Coping with COVID: View from the Outside of a Classroom

To be an effective teacher in these difficult times, teachers have to not only bone up on new technology and brand new methods of instruction delivery, but also need to take care of themselves physically and emotionally. Monica, TeacherVision's new Head of Content and Curriculum, shares some tips on how to take care of yourself so you can take care of your students.

Coping with COVID as a teacher

As the new Head of Content and Curriculum for TeacherVision, I have been mulling over topics to tackle. To learn more about me, click here. Two years out of the classroom has given me time to reflect but after a decade in the classroom, there are many memories that still inhabit my consciousness. When I left in 2018, not only was the teaching world in a different place, the entire world was in a different place. In my experience in teaching middle school, it used to be as October was winding down and November was gearing up, teachers started getting tired. After the honeymoon of the first month to 6 weeks of school faded, teachers faced the day-to-day reality of life in a buzzing classroom with tens to hundreds of students coming in and out, chatting, working, and most of all, learning! But, that was in a “normal” school year…

“I Think I Can, I Think I Can…”?

By this time this year, teachers are already exhausted. With heads reeling from new technologies, new PD around instruction delivery, and staff meetings crammed with constantly changing information and schedules, the teacher mantra has probably shifted more to “I hope I can???” In 2020, has the fable gone from “The Little Engine that Could” to “The Lone Teacher that MIGHT”?! It’s at least nice to know that you are in the same boat with teachers around the country (and world), but that still doesn’t necessarily make you feel like it’s all going to be alright! 

More Work or Less Sanity--or BOTH?

Have your days actually gotten shorter, or does it just feel that way? Time literally just fast-forwarded with Daylight Savings going into effect but it’s also that your workload has likely increased if you are juggling an in-school cohort of students and a remote one, making it feel like you have two discrete curricula to plan, manage, and try to keep afloat. Add to that the glitches you may be experiencing with all the technology you’ve had to adopt and implement, and you may want to run away to the circus or hibernate for the winter...

In my humble opinion (and I spent over a decade in the classroom), teachers are more guilty than any other occupation when it comes to self-maintenance.  There’s a reason that these people go into teaching in the first place--they are empaths, nurturers and altruists, and that’s why they care. But, sometimes they care more for their students than they do themselves, which makes them feel spent by the middle of the year because they have planned, corrected, and taught their hearts out. Compound that with a seemingly endless nagging fear of students or their own family members getting sick with COVID and the roller coaster of hybrid or remote learning that they can't get off of, and you start to feel an iota of the emotions that teachers are experiencing daily.

Calm the Chaos

I found that it was these times that you would band together the most with your colleagues in the teachers’ lounge or after school, and vent. Talking things through would usually make it better and reinforce that teachers are in it together. Coming from the secondary level, this was cemented by the fact that we actually taught in teams but even if you teach elementary school, you should remind yourself that your colleagues are there and it’s OK to rely on them for advice and comfort, more so now than ever before.  Stress, anxiety, and depression are rampant in the age of COVID-19, so it’s critical that you find your own outlets to burn off some steam, and frequently. . .Otherwise it’s all a recipe for disaster--for your students and yourself.

It’s important to remember that there are a number of resources or activities that you can engage in that can put you in a better mental “space” beyond the confines of your school or home classroom:

  • Arrange for you and your colleagues to attend a yoga class -- many yoga studios have been offering outdoor classes during the pandemic, or some are even hosting them on Zoom!
  • Have an online tea party with your coworkers or other teaching friends -- virtual happy hours have become a great way to connect with others, especially if you are teaching 100% remotely online and pining for some adult interaction!
  • There are a slew of apps now designed to calm you down in times of stress (some of which have been offered for free during the pandemic), such as Calm, Breethe, Headspace, or BetterHelp.
  • An often neglected benefit offered by most insurance companies is the Employee Assistance Program, which offers confidential counseling services on the phone or online anytime you need it.

So, Rewrite Your Mantra

Unfortunately, we know that life does not resemble a fable, especially in our present situation. . .So the best you can do for yourself and your students is try to stay healthy - wear your mask, disinfect, and most importantly, tend to your own emotional needs during this difficult and unnerving time. 

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