Nobody knows what the new school year will look like. Here are 10 things you can do to be ready for all possibilities.
If you're a teacher reading this, I'm going to tell you something you already know. Teachers are planners. Does anyone else remember filling out "Reflective Teaching Logs" when you were in college? These logs felt like such a waste of time while I was filling them out, but now I realize that they were preparing us for what teachers do each and every day. As we teach a lesson, we're mentally preparing for how to make this lesson better the next time we teach it. We do this each and every day with little things, but even more with big things, like setting routines and procedures. Halfway through a school year I have already made decisions that "Next year I'm going to do this differently next year." Before we finish one school year, we've already begun planning the next school year, and we spend a good part of our summer preparing (mentally and with new resources) for these tweaks, updates and changes.
This year, thanks to Covid 19, is different because we don't know what to expect out of next year. Will we be back to distance learning? Will we be in our classrooms? Will we be working on a hybrid system? Will we be in and out of our classrooms and digital environments throughout the school year? I've read all the blog posts speculating what it can, should and will look like. However, the end result is that we don't know and all the speculation in the world isn't going to change that. All of the not knowing can be very stressful, and it can make it hard to make good use of this time when we normally prepare ourselves for next year. However, there are some things that we can do to prepare.
For the next 10 days, we're going to look at 10 things we can do this summer that will help us no matter the fall looks like. These are things that will help us be better teachers if next year is all distance learning, but they will also help us if next year is a return to what we've always done. Hopefully, they will also help us with everything in between. Because if we're being honest, it seems like most of us will land in the somewhere in between zone.
Below is a list of the things we can do. Each item on the list will be linked to the blog post explaining it (as soon as that post is published). In each blog post, I promise to include links to new tech tools you can check out, as well as at least 1 FREE resource you can download. So, if an item on the list is not currently linked to a blog post, come back tomorrow, because I will be linking one a day, and you won't want to miss the information I'm providing. Also, as an extra incentive to keep coming back, I will be hosting a June giveaway. (I'm so excited, I haven't done a giveaway in years!) At the bottom of each blog post, there will be a quick entry form for you to complete. I will be giving away a different distance learning bundle on each blog post, so that is 10 DIFFERENT distance learning bundles that you can possibly win, just by checking back on a daily basis. And to give everyone a chance to enter, I will leave the entry forms open until July 1st. On July 1st, I will randomly choose a winner for each of the 10 bundles and email the bundle you win directly to you.
So, here are 10 things that you CAN do this summer to be prepared for the 2020/2021 school year, no matter what it looks like:
1.) You can prepare a digital classroom.
2.) You can explore new technology tools.
3.) You can search out new resources that will work with in class learning AND digital learning.
4.) You can make a plan for improving parent communication.
5.) You can dig deep into your standards and your curriculum.
6.) You can create teaching videos.
7.) You can create reward systems that will work with in class learning AND digital learning.
8.) You can consider differentiation options.
9.) You can explore ways to find a balance between parental and teaching responsibilities.
10.) You can take time for self care.
Be sure you come back each day to find the linked blog posts, and the giveaway entry forms! What are you doing to prepare for next year?
What an stressful time it is to be a teacher! This is especially a stressful time for those of us who have been teaching for a long time. Those of us who know our routine and have figured out how to do this thing called teaching have just been thrown a serious monkey wrench in the form of distance learning expectations during this pandemic.
Personally, I teach in New Mexico. All schools here have been closed for the rest of the school year. This means that I will be teaching from home for the next 6 weeks, while managing the education of my own 3 kids (high school, middle school and elementary). Add this to the stress of the unknown that we are all suffering right now, and I know that I'm feeling the stress. I am sure you are too, so I created today's blog post to help all of us reduce our stress load at this challenging time.
Here are 10 tips to help teachers reduce the stress of this time:
1.) Build a routine/schedule: Routine is so important to reducing stress because routines give our body and brain a start and finish time. Additionally, having a routine or a schedule helps us to get more done and feel more successful, which is a definite stress reliever.
Your schedule doesn't have to be complex, but it should give you an overall breakdown of your day so that you can stay on task, remember to do things like eat lunch, and feel accomplished at the end of the day. Make sure that when you make your schedule, you give yourself a time for lunch, a time for connecting with other teachers, and a time to turn it all off at the end of the day.
