Some of us are reaching the two month mark of remote learning. In my world, the fatigue is definitely setting in: for students, teachers, and parents. So first of all, Yay us! We got here! That means it’s definitely time to find ways to give yourself a break and have some remote fun with your students. In this post, we’ll explore ways to infuse a little balance into your life and your classroom.
Give Yourself a Break (You Deserve It!)
These days every teacher I know, whether they are new to teaching or have decades of experience under their belts, is exhausted. Reinventing lessons, learning new programs, and trying to keep students engaged every single day takes a staggering amount of time and energy. And that’s assuming the WiFi will be working!
Just remember, you can’t be as effective of a teacher when you’re stressed and exhausted. Read this article from ACSA that explains what happens to your brain when you’re stressed. Here are some tips for infusing a little perspective into your daily life.
Tips for Teachers
- Temper expectations: this means for everyone, including yourself! You don’t need to answer emails and texts minutes after they are received. And while there certainly are emergencies through the course of teaching, most communications can wait a day. Set an auto-reply on your email that lets families and others know you’ve received the email and you will return with a reply within a certain time period.
- Take time for yourself: You need boundaries! Working from home makes it all too easy to work constantly. But remember, just because you can log in all the time, does not mean you have to. Set a timer on your phone for regular reminders to get up, take a walk, sit outside, or do anything that doesn’t involve a screen. And remember, it will all be there when you get back, but even ten minutes can change your stress level and outlook.
- Stop comparing yourself to others: Yes, that first grade teacher next door whose classroom looked like a magazine probably has the equivalent remote classroom up on Pinterest. Who cares? Most of us teachers are also Type As, (guilty) but remember, no one ever pins the unflattering stuff. Pretty is great, but solid teaching and attention to students’ social emotional well being is far better.
- Ask for and accept help: We need to lean on each other more than ever these days. It’s perfectly acceptable to throw up a hand and ask someone to help. And, don’t forget to accept help when people are offering. Most people don’t ask unless they want to support. Team up with your families and work together to get through.
Yup, having school at home is hard. Education is my career and it’s still hard.
Parents, you also can’t be as effective when you’re stressed and exhausted. Guess what? The tips for teachers above apply to you too!
Teach Thought has a great post on the basics of remote learning at home, but chances are you’ve already done many of these things. Here are some additional tips for surviving the next leg of this journey with your children.
Additional Tips for Parents
- See Above: Temper expectations, take time for yourself, stop comparing yourself to others, and ask for help! Those tips are important for parents also!
- Check in a Lot: Make it a point to check in often with yourself and with your children. No one can learn (or teach) when there are other, more pressing emotions at play. Give yourself permission to take a break when needed.
- Focus on the Essentials: No one believes parents will be able to replace traditional classroom instruction. So don’t try! A constant home-child battle doesn’t serve anyone in the long run. Ask your child’s teacher what the essential outcomes are for the unit, and focus on those things only.
- Communicate (with empathy): Definitely ask your child’s teacher for guidance, and share what you are comfortable with about your home situation. Try to remember teachers aren’t mind readers; they need to know if there is something at home that could be affecting your child’s learning. If the homework took two hours and three tantrums last night, share that with your child’s teacher and ask for support.
- Give Constructive Feedback: Teachers are operating under a schedule set by state and district guidelines. Remember these guidelines were set with the best intentions and NOT with full understanding of what remote teaching should look like, since no one really knew how it would look. Give solution-focused feedback where you can, and bear in mind there isn’t a playbook for this kind of instruction. All educators everywhere are doing the very best they know how. See more in our post on Working Together!
- Have a Little (un) Remote Fun: Unlike our classroom teachers, you and your child can have offscreen fun together. Dance it out, play a game, take a walk, go on a 5 minute scavenger hunt in the house. Find ways to infuse tiny fun breaks during the day.
Have Some Remote Fun with Students
A former student of mine (from 2000! Please don’t do the math) recently contacted me on Facebook. She wanted to tell me how she still remembers making origami cranes in class. She also mentioned a cultural exchange trip she took to Japan, and how she was able to explain the reason for all the cranes at the Nagasaki museum. And while she didn’t remember the title of the book we read with that activity (Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes) but she vividly remembered the experience.
We all got into teaching because we love lesson planning and grading. Not. We got into teaching because of moments like that, where we connect and make an impression on our students. Every teacher I know misses those little wins, moments, and sparks that ultimately keep us going.
Celebrating, connecting, and having a little fun with your students goes a long way to diffuse frustration and fatigue.
If you haven’t already, here are some remote fun and celebration ideas to infuse yin your classroom daily or weekly.
Remote Fun and Celebration Ideas
- Questions of the Day: Remember there’s a lot less student-to-student connection happening these days. Start the day with a silly question to help students get to know one another, and you! Older students can also interview each other. See our post on Interviews for more tips.
- Appreciate each other: When things are so busy, it’s hard to remember to say thank you. Make time for class appreciations, and create a virtual appreciation board (see our post on Jamboard) so students can see them.
- Dance it out: A teacher I know used to have “Dance Party” breaks during class. When students were squirrely, she would stop everything and put on a song for a minute or two so they could get the wiggles out. In remote classrooms, boy do we need that still!
- Play games: Simple games like Simon Says, I Spy, or Twenty Questions are great for little learners. For older students, try Mad Libs, scavenger hunts, charades, and popular games like Taboo, Scrabble, or Scattergories. You can also try your hand at making some online games, or check out ours.
- Infuse art and music: We all know art and music stimulate important parts of the brain. Unfortunately, these subject can be left aside during remote learning. Doodle with Mo Willems, make your own instruments and play them, or try some of these art activities.
- Have Spirit Days: Every Friday, have a different themed day: Superheroes, Crazy Hair, Pajama Day, Rainbow Day, Sports Day, etc.
- Eat together: Have lunch with a few students once a week to get to know each other in a more relaxed, non-classroom environment.
As trying as these times are, I remain so impressed with how hard educators, parents, and students are working to make the best of this situation with positivity and grace. When it’s all over, I believe that’s what our children will remember about their time in remote learning.
So please, take a break and congratulate yourself for making it this far! You deserve it!