At a time when my state is still in lockdown, we’re back to teaching online and trying to tick all the boxes that go with that while at the same time dealing with all the other demands of life.
It’s very easy to become consumed by the job. It’s very easy to rationalise going those extra steps to create whizz-bang lessons that will engage and interest the students and hopefully keep both them and myself motivated despite the malaise that I have dubbed ‘online learning fatigue”.
I have learned over recent months how important it is to set limits for myself. I have consciously tried to avoid overburdening my students with work, and sought to develop learning activities that they can complete offline. I’ve tried to remind them to get up and walk around, to drink water, to get sunshine on their face and on their back.
Ironically, I’m not always so great at managing my own stress. In the midst of trying to be Super Teacher or Little Miss Motivator, I still have to remind myself to do those same things.
This post from Nerdome appeared in my feed at an opportune moment. It’s a good read, providing some quick tips and good insights about managing stress.
Those who spend more time with their works tend to suffer from stress more than the other. The mental and emotional burden that is often attributed to the demands of work can affect our productivity and efficiency with our task that would often lead us to troubles than not. This is one reason why it is very important for workaholics to undertake stress management to avoid compromising their career.
You don’t have to be in a special place to apply stress management. In fact, you can do it anytime and anywhere if you feel like it. You can do it while at your work desk, in the comfort room, or even out in the lobby. The idea here is to control your mind to relax so that you can continue fresh with your task — emotionally, physically, and mentally. Here are some tips that will surely help you out.
It seems that I haven’t just dropped the proverbial ball when it comes to blogging regularly, I’ve gone and lost the jolly thing. I last saw it a couple of weeks ago, when it bounced a couple of times before rolling away through some very prickly bushes and falling into a seemingly bottomless hole.
The thing is, life since that drafted virus unleashed itself on the world has been tumultuous.
I could tell you I haven’t written anything, but that’s not true. I have written some really great lessons and three entire new units because what I had planned (and written) previously wasn’t going to work in an online learning environment.
I could tell you I didn’t have a quarantine project, but that isn’t true either. I’ve had two, both of which happened by necessity rather than design.
Project One: reinventing my career Initial Observations: Teaching from home is a whole lot more work than it sounds. All that extra time online is very tiring. Final Observations: Challenging and exhausting, but enormously satisfying. Most students engaged really well. More positives than negatives. Verdict: Aced it.
Project Two: supporting my father as he spent a couple of weeks in hospital before transitioning into residential aged care. Initial observations: Lots of phone calls. Mountains of paperwork. Huge emotional adjustments. Further Observations: Decisions are hard, even when you actually have no choice. Emotions are hard. Being on one mental and emotional roller coaster while your dad is on a completely different one can only be dealt with by hanging on for dear life and completely faking any appearance of knowing what you are doing. Verdict: Aced it. Especially the part where I looked like I knew what I was doing.
It should also be mentioned that these two significant challenges occurred simultaneously. I didn’t have time to scratch myself, much less spend any more personal time online than I did.
So really, I’ve achieved far more since mid-March than is apparent from my nonexistent output of either blog posts or fiction.
I admit that I have seriously contemplated walking away from writing and/or blogging. Even while considering that, I knew that was the stuff of emotional and mental exhaustion, because I still have ideas and plans bubbling away in the back of my mind. I am not ready to quit, and I would be letting myself down if I did.
I will get my mojo back, even if I’m not sure when that might happen.
Teaching in front of a camera has given me— and, I’m sure, every other teacher out there — a unique insight into what our students see when we talk and interact with them.
I have made some honest observations about myself during this time.
I really do have RBF. Sorry, kids. I’m not annoyed or angry, that’s just how my face looks.
When my eyes are tired, I tend to open them really wide after blinking. It tends to makes me look somewhat perpetually surprised. Prior to lockdown learning, I had no idea I did this.
At first, I touched my face a lot without thinking about it. Now? Not so much.
My coffee cups look even more enormous on camera than they actually are.
The little smiles I give to try to connect with my students, and to encourage and motivate them, can sometimes look a bit deranged.
My eyebrows are perhaps my most expressive feature.
My hair does, in fact, look really cool most of the time.
Despite all those things, my students keep on showing up to class, working hard, getting things done and putting a smile on my face. They regularly brighten every day I spend with them. They’re a pretty awesome bunch.
There are a few other things I have observed.
Bad hair days and/or desperate need for a cut and colour are easily fixed with a nice beanie/touque/knitted hat. The best way to find beanies/touques/knitted hats nice enough to wear for work is to have friends who knit or crochet. Also, a faux fur pom pom on a hat is far more satisfying than I ever realised.
Working from home has its benefits, but it is definitely not less work.