2.) Take time to exercise and move - I'm a big fan of yoga, but honestly any time of movement is important right now. Exercise release endorphins which reduce stress. Our bodies normally get some stress relief by moving around our classrooms, walking the hallways of the school, talking with our colleagues, etc. Many of us additionally go to the gym. So right now we are missing a lot of movement and this is NOT the time to skip the exercise. Personally, I build my time right into my schedule. I need it in the morning to get me going. My husband prefers it at the end of the day, to wind him down. Wherever it works for you, be sure to take time to move.
3.) Make a plan for your own kiddos - One of the most challenging things about our current situation is that many of us are trying to work full time AND parent full time. As someone who used to home school and run a business, I'm here to tell you that this is challenging! But it's not impossible. The best thing to do is have a plan ready ahead of time (and then be prepared to tweak that plan each and every day).
My kiddos are bigger these days. My baby is 9 now, but when I was home schooling, he was 3 and I planned my life and work around nap times and Little Einstein videos. I would not allow any television before my online meetings, and then when I needed to be on the computer, he was more engaged in his show. I set up times where he and his brothers played together, and I would save certain toys that he really enjoyed for the times when I needed to be the most focused.
Now that my boys are bigger, they have a schedule that they have to follow (with a paper checklist for them to complete) and then they have expectations that have been clearly communicated for when mom is needing focused time. Having a plan ahead of time means we have less arguments and less of the "Mom, when are you going to be done?" conversation.
4.) Use tools your students are familiar with - Whenever we try a new technology tool, there is a certain learning curve that goes with it, so I always try to find the familiar for my kiddos. Most district are requiring new tools already, so try not to add to that too much. Instead, try to do what you've already done as much as possible. My kiddos were already using: Zearn, XtraMath, Prodigy, Freckle, Clever and Google Classroom (with Google Drive products). So as much as possible, I come back to these programs. I may use them in a new way, but by coming back to the familiar, I am reducing the stress level for the kids, which in turn reduces my stress level because they are more likely to be able to figure it all out. Also, I'm not having to stress out about finding all these new things to use.
If your kiddos weren't using a lot of technology before, think of ways that you can do what you were already doing with a tech tool. Were you using my paper tiling puzzles before? Then try using the digital format now. This way students will understand the biggest part of what you are asking them to do, and all they have to figure out is the digital component. Remember that new tasks cause stress, so stay with the familiar as much as possible.
5.) Use what other people have made - This is not the time to recreate the wheel. There's already so much to learn and to do. Take this opportunity lean on people like me who have tons of things available for you to download and use in your Google Classroom or other distance learning platforms. Here are some of the items I have ready for distance learning include:
- Digital Tiling Puzzles
- Internet Scavenger Hunts
- Teaching Power Points
This also includes working with other teachers in your school. This is the most important time to collaborate and use what your teammates have made. Share videos you have made, share resources you have found, share technology tricks you have figured out, and work together!
6.) Don't be afraid to video tape yourself - Synchronous learning activities like Zoom meetings are one of the leading causes of inequity in distance education. However, creating video lessons is a great way to teach because it allows us to truly talk to our students and model things the way we would do in our classrooms.
Many teachers are scared to video tape themselves, but this is a fear we will need to get over during this time. Your kiddos want to see you. Turn on your video camera and then forget it is there. Talk like you would to your kids. Show them what you would show them in class. And then post it. Don't go back and re-watch it if you don't need to edit it. It'll just add to your stress. But I promise you, once you post that video and your kids see that you are still with them, their stress will go down. And so will yours.
7.) Over communicate with your parents - It's always been important to communicate clearly with our parents. But now it's even more important because they are the ones having the actual face to face communication with the kiddos. They are the ones setting the routine and schedule at home. They are the first ones to help when the kids get stuck. So part of our job now is to make sure that the parents understand how to log in, how to help kiddos, how to turn in assignments, how to get questions to us, etc. etc. etc. If we are clear in communicating our expectations with our parents, they will be able to support the kiddos, which will decrease the stress of the the kids, the parents, and US.
8.) Don't try to overdo it - There are so many amazing technology tools out there, that it's really easy to want to try it all at once. You can't. You'll stress out your students. You'll stress out their parents, and you'll stress out yourself. Give yourself some grace and don't overdo it.
