School closures took us by surprise, in many cases, decisions by governments were so hasty that school owners had less than a week’s notice to figure out systems to keep students learning at home. While very stressful, teachers admitted the initial transition came as a bit of a relief. Some teachers even felt like it might be a much-needed, short break from routine.
But as weeks turned to months, remote learning brought new stressors for teachers. Used to working on their feet, educators got a crash course in working at a computer all day, and also struggled with setting up a schedule working from home and managing parent communications. Smart schools developed Frequently Asked Questions to help parents make sense of the new normal of schooling. Those challenges have been exacerbated by the atmosphere of uncertainty and the news that most, if not all, schools will remain closed this school year. Many teachers are left wondering how they’ll avoid burning out, especially without the face-to-face interactions with students that keep them passionate about the job. While some private teachers worry about teaching online, some school owners worry about teachers’ salaries and administrative cost, that’s another topic for another day!
Teachers are adapting to a host of exhausting new challenges during the Corona Virus. So what can teachers do to ease this new, pandemic strain of burnout? Here are simple ways to help address this new form of stress.
- Have A to-do list. A daily, handwritten to-do list can help you stay on track and remember the essentials. Start by making a list of everything you have to do at specific time slots (like live teaching online), then schedule things you need to do with more flexible timing (like office hours or grading) and keep them consistent and time-boxed every week. Because we’re living in a time of unprecedented stress, make sure to build in time to take care of yourself and prioritize what’s essential too. Now it’s about balancing work-flow. Less is more; it is acceptable to slow down.
- Reduce seat time. Working from home is not what teachers signed up for. It’s a huge challenge because they are not used to sitting at all during the day. Some simple modifications may ease the toll on teachers’ bodies. When working at the computer, the screen should be about arm’s length away (25 inches) from your face, suggested by an Ophthalmologist. She also suggested following the 20-20-20 rule to reduce eye strain: Every 20 minutes, look at something 20 feet away for at least 20 seconds. Be aware of the contrast and brightness of your screen too—the screen should not be brighter than the room.
- Exercise always. Adults need breaks and exercise just like children, which can help boost mood, improve mental clarity, and relieve stress. Get up and move at least 15 minutes every two hours, doctors advise, even if it’s a walk up and down the stairs. A number of gyms are offering free online classes—no equipment required—during Covid-19.
- Give clear communications to parents and students. Understandably, remote learning has shifted the relationship and intensified communications with parents. At times, the relationship with parents can get strained, but it can be improved by making sure communications are clear and concise and direct. Quick reminders can also help. Research shows alerting parents in easily accessible formats (like texts) can help boost parent involvement and improve student engagement and performance.
- Be Happy. To maintain a level head amid tremendous uncertainty, experts advise keeping focused on what matters most: being happy. Remind yourself you are still a skilled teacher, even if teaching looks different than it used to be. Don’t be so hard on yourself, which research shows can reduce stress.
My final thoughts are something teachers have already heard but are worth repeating. It’s not going to be easy to bring your classroom’s engaging and welcoming vibe to a virtual setting, but compromise, patience, and sensitivity will get us through these next few months. This global pandemic has and will affect us in unimaginable ways. Treat every parent, teacher and student with kindness and empathy because you don’t know how COVID-19 has changed their lives.