Teachers, we know adjusting to a work-from-home schedule can be difficult. And while many schools are wrapping up for summer break, the uncertainty caused by the COVID-19 crisis can make it challenging, to say the least, to prepare for summer learning programs or even fall classroom schedules.
One of the best ways to stay focused and prepared is by creating an at-home teaching routine. Keep these seven tips in mind to stay organized and connected while your students are distance learning.
1. Set up a regular teaching schedule
If you’ve never worked from home before, establishing a new routine as soon as possible will help you set boundaries between your teaching and your personal life. Consider how much time you spend teaching during a “normal” work day and spend a similar amount of time working from home.
Try to work during the same hours each day, if possible, to strengthen your new routine. And once you’ve met your set amount of hours, log off and turn off your email until the next day so you have time to recharge.
Making a work area for yourself can help you slip into a similar teaching mindset as you would be in class. If you have a table or desk available at home, set it up in a place that makes you feel calm with few distractions. Set it up with items similar to what you would have on your desk in your classroom, as well as with items that help you feel energized and productive.
3. Plan your schedule out the day before
If you’re struggling with accomplishing as much as you want while working from home, try putting together a schedule. Daily schedules can help you prioritize the tasks that are most deserving of your time each day and make every hour feel purposeful.
At the end of each teaching day, take some time to write down three to five of your goals for tomorrow. What do you most want to accomplish with your time and when? That way, you’ll automatically have a to-do list to keep your next day structured.
4. Be kind to yourself as you adjust to your new circumstances
Teaching during the COVID-19 crisis involves unprecedented challenges for many teachers, especially those who have never taught online before. If you’re having trouble establishing a “new normal,” don’t be hard on yourself. It’s okay and even expected if it takes you time to adjust. Be mindful of and celebrate the little accomplishments, like helping a student understand a new concept or getting a difficult task done early in the day.
5. Set up office hours for your students
Because they don’t get time with you in the classroom, students may feel unsure how to approach you. And while emails or messages are convenient, many learners benefit from being able to discuss their questions face to face (or as close as they can get to that right now).
Set aside time each day or week where students can set up a video appointment with you. That way, you and your students still have opportunities to discuss specific questions and form a stronger teacher-student relationship than written communication generally offers.
6. Keep what motivates you as a teacher at the front of your mind
On tough days, remembering your motivators can help you stay focused and adhere to your routine. Before you start your morning, write down one of your biggest motivators for getting through the work day. When you feel stressed, think back on your motivator for a personal reminder of why what you’re doing matters.
7. Watch and manage your stress levels
Teacher stress is not only common, but in some ways it’s also expected—especially because of the uncertainty of working in a pandemic. To avoid burning out, be mindful of any stressors in your life and find ways to alleviate them. If you feel overwhelmed or alone, reach out to a supervisor or trusted colleague for support.
Watch out for these signs of unhealthy stress levels:
- Mental, emotional, or physical fatigue
- Inability to focus on tasks
- Feeling anxious, irritable, or sad more than usual
- Difficulty sleeping or resting
- Withdrawing from others