Looking at a screen for sustained periods of time is mentally and visually exhausting. I’ve started asking my students what sorts of trees are in their gardens, what they can see from their windows, and what’s happening outside their houses, just to make them look away from the screens every now and then. I’m also spending a lot less time on screen outside of class. There is nothing like losing yourself in a book, but when your eyes are tired, listening to great audiobooks and podcasts while staring into the distance is an enormously underrated and enjoyable sanity saver.
Overall, things have worked fairly well for me.
On the Sunday evening before my final week of 100% remote teaching from home, I can honestly say that I can look forward to my classes this week with confidence.
I am also looking forward to seeing some of my classes and colleagues when we begging to return to school on June 1st. It will be great to get into a physical classroom again… although I wonder if that might feel a little weird now, too?
Observations from #TeachingFromHome In Front Of A Camera #TeacherLife #TeacherConfessions #TeachingOnline #blogpost
As a teacher, I know there is no substitute for being in the classroom, engaging with the students and supervising their work, making suggestions or guiding their thinking. When you create a constructive, productive learning environment, students thrive.
Over the past few weeks, my school has worked really hard to reproduce that in an online learning environment. My colleagues and I have put a great deal of thought and preparation into making our students’ experiences of learning from home in online classes as interesting and beneficial as they can possibly be. From where I stand, we’ve done a great job of preparing for teaching and learning from home, and I really hope that our students and their parents feel the same way.
Today was our first day of teaching and learning remotely. My students were well behaved and cooperative. Most seem to have coped with the challenges of doing school at home, some of them sharing an environment with their siblings who were also doing their lessons at home, quite well. We got through everything I had planned for those initial lessons. Judging from the work they handed in today, the kids generally worked as well as they usually do in a classroom environment.
I don’t know how they all felt at the end of the school day, but by the time 3.30pm rolled around, I was exhausted.
Make no mistake: online teaching is really hard. It’s mentally demanding in ways that physical presence in the classroom is not. It’s harder to hear students when they speak, and it’s harder to be sure that everyone understands what you say or what you want them to do. Even marking the roll poses new challenges when you can’t simply identify empty spaces in the classroom. Things that have become instinctive for teachers are now impossible, and we find ourselves reinventing pedagogy, teaching, communication, and the delivery of lessons and lesson materials.
You can no longer maintain classroom management by circulating around the room or standing in strategic places so you can see what kids have on their screens. You can’t just look over a kid’s shoulder and remind them of a principle or fact that they need to consider. You can’t make a teaching point of quickly correcting an error or oversight.
To an extent, one has to just accept that and move on. If a student is easily distracted or willing to be inattentive, that is understandable: there’s a lot going on, they’re at school without being at school, they’re in their own environment, and some of them are genuinely anxious about the dangers and the restrictions that Covid-19 has brought about. Really, the best you can hope for is to find a way to gently bring their attention back to the task and try to re-focus them.
It’s a tricky set of circumstances for the kids as it is, and adding learning at home to the strangeness of social isolation and distancing is a situation that some kids — and some teachers — will undoubtedly find awkward at best.
Still, it’s good for all of us, kids and teachers alike, to have a routine and a variety other things to think about. It is healthy and constructive use of the abundant time we would otherwise have on our hands at this point in time.
As tired as I was, they day did end particularly well. After spending 90 minutes with one of my classes this afternoon, I was pleasantly surprised when three of my students thanked me for the lesson. In the past, wishing each other a good afternoon or a pleasant evening was not unusual, but having students actually thanking me for double English after lunch on Tuesday is totally new.
I spent the rest of my regular school day responding to the work they submitted, and giving my students some feedback on their ideas and responses. It was nice to be able to
At 4.15pm, I made myself a cup of coffee and almost cried into it with gratitude for my good but mentally exhausting day, and for the caffeine upon which I would rely for the next couple of hours while I cooked dinner and did everything else I needed to do.
When dinner was done, I looked at my husband and asked if it was too early to go to bed. “It’s 6.15pm,” he said. “So probably, then?” I asked. “Yeah. Probably.”
Maybe I’ll just spend the time between now and bedtime thinking about what gift I’m going to buy myself for Teacher Appreciation Week. Whatever it is, I will have earned it.
One teacher’s thoughts on the first day of teaching and learning while #StayingHome #teachingfromhome #TeachFromHome #TeachingOnline #teachertwitter
I’ve mentioned here before that I enjoy a good pun. Today, to my delight, one of my students came up with a pretty good one, so I responded in kind.
It happened in history, where my students were mapping the three arenas of WWII.
Student A: Syria. Sy-ri-a. *grins* Are you…syyyyyyrias? Me: Hey, I was just dam-ask in’… Student B: That’s SO bad.
Well, we laughed hard. And then student A explained it to the rest of the class, and they laughed too.
