Prepping for the long haul & preventing teacher burn-out

Teaching and learning around the world is rapidly transforming to online and distance learning models. Never before has teaching and learning seen such a quick and rapid change as in the past few weeks. Teachers, who have taught in traditional face-to-face settings, are quickly adapted to digital learning scenarios. Worksheets are being digitized and tests moved online, lessons recorded and online resources shared like never before.

Now with the first few weeks behind us and the greatest crisis over, it’s time to pause and take stock. Covid-19 is not going away and we’re likely going to be here for some time. How do we make online teaching and ALL our reserves last through to whatever end there maybe?

Doomsday Preppers and Teaching Online

These days I imagine how the Doomsday Preppers are sniggering at the rest of us. Imagine walking past their bunker with your shopping trolley of longlife milk and toilet paper. They’d be kitted to the hilt and prepped for the long haul, shooting the breeze and knowingly smiling at you pushing the rickety shopping cart with the wonky wheel after a frantic masked-up buying spree. They prepped for the long-haul and are ready to tackle this crisis with very different skills than the rest of us. 

This is obviously tongue in cheek, but thinking about our preparation as teachers is critical. We need to survive in the long run and may even thrive with our learners on the other ends of screens and WhatsApp messages, if we make sure we prep for the long haul. 

This blog explores some ideas to help teachers prep and keep going for the day when we can enjoy the laughter and noise of our classrooms and embrace our learners in all their splendorous mischief once again.

Leap-frog the test drive and discover phase

Everett Rogers tells us that the earlier adopters and innovators of online learning have been preparing for years. They’ve been working to transform their learning.  They are the 2.5% and 13.5% on the graph.  Each day since lock downs have rippled across the globe, more teachers have joined this group and transformed learning in many respects. Where are you on the trend line?

It helps to know where you are on Everett’s curve because it helps you figure out where to find help. Early adopters and innovators are the ones to call on right now. They have tested the many thousands of innovations that are out there. They have test-driven and proofed, retried and evaluated.

Now is not the time to test-drive hundreds of new tools or to spend hours discovering different ways to do things. Find some early adopters or innovators who have walked this path before you. There are many online. Listen to them. Let them help you to leap-frog through the test-drive and discover phases and focus on what works.

Image from Wikimedia Commons
Team Limina have purposefully published curated resources in our blogs to help you leap-frog and will continue to do so.  Scroll through our previous blog entries to help you focus and quickly find the right tools for the job. You can also follow us on your socials to get the latest blog posts and teaching strategies.

Emotional Fatigue

Teachers and learners are in an emotionally challenging context. It certainly is not business as usual for anyone. The emotional burden of worry and anxiety over loved ones in harm’s way, or the world as a whole imploding is ever present no matter how much we try to avoid the issue or keep ourselves constantly busy.

The battlefield from a century ago compared to ours today is very different. A century ago, the war was for many at ‘the front’ with women and children tucked away at home or supporting the war effort in different ways. Today the war rages in every home, in every community. In isolation the war is not just physical against this virus but mental, a battlefield of the mind.

As lock down conditions extend we need to emotionally prepare for the long haul. The first step is recognising that it’s no longer a question of IF but of WHEN the lock downs around the world will be extended. Living with the constant hope that we’ll be out of our homes in 14 days only sets us up for the doldrums.

Facing the reality that this is probably not going to be the case prepares us emotionally for a far longer journey than we expected and one for which we need to emotionally anchor ourselves and our loved ones.

It means saying we cannot control what happens in the world, we cannot control what happens outside our doors, but we can take control of what happens in our minds and overcome the battlefield there.

What does this mean? It means pacing our panic, anxiety and fears. These negative emotions are like the energy surges a long-distance athlete needs for the sprints or the hills in the race. Take control of your emotional energy and spend it where and when you choose.

How do you do this? Put the news on pause. Limit how much and what you view or read each day. Then filter which information from specific sources you allow into your space. Choose to listen to reputable sources. Stay off Facebook or online chat sites where two minutes in your panic and anxiety is spiking at sky-high levels. Remember, almost everyone else there is panicked and scared too, so it’s not the best place to find peace and calm. Rather stick to official news sites where you get the facts and can make informed choices from this.

Preventing Burnout

The learning curve for almost everyone in education the past few weeks has been astounding. Teachers who have taught for years in face-to-face settings are learning to make videos and posting these online. Others are dusting off Google Classroom skills or finding out how to share Word Docs as worksheets. Teachers are having to learn faster than their learners.

At the same time, teachers are at home with their own families. The little ones are playing around and missing out on mom or dad time because let’s face it, it TAKES HOURS to make online resources!

Then there’s the online support for learners as they start engaging with the resources. You’re juggling your own children’s needs while talking to your class and their parents who want to know how to this or that or the other thing, or where can they find the worksheet you said you uploaded (but you forgot to) and you’re thinking about the next videos you need to make to send over for the lessons tomorrow.

When you notice your email and WhatsApp inboxes start filling up with memes, comments and questions from family and friends. Your colleague groups from school seems to never sleep. The principal is always posting messages you’re not sure which you are supposed to do or which he only posts as ideas or suggestions so you just do them all. It feels like your phone that you could once forget about, now lives in your hand.

Burn-out is a very real danger and probably one of the greatest risks in the long run. The overload of information from all sources can be overwhelming and as the days turn into weeks it can all become too much.

Teachers who were used to working in classrooms during school hours and being contacted by parents, colleagues and learners during this time, are now working all hours and can be contacted almost 18 hours a day. The virtual noise seems to be a constant companion. Here are some tips to deal with it.

Taking Control is as much about taking care

Taking control goes hand-in-hand with a pedagogy of care. Everywhere around us people are struggling to get through their days. Loneliness is rife in an era of connectedness and even though our lives might be busy beyond what we could imagine, the lives of our loved ones and friends, our learners and their families, our colleagues and their loved ones are in turmoil.

We need to care for ourselves if we are to care for everyone else. We need to place Maslow before Bloom for a long while. Teachers have always been the anchors in society, the leaders who have set the pace. We can work longer hours and make miracles happen. We can do so in the most dire of circumstances. We can do so because we never thought we couldn’t.

The circumstances the world faces today needs every ounce of our teacher-ness to be as ready as ever. We need to set the tone for hope. We need to set the agenda for changing the world and teaching the world how we’ve always known it can be. Our pedagogy of care can and will succeed where greed and corruption have failed.

As our planet is slowly breathing again and taking control of the air and water, we have a chance to take control of our time. We can control how we choose to care for ourselves, our learners and our future. The heart of a teacher is a heart of hope that no matter how bad a day was, tomorrow is new and fresh and filled with possibilities. Let’s prepare to make the long-haul an incredible success.

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