As educators, we are faced with the challenge of meeting the needs of our students and balancing the lives of our families. Moving all classes to an online format is new to all. Whether you are an online instructor or face to face in the classroom environment, there is a learning curve. The online instructors teaching face to face may have an advantage as they are accustomed to an online learning environment, but that does not mean this move has not come without its challenges. Face to face instructors are scrambling to provide the classroom environment in a new format that may be unfamiliar to them.
Self-care and management of work with your personal life is essential for your mental well-being during this challenging time. With the increase in work hours spent at home, it is important to create a work-life balance. There is not one right or perfect way to balance this time spent at home. For each person, it will look different as we all have various challenges that arise when working from our home environment.
There are several things to consider to help balance this time and not become overwhelmed.
Create a schedule for yourself and your students.
If you are continuing to hold online synchronous meetings, doing so at your regularly scheduled class time may work for you. Consider, though, if it is possible for your students. Changes in work schedules and having family and children at home may make this difficult or impossible for your students. Students with multiple families in school may not have the availability of a computer or online access during this time.
Recording meetings can help your students that are not available to still stay connected. There are various online formats that can make this possible and private. Be sure to let students know if they are being recorded so that they have the option of being on camera or staying private. While it is nice to see your students and interact with them, they may not feel comfortable being “filmed.”
Record online lectures ahead of time.
Pre-recording lectures allows students to listen at their own pace when they have time to focus and learn. If you use PowerPoint, this can be easily done side by side. By recording one side at a time, you have the flexibility to erase and rerecord slides at your convenience. You can expand and be detailed on content that may be more challenging for students. This is a great opportunity to provide examples to support the material and share personal stories. It also gives students your presence without being in a face-to-face classroom environment.
Flexibility is key.
Students are going to face challenges that they would not have without this pandemic. Flexibility in your due dates will make life easier for you as the instructor and for your students. It is important to still have due dates, but offer some leeway. For example, I have not posted that students can turn assignments in late, however, I have students reach out on a regular basis asking for more time due to their personal circumstances. This has happened more frequently since moving online. I feel that it is important to be flexible and show students that we understand how challenging this can be. Not all students are online students. Students that sign up for a face-to-face class do so because that is the best environment for them to learn in. Understanding and flexibility take the pressure off of them and you when it comes time to grade. This is not an ideal circumstance for anybody. Just as you are doing the best you can, your students are as well.
Don’t be afraid to make yourself unavailable at certain times.
As the instructor, you need a break, too. Unwind with your favorite book, movie, TV show, take a walk, play a game with your family, or just have some quiet time to yourself. Your overall physical, emotional, and mental health should be your main concern (Sanflippo, 2020). It is important not to overwork yourself. This can increase susceptibility to illness and stress, as well as prevents you from getting better, possibly causing you to take more days off in the future (Sanflippo, 2020). In the schedule you create yourself, build things in that you enjoy. This will help you keep some time to yourself where you can separate from work and focus on your well-being. “Prioritizing your health doesn't have to consist of radical or extreme activities. It can be as simple as daily meditation or exercise” (Sanflippo, 2020, p. 3).
Due to the pandemic that is facing the United States and abroad, we have all had to face new challenges and change the structure of our life. Sometimes we fall into a rut and feel as if our habits are set in stone (Lee, 2014). You may have become overwhelmed with work and feel that there is no escape. You are in charge of your time. Be realistic with what you are capable of and have fun with your students in online meetings. Showing off pets, children, etc., can lighten the mood and help your students to relax. Laugh with them, cry with them, whatever you and they need to make it through this time.
Lee, D. J. (2014, October 20). 6 Tips For Better Work-Life Balance
. Retrieved from Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/deborahlee/2014/10/20/6-tips-for-better-work-life-balance/#3d4a747629ff
Sanflippo, M. (2020, March 03). How to Improve Your Work-Life Balance Today
. Retrieved from Business News Daily: https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/5244-improve-work-life-balance-today.html