Whether you’re familiar with the popular TV series Schitt’s Creek or not, you’ve probably seen the viral video that’s going around right now. It’s a short clip from season 2, episode 2 where mother and son duo, David and Moira, attempt to cook a family meal together. In the scene, Moira instructs David to “fold in the cheese.” Neither of them knows what that means but Moira continues to instruct David to, “just fold it in.” In this viral video, Mora represents the Department of Education while David represents teachers in the US. Teachers can relate to the feelings David had as he was being told what to do, but not how to do it. Much like during the rise of virtual learning.

Being a teacher means being resilient. Managing a classroom full of kids, no matter what grade, can be a hard task. Once the pandemic hit, teachers were ripped from their normal teaching methods and routines to go online. Seemingly overnight, they had to change everything they’ve ever known about teaching. And they had to do it all on their own. Now, instead of their normal challenges, someone can’t connect to wireless, a pdf isn’t downloading, or they have to change a password for the 12th time in three months. With so much change, it can be hard for teachers to keep up and manage the stress that comes with this change.

Teachers Are Having to Plan Curriculum Around New Software

Those who have been teaching for many years are having a difficult time adapting to online learning. They’re also considering retiring early. In education, changes are generally progressive and not immediate. However, that’s not the case now. Whether you’ve been teaching for 15 years or 2 years, learning and adapting to a new curriculum overnight is not an easy task.

Virtual Classrooms

One of the biggest adaptions teachers have had to make is learning different software in order to stay connected with their students. Instead of only inputting grades for parents to see, they are now inputting worksheets, tests, busywork, and more. Most college professors are familiar with these types of programs, such as Canvas or Blackboard, but this is a completely new area for elementary, middle, and high school instructors. Now they have to write bios, schedule virtual meetings, and learn how to have class time via instruction board.

Finding New Ways to Keep Students Engaged

In college, young adults understand how to keep themselves engaged and focused on their schoolwork. Deadlines are valued a lot more and introducing themselves in 2 paragraphs isn’t hard. But for kids between the ages of 6 and 18, this is new territory. Not only is it hard to feel like you’re getting a genuine educational experience through a computer monitor, but you’re not in class with your friends and getting around the clock guidance like you would in a traditional learning environment. For elementary and middle school teachers, this can be especially challenging. In some school systems, educators are being given a grace period of around 2 weeks to only focus on building those connections with their students.

The given curriculum by the state that teachers receive is difficult to mold into a remote learning environment. Changing the curriculum overnight means coming up with new activities on the fly. How do you get a classroom of 3rd graders to learn about tectonic shifts when you aren’t using graham crackers and marshmallow fluff for a more hands-on experience? This is just one of the many challenges our educators are facing right now.

Immediate Access Does Not Mean Immediate Answers

Having 24/7 access to the internet allows anyone to get the answers they need, when they need it. With school moving all online, the mentality of some parents and caregivers hasn’t changed from the usual 24/7 access. While it’s nice that parents, caregivers, and children have access to platforms where they can message, email, or call their teachers whenever they have a question, it’s putting extra strain on the teacher. Immediate access does not always mean immediate answers.

Just like in the regular, in-person school experience, teachers and parents work together to schedule 1:1 meetings to discuss their child’s performance. Office hours are always clearly outlined, giving educators structure and the ability to designate when they are open to questions. With online learning, it can feel like that access is now whenever. It’s important for parents and teachers to discuss healthy boundaries and guidelines for reaching out for help. This can often make teachers feel guilty about saying no, but it’s an important step in persevering a well-balanced home to work life.

Teachers Are Putting Their Own Kids on Hold for Their School Kids

For teachers who have kids of their own, this time can be especially challenging. Not only are they running a classroom of 20+ kids all from their computer, but they’re also having to help your own kid get their classwork and homework done. Daycare is limited and not always an option for some parents. While some schools allow teachers to take their kids with them to their classroom to work, that doesn’t mean they’re able to help them. A teacher’s child becomes their second priority as the work and time that they’re putting into their virtual classroom doesn’t leave much room for helping them out. In some cases, teachers are even resigning so they can stay home to teach their own kids because the demands of running a classroom are too high.

Tips for Teachers: How to Take Care of Your Mental Health

It doesn’t appear that the era of virtual learning will be ending anytime soon. With the school year just starting, here are some mindful ways teachers can start relieving stress and taking care of their mental health:

  • Eat a full breakfast, as part of your morning routine, before starting your work. You’ll be full, focused, and more energized.
  • Plan ahead as much as you can. Accompany lesson plans with a personal goal tracker. Not only will you be able to manage time at work, but your time at home, too.
  • Ask for help when you need it. Your fellow teachers and staff are all going through the same thing right now. Lean on each other to get your work done (and stay sane).
  • Get in daily exercise. Walk around your neighborhood or your school’s field during your lunch break or in between meetings.
  • Don’t feel the need to be a perfectionist. Things are going to keep changing, accidents are bound to happen. Remember to just go with the flow. Parents will be understanding as they are also trying to keep up with changes.
  • Try to chunk your tasks instead of multitasking. If you’re inputting grades, don’t also try to schedule 1:1s with parents. Focus on grading and inputting grades first and then move on to scheduling.
  • Play music that keeps you energized and focused while you work. Working alone can be hard, especially when you’re used to a classroom full of kids.

Just remember that this is new for everyone. Don’t beat yourself up if something doesn’t go perfectly. Everything you’re doing is to help better enrich the lives of your students! And they know that you have their best interest in mind.

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Madison Bambini

Madison Bambini is a Communications Coordinator at Thriveworks. She received her bachelor's degree from VCU in mass communications, focusing on digital journalism and broadcast journalism. She also minored in gender, sexuality, and women's studies. Coupled with her love for writing, Madison enjoys producing content that is inclusive, empowering, and promotes the importance of mental health.

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