments, and a Zoom meeting our classroom.
For educators, it’s a radically different experience to just showing up in person to your classroom with your lesson plan, dealing with a bunch of excitable children. There’s technology to contend with — which can feel like a huge obstacle to your student’s learning. You might even have children or pets of your own in the house, demanding your attention.
Hopefully, digital competency is part of your schools’ approach to online learning. But for some, teaching remotely is a challenge emotionally, as well as physically. How can we make the process smoother, for the children and for ourselves? How can teachers protect their wellbeing in lockdown and other government restrictions?
We take a look at some ways to support emotional wellbeing and stay healthy whilst teaching online:
#1 Reach out for support 👋
Don’t feel like you have to navigate this alone. Find a place to share with fellow teachers about how you’re doing, even if that’s not in your school itself. There are many online teacher communities and online remote learning networks there to support you if you feel a little out of your depth in this new way of educating.
#2 Get into a steady routine 📅
When things are disrupted and government guidance changes at the drop of a hat, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed as schools scramble to implement new advice and ways of working.
It’s a different way of teaching when you work from home, so as NASUWT the Teachers Union suggests, carve out a regular routine that feels good and accommodating to your needs. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t get your routine right the first time — it may take a bit of practice to find what works.
#3 Try not to consume too much negative news 📰
In a pandemic, it’s important to realise it’s tough for everyone — and consuming too much news can tip the scales of our mental wellbeing towards the negative, which may affect our ability to teach.
Dr Christina Gkonou says “the more we expose ourselves to negative news, the more we are affected by them and the more upset we become about the past, present and future. It would, therefore, be useful to try and distance ourselves from this high level of exposure. Devote a specific part of the day to watching or reading or listening to the news.”
#4 Find some non-screen activities in between teaching 🧘
From yoga to painting, to reading or jigsaw puzzles — it’s helpful to have something to do that doesn’t involve a screen. You’ll be spending the best part of six hours a day teaching in front of a screen, and that can get exhausting as your eyes are focused on one singular spot, instead of scanning the room like they usually do.
#5 Keep moving 🚶♀️
One of the biggest changes going from classroom to home is the fact that you’re much more static than before. You might have done 10,000 steps before on a normal day in school, now you’re barely doing 1000.
Reducing your physical activity will have a knock-on effect on your wellbeing, so make sure you get out and about for at least an hour a day.
#6 Separate work and play 🙅♀️
Satchel says: “Teachers are sometimes their own worst enemies as their drive to support their students can, in turn, mean they end up putting extra pressures on themselves by working late to mark, make lesson plans or provide extra support.”
It’s hard when you want to do your best to support a pupil’s learning, but it’s important those firm boundaries are in place to prevent burnout. So set hard limits — for example, ‘no emails on a weekend, and switch off after 7 pm’.
#7 Be kind to yourself 🥰
Learning where our limits lie is an important part of what teachers are going through right now. Angela Watson, founder of the Truth About Teachers podcast says:
“I will forever beat the drum that our number one goal during a global humanitarian crisis should be keeping students and staff healthy. If you are just getting through the day and trying to survive, then you’ve done enough. That’s where the bar needs to be right now for teachers and kids”.
So when it all gets too much, remember we’re all out of our comfort zones right now, trying to educate others the best we can.
Get plenty of rest and sleep and be extra kind to yourself — you’re doing a great job!