9.) Allow yourself to use your phone and other portable devices - I have heard many of my teacher friends say "I've sat in front of my computer for hours!" Teachers don't normally sit for that long, so this causes stress for many of us. One of the ways that I reduce my hours in front of the computer is to download the apps to my phone. Google Classroom, Google Drive, Remind, they all have apps and using them on my phone means that I can stay up on what my kids are doing or what questions my parents have, and still go out for a walk or check with my personal kiddos on their school work. Not being tied to my seat relieves a lot of my stress, and back pain too!
10.) Turn it all off at a reasonable hour - Just like you shouldn't stay at work all night, you shouldn't be at your computer all hours. When you would leave your classroom, close your computer, stop answering emails and turn the work mode off. Go outside. Check in with your spouse. Call a friend. Have a glass of wine. Watch your shows. Working from home requires us to be responsible for saying "My hours are up." and not letting work take over our entire life. It is okay to turn your computer off and step away, just like it's okay to go home from school at a normal time. We need to use this opportunity to force ourselves to find a work/life balance.
Do you have something you're doing to relieve your stress level? Share that here so we can all help each other during this unprecedented time in education.
The new school year is beginning and all of that time we had for exercise over the summer is gone. So, how do we get exercise in during the work week? Here are a few suggestions I have used.
1.) Try getting up 30 minutes early. This one is difficult for me, because I LOVE to hit the snooze button. But, when I do succeed to get up early and do a quick workout before work, the entire rest of the day runs better. I have more energy and I’m much more alert. Plus, I get to take a shower after my workout and end up feeling much more refreshed.
2.) Park 20 minutes away from your school. If you can get up early, but don’t love to spend that time doing an aerobics video or crunches, leave for work early but park farther away from your school. I tend to park in a grocery store parking lot or somewhere else where I feel my car will be okay during the day. Then, walk or jog the rest of the distance to work. The bonus to this technique is that you will have the same walk or jog at the end of the day, doubling your workout by default!
3.) Start out your day with number aerobics. Get your kids in the act! When I taught first grade, we started out each day with number aerobics. The kids worked on counting and groups of ten while getting their giggles out andwaking up. Meanwhile, I did all of the motions with them and raised my heartbeat a bit each morning. Feel free to download my number aerobics poster for free from Google Docs.
4.) Use aerobics or yoga for brain breaks. Kids stop and stretch or stomp to get their brains going, but do you? Join in on those brain breaks and reap some of the workout benefits from it. Some of my favorite brain breaks are 2 minutes worth of jumping jacks or seeing who can hold down dog or plank the longest. Kids get some exercise and a bit of a break and guess what, so do you!
5.) Play tag with the kids at recess. I truly don’t know how kids play tag non-stop every day at recess. However, I do know that running around with them gets my heartbeat up and builds my stamina. I still can’t run for twenty minutes straight like my kids can, but exercise is exercise. The kids also love having an involved teacher so this helps you to build relationships too.
6.) Crunch after lunch. Got a duty free lunch? What does that really mean? For me it was 10 minutes to eat, 5 minutes to go to the bathroom and 10 minutes to socialize or pretend I was going to get some work done. In those final 10 minutes, you could get a lot of crunches in. Take 10 minutes and get in as many different crunches as you can. Find a partner who wants to crunch with you, or just enjoy a quiet, dark classroom to get in a quick 10 minute crunch break.
7.) Do a workout video in your classroom before heading home. There are amazing videos out there to help you get a good workout. Unfortunately, by the time I get home, the last thing I want to do after picking up kids and fighting traffic is start a workout. So instead, take a half an hour to get that exercise out of the way – and increase your energy – as you walk out the door to go to your second job (wife, mother, housemaker, etc.)
8.) Go running with friends directly after school. Don’t like workout videos? Get a friend and go out for a walk, jog or run as soon as your official duties have completed.
9.) Start a school running club. Many kids need exercise as much as we do. Start a running club for kids afterschool and have a great excuse to keep you – and your students – in shape.
10.) Stretch while you cook. Cooking dinner often takes up a bulk of my evening. However, at least half of that time is downtime. You’re waiting for something to boil, bake, brown, etc. While I am waiting, I have taken to doing random yoga and aerobics moves: leg lifts, squats, standing yoga poses, etc. I probably don’t get a full workout, but if I’ve done at least one other thing on this list, this makes me feel like I’ve had a complete workout. It also keeps me from checking work e-mail while I cook, which is what I used to do with that downtime.
Hope some of these tips will help you to continue to stay in shape this school year!
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