Colleges & Universities quickly shuttered their doors back in March as the COVID Pandemic swept across the globe, forcing professors to teach their courses online. While many believed a break from school would have resulted in a burst of academic research – as was the case of Sir Isaac Newton in 1665 who developed his best theories while Cambridge was forced to close due to an outbreak of the plague in London – that turned out to not be the case. Maybe Newton was lucky, he didn’t have children to take care of, or learn how to schedule office hours with Google Calendar, or reply to the dozens if not hundreds of course queries students are sending their professors today as they attempt to navigate learning remotely.
Online teaching has blurred the lines between work & home for many professors. Those who have kids are forced to home-sit as their children’s schools / daycares also remain shuttered.With budget cuts, professors are faced with less TAs to help grade & assist students in large classes, and for some professors, the technology-learning curve has proven to be stressful – Zoom classes, email queries & scheduling online 1:1 is a lot to learn in a short period of time.
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a fall semester of online or hybrid of online & in-person learning, so you can remain at your best for your students.
1. Schedule Your Time & Set Expectations
Every educator wants to “show up” for their students, but with in-person classes on hold for the time being, that is proving to be a much more daunting task. Previously, students would interact with their educators before, after or during class to have any of their questions answered, with online learning, those queries have been channeled to emails. You can spend your entire night responding to emails, but rather, it may be more prudent to set aside a block of time to responding to email queries from students. Couple that by setting a clear expectation to students on when they can expect a response from you on their emails, will help to limit the number of queries you receive. So, schedule your time & set clear expectations so students know what timeline a response may incur.
2. Interact with your Faculty
Over 60% of students surveyed say the hardest part of adjusting to online learning has been the lack of face to face interactions with their fellow students. Can we extrapolate that up to professors as well? Faculty members aren’t just individuals to bounce new research ideas off of, for many educators, they are friends and sources of understanding. Set aside some time to check in with your fellow faculty members, particularly early academics. Pre-COVID, 64% of PhD Candidates experienced feelings of loneliness and isolation. We all have a role to play to ensure each member in our department is healthy and doing ok.
3. Avoid Burnout
It’s important to realize that we cannot necessarily check everything off of our to-do lists in the timelines we prescribed ourselves – and that’s ok. Sometimes it's ok to not do anything at all – if possible, take a break from your work, recharge and come back to class feeling recharged and energized. The pandemic is a daunting time for all of us, but particularly your students. Uncertainty about jobs, the quality of their education and financial constraints all bleed into their psyche each day. Students are looking to you as a source of inspiration and energy. If you feel depleted an unmotivated, how do you think that projects on your students? Care for yourself first, and your students will be better for it.