Remember those days in the classroom when you thought, “I have friends who work from home. Wouldn’t that be nice?” Well, here you go! COVID-19 is giving you a chance to try it out.
No doubt, there are some upsides to working from home. Depending on how your school is structuring learning, you may have a more flexible day. Your daily commute was just cut to zero. While there will be different kinds of management challenges, you won’t be faced with worries about kids tussling in the corner during transitions or one student melting down and stopping learning for everyone. That will feel less stressful.
On the other hand, there are all kinds of new challenges you may face. You might feel isolated from your school friends and colleagues. You’ll miss the daily playful interactions with students. It might be hard to manage your time—after all, just like your students, you’re used to living by a bell. It may be hard to get in as much daily movement, and snacks in the cupboard are so easy to access.
When I made the switch from classroom teaching to working from home, I struggled with many of these same things. Here are some things I learned along the way that you might find helpful.
Create a Schedule
If you’re not careful, days at home can slide by, and you can feel so unproductive! Create a schedule for yourself to give some structure to your day. This schedule will also allow you to set times when you won’t be working, because that’s also a danger. It can be easy to sit at the computer all day and never stop. Build in times for exercise, eating well, connecting with friends and family, and having some downtime. Leverage your most productive time of the day to do your most challenging work. Save easier work for times when you’re more tired.
Practice Healthy Habits
- Carve out time to exercise. At least for now, outside exercise is being recommended as a way to stay healthy during this crisis. Build it into your schedule and stick with it!
- Avoid junky snacks. It can be so hard not to snack more when you’re working from home. After all, the fridge and the cupboard are right there! Have plenty of fruits and veggies (cut them up ahead of time to make them easier to eat spontaneously) on hand. If you have junky snacks (chips, cookies, candy, etc.) in your home, put them in hard to reach places so they’re not right on hand when you get the munchies.
- Eat a real breakfast. Get some protein. Fill up on healthy fuel to get your day off to the right start. Here are some quick and healthy breakfast ideas recommended by teachers.
- Hydrate healthfully. Avoid sipping soda, juice, or other high-sugar drinks throughout the day. (Did you know that 4 grams of sugar is about a teaspoonful? Check out the nutrition label of your next sports drink and do some quick computation. You might be surprised!) Instead, try water, herbal tea, seltzer, or other healthy drinks.
- Limit your news intake. When working from home, it’s way too easy to have the TV news on too much. It’d way too easy to check news sites on your phone or computer. If this is stressing you out, give yourself a couple of times to check the news and avoid it the rest of the day.
Social isolation can be tough as you work from home. Especially since teachers are so used to be constantly surrounded by other people, after a few days of working from home, you can start to get pretty lonely. Here are a few ways to stay connected.
- Join a Twitter chat to talk with other educators about a topic you care about.
- Join a FaceBook group or page. (Might I suggest one all about teacher health and balance?)
- Start an online book club with colleagues.
- Use Skype, Zoom, or another online platform to co-plan and/or connect with teammates from school.
Take on New Learning or a Fun Project
One of the advantages of working from home is the potential to structure some of your own work in ways you can’t do when tied to a strict school schedule. Is there something you’ve been itching to do that you haven’t had time to start? Check out some ideas below. Would any of these tap into your needs for autonomy and productivity? Would they be exciting and fun?
- Design a new unit—you know that one you keep thinking about and have never had time to design…
- Write a blog or start working on a book—don’t worry about writing well…just write
- Take an online course—(If you’re interested, I just released my first one. Click here to check out Boosting Motivation in Your Classroom.)
- Start working on a professional portfolio
- Collect awesome resources about a topic you’re curious about—it might be for students, parents, colleagues, or yourself
- Apply to present at an upcoming conference—share something cool you do with the broader education community
- Learn how to use a technology platform or program you’ve been wanting to try
These are a just a few ideas of ways you can take care of yourself as you work from home during these crazy days. To explore more ideas for teacher health and balance, you might check out this book: The Well-Balanced Teacher. You might also explore this LiveBinder of free resources.