Is anyone else tired? Exhausted? Not wanting to think about how many weeks of school we have left?
I thought so.
Teachers across the nation – and across the globe – have been working almost around the clock since the early days of the pandemic, in the hopes of preparing their students for the coming weeks of remote learning from home. Many – if not the vast majority of districts – were not prepared for this type of teaching in crisis. The first few weeks were spent coming to terms with the fact that teachers and students were not in their typical classrooms. For many, the next few weeks were spent transitioning to online, virtual learning.
In our district, we provided teachers with weekly, optional professional development opportunities to learn programs that could provide useful during their remote teaching. These sessions started off pretty well attended; again, they were optional and not something that our district or union was requiring of teachers. Last week, we wrapped our final week of teacher professional learning (to transition to training our paraeducators now), and the session attendance dwindled. By Week 10 of remote learning, I think teachers were getting tired.
Many made comments to me that they felt they have worked harder in the last couple of months than they had previously – they are working longer hours preparing lessons, learning new digital platforms, and spending more time communicating with parents. And I think that would be an accurate description of the sentiments reflected by many teachers across the nation. Teachers are getting tired.
How do we stop teacher burn-out in times of a pandemic? How do we ensure teachers return to their classrooms – whether physical or virtual – in the Fall?
The answer is teacher self-care.
As teachers, I know that many of us struggle already with maintaining symbiosis between our work and home lives – even more so now as we were thrown into the virtual teaching deep end and were expected to swim without issue. Self-care is more critical now than ever before.
Crystal Chavez, a K-5 online teacher and SEL consultant, emphasizes self-care during these times. “Self care is very personal. Looking at a list of “things to do” may give you an idea perhaps of ways to support a healthy environment for your body, mind, and soul, but we should be creating and living our own list,” Chavez states.
“Exploring inward into our own self awareness is a great place to start caring for yourself. Taking the time to discover and identify our feelings and the thoughts that come with them, can be very empowering and healing.”
Teachers are known for going above and beyond. But are there things that we can be doing to lighten our load during this time during virtual teaching? Chavez thinks so. “Read the book ‘Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less’ by Greg McKeown and learn to discern what is essential. Saying no doesn’t just take courage, it takes a mindset shift. For example, there are thousands of amazing digital tools you CAN use for remote/online learning, but should you? In my opinion, you should find 3-5 max that help you to deliver the most bang for your buck. Time is money. You want a return on investment.”