“When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
– Isaiah 43:2 NIV
As of last week, schools here in Michigan have been closed to face-to-face instruction for the remainder of the school year. With this new reality comes a host of emotions that we feel for ourselves and our students. We grieve about the students whose family members have lost work, students unable to receive the two meals a day that they would normally get during the school hours, and we worry about the health and safety of our students, families, and our own loved ones.
Throughout all of the uncertainty and emotions we might be feeling right now, it is important that we focus on how we can be the best that we can be for our families, and our students each day. Although instruction and family time might look different, we can help ourselves and our students thrive as we navigate the remainder of the school year.
Put On Your Own Mask First
In order to be the best that we can be for our students and their families during this difficult time, we must ensure that we are taking care of ourselves and our own loved ones. There might be some teachers out there who have a lot of extra time right now and they are able to plan out some extravagant lesson plans for their students each day. Then there are others of us, like me, who are constantly tagging out with their spouse so the other can work for an hour at a time. There are others of us still where this virus has hit all to close to home. These folks have loved ones who are affected and potentially very ill. Teaching, while very important, is not the most important thing they are worried about right now.
We have to make sure that we are in a good place mentally, and emotionally as we enter this new adventure of virtual learning. It is important to take time throughout the day to recharge, get outside for some fresh air, maintain a routine, and support those in your life who need it. It is important also to monitor the information your are taking in each day. What you take in will affect how you think. Here is some good news!
Create a New Daily Routine
Now that my family and I are at home all of the time, the daily routines in our house are changed significantly. This is most likely true for you as well. One of the best ways to stay focused on what is important in our lives is to have a consistent routine that we follow each day. This routine gives us something to lean on and control as we see so much that is out of our control these days. Here are some things to consider when setting up your new daily routine for yourself and your family:
- Maintain a regular sleep schedule- Although it might sound tempting to stay up late binge watching Netflix every night, you will feel your best if you get the right amount of sleep consistently.
- Get out of those PJ’s!– Even if you do not feel like it, hop in the shower and get dressed for the day. You will feel a lot better when you do.
- Play outside– This is a great time to get outside. During your work day, plan on spending some time going for a walk, playing with your kids, or exercising.
- Consistent time and place for office hours– Plan out with your family or with your students what time you will be available to go to live meetings, planning time, and recording lessons as needed. These office hours should be carved out so that your own family knows that when you are in this place that you are working and that you are not neglecting them. This also provides your students clear times in which they can best reach you.
Keep It Simple and Consistent
In the last few weeks, there have been countless educational programs out there offering free programming for families for the remainder of the school year. This is great-if you have a device to work with. Screen time at home is also a concern when parents are either at work or trying to work from home. When delivering content to families, let’s keep it simple and consistent.
Many families have multiple children in a school and have become inundated with emails about what students should be doing so it is hard to keep it all straight! One way to make this meaningful is to create a virtual calendar for students. The best of all this is a free download from Teacher Pay Teachers. When you create this calendar, the students can look at the day, and then click on the link to find the content they are supposed to be working on for each subject area.
Maintain Communication With Families
Communication with families will be the linchpin that will hold this virtual learning together over the next couple of months. We have to engage with our families to see what they need from us and how we can adapt what we are doing to fit their situation. You may have a student that struggles with screen time at home and is on everything but what you want them to work on. It might be a better option for that student to have a packet of materials each week that could be emailed or mailed to the family. You could then be available for these students in a virtual coaching session to help any struggling learners.
Send out a weekly email to parents or give a phone call just to see how they are doing. Some families might be struggling in many ways and school is just not a priority for them right now. Let’s be available to support the needs of our students and our families as we get through all of this together.
Be Flexible-We Are in This Together
Know that families are going through a lot right now and so are all of the teaching staff. We all want to be back at school and seeing our students each day. Many out there know someone already who has been affected with their health, losing a job, or other circumstances. We do not know everyone’s story so let’s stay compassionate and kind to one another, whether it is through virtual learning or in the grocery stores. Keep the health care workers and all of the essential workers out there in your thoughts and prayers. They are true heros! Let’s do our part and make the most of the time we have left this school year. We are all in this together.
New Teacher Gift
If you have not had a chance yet to get to my author website, make sure you check out Teaching For God’s Glory-Daily Wisdom and Inspiration for New Teachers. This is the book I wish I had when I first stepped into my own classroom. This is a great gift for new and veteran teachers. Thank you for supporting our teachers!