Colleges & Universities quickly shuttered their doors back in March as the COVID Pandemic swept across the globe. This forces professors to teach their courses online.
Many believed a break from school would have resulted in a burst of academic research. This 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. However, it turned out to not be the case. Maybe Newton was lucky as he did not have children to take care of or learn how to have your own schedule for office hours with Google Calendar. He may not have responded to the queries students are sending their professors today. questions may. in fact, be in dozens if not hundreds. This serves as students' attempt to navigate learning remotely.
Online teaching has blurred the lines between work and 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 fewer TA's to help grade and assist students in large classes.
For some professors, the technology-learning curve has proven to be stressful. Educational technology is now the name of the game to get a good learning experience. This may include Zoom classes, email queries, and scheduling online 1:1 is a lot to learn in a short period. Learning resources and means like g suite, webcam, video calls, and video conferencing are significant in this time of crisis.
Tips for maintaining a good work-life balance
So, where are all these taking you as an educator? How will you be able to deal with this new normal brought by the pandemic?
Here are a few tips to help you prepare for a fall semester of online or hybrid of online & in-person learning. These will help you remain at your best for your students in this new learning environment.
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 respond 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 are not 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 is 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 and unmotivated, how do you think that projects on your students? Remote teaching is not an easy task. Care for yourself first, and your students will be better for it.
4. Work from home
While based at home, you will still be able to maintain a work-life balance. This is doable and possible if you are willing to make boundaries between them. Since online learning is the new norm like google classroom, learn how to cope with it. There are some ways to make this possible.
First, set separate areas for fun and work. This makes it easier to have a transition from your teaching work mode to your home mode. You will have equal time for your work and your personal life.
Second, never use your teaching computer during your free time. It is significant to have separate areas and tools for work life and private life. Give equal time to your work and for fun.
Third, go out for a walk after teaching your students. Go cycling is an alternative activity as well as exercise. Move your body and keep yourself up for health.
Fourth, make some plans for your after-work free time. Set a specific time to leave your desk to spend time with your family. A quick walk outside your house would also be a great idea just to ensure that you are getting a life.
5. Create time-saving remote learning systems
With the new remote learning set-up, you need to adjust your time. Invest more time in setting up academic systems that will save you time. In this scenario, the procedures and routines in a virtual classroom are automated. This gives you focus on both teaching and learning.
The automated systems will help simplify your workload in the coming months or years. Show your students how exactly you would want them to submit their schoolwork. This will save you from responding or messaging to several emails of the same queries.
6. Teach from home - home learning
You can keep work-life balance while giving students online learning. Be generous and have yourself compassion to teach online. Psychologists recommend online teachers to make plans for physical activities. Make your body move and make it a daily habit.
Acknowledge the stress that any work can give you. Tell your students or your family members what you really feel. Try to discuss stress with them and let them rate their stress level and ease your own.
Also, take note of the fact that you are not alone. Remember, it is us against coronavirus. Stress levels will only get higher when people compete against each other. Work together instead. You can do this by regulating your emotions.
7. Take pride as educators to achieve work-life balance
As educators, you need to figure out how to have a balanced life since teaching is a challenging job. Yes, there are obstacles in your career but you must respect your time. Acknowledge your impact on education. It may be difficult at first but switching off from electronics after work hours is relevant.
Meanwhile, you need to make priorities and your health should be on top of it. Exercise and any physical activities will help you deal and cope with education-associated issues. You still have friends outside of school. They are stress relievers as well. Set schedules and make time to bond with them as you have a flexible schedule now. Dinner dates and outings would not be a waste of time, isn’t it?
There is so much more after your online class. So, go and have a life not just work.
Learning how to have a work-life balance as an educator online can really be tough. However, it is critical for survival. But with the strategies and tips provided above, you can make sure that your career in teaching is also lasting, healthy other than impactful. Make use of these guidelines and the next time you know it, you are enjoying your job while being at home.
Get a life while teaching from the comfort of your home. Have a work-life balance let us be your guide.