For many of us, March 13, 2020 is a date we will be able to clearly and easily recall for years to come. I remember speaking to a mom at pick-up and telling her, “Oh, we’ll be back after spring break.” Then, I remember telling her First Grader that he would likely not go to Chuck E. Cheese during these days off, but we would all be together again soon. When I got home, I told my own kids that we would need to be learning at home for “a few days.” I had no idea Illinois’ would maintain Remote Learning for the rest of the school year.
I was in for a ride, as we all were, and it has been physically and mentally exhausting. Yes, as educators we are creatures for adapting to change. We adopt new curriculum, policies, and teaching tools when we are told it is necessary. But, as we flex to meet needs at school, many of us are able to leave school daily and have control of our home. Now, things have changed—of course they have—I’ve never used that verb so much! Not only are we experiencing the changes in our schools from our homes, but we are also experiencing the changes in our day-to-day home lives. All this change is hitting us at once and there is no escape. We are becoming fatigued from change.
Regardless of how amazing your school leaders are with change management, life-altering moments this dramatic can come with a feeling of apathy, resignation, loss of focus, and loss of energy. You may have students who started off strong with the completion of E-Learning assignments in March who are now beginning to fade off the radar in May. People experiencing this amount of instability can flip out with the smallest changes, become combative, and irrational. (And here is where my own colleagues are looking directly at me and shaking their heads.) Hey, it happens to the best of us! We just need to remember to bounce back from it.
Here are Some Ways to Do That
Take Time to Tune Out
Social media is something that we turn to for information and entertainment. Yes, watching a couple of Tik Tok videos (and perhaps making them) is a great way to relieve stress, but use your social media wisely for your mental health. Your Facebook or Twitter feed might not be what you want to be reading if you are anxious or flustered. We need a break from the terms “Covid-19,” “CoronaVirus,” “social distance,” and Pandemic. Have a scheduled time where you do an activity and can unplug. For an hour in the evening, I try to read a book, do an art activity, or play a board game. You really need time away from the internet and screens.
Turn Your School Email Notifications & Communication Apps *Off* After Office Hours
I’m all for being accommodating to parents and families. But at least in some parts of your day, turn your email and app notifications off. Turn them completely off. You want to have a clear mind to be able to lesson plan and work with your students throughout the day. Also, a mistake I have made is to read and answer school emails from colleagues at times where I was feeling flustered or down about this whole ordeal. You may not want to deal with the aftermath of your response later.
Don’t Always Worry About Being Productive!
Binge on Netflix when you need a break or chill on lawn furniture with a cold drink. It’s okay! Sleep in on weekends, no one will judge you. In our lives, we’re used to fast pace-—going to our workouts, taking our kids to different activities, going to the grocery store, and all of our various appointments. Take time to sit, have your groceries delivered, and relax. Not being able to “live our lives” is frustrating, but we have an opportunity to relax on a weekend. Take a break when you need it
Find Something that “Pumps You Up”
Mentally, we feel at a loss because some of us don’t even know how we will start the next school year or what our role will look like in the future. Find something that energizes you about your work. I write. Blogging energizes me and helps me clear my head about issues pertaining to work and the pandemic. I know we say thinking about work can cause fatigue, but a lot of us became teachers and administrators because our work energizes us. Think about the amazing things you can do for kids now and the amazing things you will do for kids after this is over. Join like-minded educators at this year’s HIVE to brainstorm ways to energize your students in your classroom when you are back.
The constant change can be exhausting in these times, but don’t let it affect you, your family, or your students. It’s okay to take a breather or get pumped up about a future idea. Why not? Doing this can actually help you recharge your batteries for more creative distance learning and also bring the thunder to your classroom when we are all ready to get back to our schools. Relax. We’re all riding this storm!
Sources For Further Reading:Center For Disease Control Advice on Coping with Stress in A Pandemic
Managing Covid-19 Anxiety
Children Dealing with Change During the Pandemic
Sarah Said is the Director of Language and Equity Programs at an EL Education School in the Chicago Suburbs. In her role, she oversees support programs for Multilingual Learners, works with others to create a community that fosters success for students from the diverse communities her school serves, helps strengthen school to community outreach, and coordinates Title grants. In the past, she has been a Director of ELL, Dean and Curriculum Coordinator. In addition to her role in her building, she is a contributor for ELL Confianza and has written a variety of blog posts online. She is a member of the #ELLChat and #ELLchat_bkClub where she helps advocate for Multilingual Learners.