These times are full of many new adjustments, feelings and lifestyle changes. Switching to at-home and online learning brings about a new daily reality that requires flexibility and a huge pivot with little or no preparation. The switch can be very difficult at first. There might be moments of loneliness and questioning your identity, especially when not directly interacting with students. These changes can lead to anxiety and concern. However, as we traverse through these times, there are some strategies that can bring peace, purpose and happiness into your new online learning environment with your families, self and students.
Find time for yourself
This sounds like a cliche; however, there are so many demands that are pulling us in every direction. Spouses or partners working from home, children doing school from home, teaching online, roommates demanding attention, being alone through quarantine. Every situation has its unique challenge. I encourage you to demand the time you need in any day to take even just five minutes for yourself. Breath, reflect, think of nothing, go for a walk. I am writing from the couch as everyone has already gone to bed in my home. This is my time to take a second to focus and reflect. While it may seem like the last thing we have time for is five minutes to ourselves, this time is crucial to rejuvenate and find our focus. There are many apps like Calm, Om and Simple Habit that can provide a bit of guidance if we need it.
Find a space where you feel effective
Everyone is learning how to use shared space with this new reality. Children and parents are now vying for computer, internet and table space. With this, some might prefer to move around to create a variety of views and teaching environments. I know some days I work in the kitchen, dining room, bedroom or living room. Other friends and coworkers have a designated work space decorated and ready just for them. Find the rhythm and space that creates the most effective and satisfying environment for you.
Establish working conditions
Along with your physical place, think about overall expectations and routines. Since work and home lines begin to blur inextricably, decide with yourself, family or roommates what you want your day to look like. Maybe you take breaks in the middle of the day, or everyone is done in time to help prep for dinner, or some of you have rotating shifts to tend to child care. Whatever it is, find a routine that works best for your situation. It may be helpful to yourself and others to have as much consistency as possible. In my household there are beginning and exit zoom calls at the end of each school day: 8:30am and 1:50pm respectively and lunch at 11:30. That creates a sense of structure and support that everyone can count on and work around. It allows built-in fun time with card games at lunchtime and bike rides ‘after school’. While this may be different depending on school and work schedules, think about what routines and consistent expectations work for you. Remember however, that these are unprecedented times and unexpected interruptions may happen. Give yourself grace and know that even if things don’t go ‘as planned’, it is ok.
Take breaks when needed. Move!
The foundational aspects of OWL incorporate movement and transitions. This is no different for you in an at-home work environment. Stand up and move around every half hour or hour. Set an alarm if you have to. Stretch in place. Go for a brief walk. Do part of an on-line exercise program. Do what you can to keep your body moving and firing on all synapses.
Connect to others personally
One phrase that is resonating with me is ‘physical distancing = social connection’. This is a brave new frontier where we are finding new ways to connect and interact with others. We need social connection now more than ever. Know who is going to inspire you, laugh with you, animate you and support you. Connect with them! Play games with those people, Facetime, do what you can to feel alive and play. Find joy in the simple things, and find ways to connect to those around you. This will make all the difference for what you have to offer to your students and how you can show up for them.
Plug in to professional support
Even with all of these elements, finding colleagues, teachers, and peers who are going through the same thing you are is beneficial. Look for the positivity and seek out those who are looking for and providing solutions. Be aware of what your challenges are and constantly be asking yourself, ‘How can I…?’. These times bring with them innumerable opportunities and new venues for us to be able to get to know our students, learn technology and approach teaching and learning with a new perspective. Seek out those who, while looking for solutions, are providing camaraderie and support.
Many blogs that I have read will try to tell you how, when or what to do during quarantine. The one constant that I have seen is that there really is no ‘should’ or ‘right way’ to do things. Each situation is unique. The important thing is to accept reality, find what works for you, and seek out moments of laughter and joy in each day.
As we often say in OWL, being your authentic self will allow students to be their authentic selves. What is happening now goes beyond online and remote learning. This is remote living. How are you going to find the way to appreciate and value what is in front of you each day? How are you seeing opportunity and possibility in this new reality we are facing?
Let us know how we can support you. We are available at your convenience through email, social media or phone. Please don’t hesitate to reach out at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-690-8038.