Poor Student B, though. As Student A explained, he put his head on the table and moaned, “It’s like having my dad in the room… twice!”
Still, it it wasn’t enough to stop him from piping up a little later.
Student B: Did you know that it wasn’t just Darwin, Broome got bombed too? Me: Yes, the Japanese swept right across north-west Australia… Student A: Haha! That’s genius! Student B: No. NO. That’s awful! Me: I didn’t expect you to bristle like that. Student B: I’m leaving. *walks out of the room* Student C: Where’s B? Me: *just as B is walking back in* I made a joke and he flew off the handle. Student B: No. *walks out again*
It was a fun moment which we all enjoyed, but it also made the facts the students were working with more memorable. Once we’d had a laugh, they all just kept on working.
Opportunities like that don’t happen all the time, but when they do, they are welcome.
Humour is such good medicine, and it makes excellent social glue. It was wonderful to be able to laugh together during a week when the world seems far more uncertain and a lot less enjoyable than it did a couple of weeks ago.
I’m thankful that my students have the confidence to express themselves in my classroom, and that they do it in ways that are clever and fun. It really is a huge blessing to be able to have such great rapport with my students, and these kids make it easy to keep going to work every day.
These anecdotes were retold here with the permission of the students involved.
Today was the last day of term and the end of the school year.
The last two weeks since I returned to work after my surgery have been brutal and I feel like I have run a marathon, especially having had dad in hospital again at the same time, but I’m proud of myself for doing it, and looking forward to a very well-earned rest.
One of the things I really enjoy doing on this one particular day of the year is turning all my morning alarms off. It may take all of ten seconds, but it’s a ritual that restores my sense of “owning” my time again. I love being able to embrace my inner night owl once more, and take my daylight hours at a slower pace.
Last Friday, I gave my History class an essay question half a week in advance of their assessment task.
They were to prepare a plan and notes to use while writing the essay in class this week. I advised them that they could use their handwritten notes and their textbook while writing, but they were not allowed the use of any devices. All the information about the task was given to them in writing as well as my explaining everything in class.
I expected that today, when the students came to class, they would be ready to start. Happily for me, most were.
And then, because nothing ever goes smoothly, this happened:
Student A: “Can we type this?”
Me: No. No devices.
Student B: “My notes are at home. Can I use my iPad?”
Me: “No. No devices.”
Student C: “Can you write the question on the board please?”
Me: “I gave you the question on Friday.”
Student C: Yeah but I didn’t write it down.
Me: That makes me happy.
Bemused, I wrote the question on the board.
Student B: “What page is it in the textbook?”
Me: “Do you mean the pages you were supposed to read and study last week?”
Student B: “Yeah.”
Me: Speechless, I allow The Eyebrow to speak for me.
All the kids except two commenced writing. Students B and D, though? They’re still reading the textbook.
This morning didn’t seem any different than most when I left the house to head to work, but it proved to hold two lovely surprises.
The first surprise came in the form of a shop assistant who remembered me as her teacher from a number of years ago, and happily recalled the things she had studied and learned with me. An adult now, and with a different hair colour, I had not recognised her, but she knew me straight away.
It was nice to hear that she thought the books we read and the lessons we drew from them were valuable, and that history classes were interesting. It was wonderful to see that she had grown up into a confident, friendly and polite young woman with a lovely personality.
Of all the fond memories she recalled, though, one in particular had a profound effect on me: “You were the one teacher I ever had who showed me that it was okay to just be me, because that’s who I was meant to be. It’s something I have never forgotten.”
Wow! What a privilege to hear a former student say those words. I have struggled for many years with self acceptance, and as a teen I knew full well the agony of not fitting in with a particular crowd. Even then, I had the strength of will to resist peer pressure and not buy into many of the pitfalls that offered themselves to me at bargain prices and opportune moments. But that didn’t mean I was free of the wish to be someone or somewhere else – a desire that has recurred several times since.
Yet, somehow along the way, I managed to communicate something valuable about self acceptance to at least one teen in a similar situation.
I wonder if that knowledge would appease or satisfy those who think I push too many boundaries. Being part of a fairly conservative school, church and family, I take both pleasure and pride in not exactly looking conservative. I don’t intentionally break the rules, but I don’t mind testing their limits. My opinions often differ, and my willingness to assert them can make others uncomfortable. I don’t see that as a problem, though. There is merit in challenging people to see different perspectives and to accept differences. I’d like to think that people might become so used to my differences that I will need to think of something new to do to keep them on their toes.
My second surprise was a note on my desk from ex-students who had a reunion on Saturday night. I attended the reunion: it was a lovely evening of catching up and reminiscing. I didn’t realise, though, that they had left me a love letter on their tour of the school. How gorgeous that they still know how to make their English teacher happy and proud.