Month: March 2020

Groundhog Day and Quicksand: Overwhelmed After Two Weeks of Distance Learning

As some teachers are about to officially begin their continuity of education plans and some of us about about to enter into our third week of distance learning, or some name thereof, I feel that the emotion that I have battled most for two weeks was the feeling of being overwhelmed.

For me, the most stressful time of the school year had been the first weeks of school.  There would be level of wanting everything to be just perfect, long hours each day trying to learn about your new students, setting up locker tags to make students feel comfortable, answering questions, and never really knowing where the next meeting invite would come from.

After experiencing two weeks of virtual learning, the emotions that I personally have experienced have been very similar.  You think that you have a handle on what the next day is going to look like and you may even have a task list ready to go.  But, here comes the next Zoom invite.  Here comes the next e-mail that will “just take a few seconds to respond to”, so you go to it and put down what you had been working on.  Here comes that time when you sit down to relax and a student reaches out with an email.  This has been the new first two weeks of school, when hours of when teaching time ends and when family time begins. 

My own lists have gotten continually longer each day, and no matter what I complete, I replace a task with two more.  It is a mix of the movie Groundhog Day and the feeling of running in quicksand. Having two children of my own learning at home has certainly compounded this, but, the first thing to be crossed off my list to manage tasks has been diet and exercise.  Although essential to mental health, it is just too easy to say “I’ll deal with that later.”

So how have I started to manage this feeling of being overwhelmed:

  • Get outside and exercise.  Even it is raining.  Write it down on your list. Do it.
  • This weekend, I decided to put my phone away for the day.  Let that e-mail go.  Let that text go for a little bit.  It will be there when you get back.  Find some time to do something you enjoy.
  • Make lists.  This is easy, right?  But, visually, this has been important to me to actually see that I’ve been making progress on getting things done.
  • Attempt to set up a virtual meeting with your students.  That single hour that I spent doing that this week was an hour of normalcy and routine that I missed.  Students laughed.  I laughed.  It was great.  If you can set these up, go for it.

What’s on for this week?

We will be starting our full-time flexible instruction for the next few weeks, and I’m sure some new challenges will present themselves.  And, if you are just getting started in your own distance learning program, I hope you have a great start.

-Joe

The New Normal: Focusing on Teacher Mental Health in the Age of COVID-19

When I remember walking into my first classroom with my first class 13 years ago, I was assigned a mentor teacher, had colleagues that had offered advice on the challenges that I may soon face, and there seemed to be a “playbook” with how approach those early teaching experiences.

With the onset of the new normal in teaching created by the COVID-19 Pandemic and with so many educators shifting to some kind of distance or virtual learning, our students, families, and schools are trying to quickly adjust.  But, I think it is also important to recognize that we as educators are also going to have to work through some things that have nothing to do with the content that we teach.  Inherently, I think what drives us to be teachers are forming those personal connections with our students and our colleagues, to support each other, and to overcome challenges for the betterment of others.  But, just like we faced down some insecurity and anxiousness during those very first days and weeks of our teaching career, we again are going to have to do it all over again.  I have already heard from so many about the level of worry and stress increasing, so I wanted to focus on teacher mental health and share some unfiltered, “real” experiences that I am facing in the hopes that others know that these feelings are normal and there are some tools to overcoming them.  So, here we go into this unknown, but, I am going to be journaling my experiences each week, sharing what challenges I’m facing, but also what experiences there are to overcome them to maintain some degree of mental health normalcy in our minds.

I look forward to sharing what I am experiencing and I hope you will share as well!

-Joe