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How to Achieve Work–Life Balance While Teaching Remotely During COVID-19

By Tina Nazerian
 | Sep 18, 2020

Lady on computerFrom navigating technology to communicating more frequently with families and caregivers, some educators report that remote teaching significantly increases their workloads.

Rebecca Shin is a special education teacher who supports students with reading, writing, and math instruction at Valley Oaks Elementary School in Houston, TX. She says that virtual instruction takes more work than in-person instruction.

“You have to be very creative in how you’re going to engage a child virtually for that long, and then somehow make sure that they’re comprehending the things that you’re teaching them,” Shin says.

Shin points to writing on a whiteboard—using an online whiteboard takes more time and effort than writing on a physical board does. Using a mouse instead of writing free-handedly makes the process “messy.”

Teachers instructing remotely also have to deal with their personal and professional lives intersecting. During the spring, Shin had a hard time balancing babysitting her niece with her teaching schedule and says she would hear how difficult it was for her colleagues with kids to simultaneously manage childcare and remote teaching.

Tom Lenz, director of the Center for Health Promotion and Well-Being at Creighton University, says that as the school year begins, it’s important for teachers to not focus on the negatives. Doing so can “lead to further despair.” Rather, they should look for the good in every situation and teach their students to do so too.

Lenz has some actionable tips educators can take to maintain their mental health while teaching remotely during the pandemic.

Prioritize responsibilities

Educators should make a list of the most important parts of their day and figure out what to prioritize, says Lenz.

“This may mean that you give less work to your students than in previous years and emphasize the most important and meaningful assignments,” he says. “It may also mean that you forgo doing the laundry or dishes for the evening, so you can spend personal time with your family doing things like playing in the yard, baking cookies, or watching a movie together.”

Specifically, Lenz advises educators to work with the goal of doing one or two things well each day.  

“The rest just needs to be good enough,” he says. “Don’t try to solve the world’s problems—that is not your burden to bear.”

And when things don’t go as planned, Lenz notes the importance of being flexible and going with the flow. For example, educators can view having to adjust their teaching plans as opportunities to teach new things, or even to just slow down a bit.

Strengthen connections with others

Amid prioritizing tasks, teachers shouldn’t forget to spend time connecting with important people in their lives, Lenz explains.

“This situation calls for survival through unity,” he says.

Lenz recommends that educators make a point to do something good for another person each day. Maybe that means calling a friend who is lonely or sending a short email to families updating them on a student’s progress with remote learning.

“Even though you are busy with work and kids, it is extremely important to give to others—especially during times like this,” Lenz says.

Take time to regroup

The mood of educators will impact the mood of their students and, if they have them, educators’ own children.

“Both are acutely receptive of your own well-being,” Lenz says. “How you feel is likely going to influence how they feel.”

Lenz stresses the importance of self-care activities like short walks and breathing exercises.

“If you feel you are going in the wrong direction, take a step back and regroup,” he says. “If you feel anxious, they are likely to feel more anxious because of you.”

In particular, Lenz advocates taking a few moments each day to sit quietly and be still, only focusing on breathing and not reflecting on different thoughts from the day.

Maintain focus and energy

Keeping an eye on the big picture rather than the small details is vital for educators, says Lenz, as is focusing on the things they do have control over.

“Control what you can and don’t spend your energy worrying about things you cannot influence or control,” he says.

He also recommends that educators limit their time browsing social media and reading the news. They should watch and read “just enough” news to stay informed.

And throughout it all, Lenz says it’s vital for educators to maintain their moral values—and believe in something larger than themselves.

“Spirituality regardless of faith tradition is extremely important for well-being,” he says.

Tina Nazerian is a writer from Houston, TX. Her article “The Pandemic Pivot: The Impact of COVID-19 on Early Literacy Instruction” is available in our open-access issue of Literacy Today.

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