This past week Aurora Institute held its annual symposium, virtually of course. Typically, I look forward to this annual event to catch up with national peers, hear stories of personalized learning and competency-based education, but most importantly to increase my well-being by enjoying time with like-minded professionals. Speaking of well-being…
Dealing with the pandemic, the uncertainty on the political front, and the rising call for social justice has all of us in a bit of a craze. COVID-19 started as a crisis (back in March 2020), but if we continue to manage the educational setting as if it is a crisis, we will exhaust ourselves. We must recognize a need for finding our rhythm. Our mental health is at risk should we continue to act in haphazard manners – exhausting ourselves, our students, and families.
Even prior to the pandemic, in December 2019, the Texas Association of School Boards posted an article titled Teacher Stress and Burnout is Real, stating, “It’s no secret that teacher stress is at epidemic proportions, and it’s affecting students in the classroom more than ever.” That was before COVID-19 came into our lives! Add in the stress of the last seven months. In September 2020, Psychology Today, posted an article about the effect COVID-19 is having on teachers, stating “A new study shows decreases in teacher well-being during the pandemic.”
Educators need to find a rhythm, get over the manic crisis mode, and focus on their well-being. Like the airline steward who reminds us to put on our own mask first, educators need to breathe.
Jumping from deployment models (classroom, hybrid, online) is causing even more stress. We must find consistency to reduce stress and burnout. Consistency is one of the core constructs to the development and maintenance of both normal and pathological mental processes, as noted in Consistency-theory. Educators, students, and families need a consistent rhythm they can count on, to stabilize the unknown.
As we move further into this school year, look for your rhythm. Put routines and patterns in place. Look for ways to normalize the pandemic classroom, such as:
- morning well-being checks
- using virtual attendance surveys at live sessions
- posting weekly calendars of events
- partnering with digital content and tools
- maintaining a virtual classroom platform
- posting daily digital announcements
- hosting standard set-time virtual office hours
- pre-recording explicit instruction
- sending weekly emails to students/families
Calendaring our time is one way to set up consistent structures and help maintain normal pathological mental processes. Finding a rhythm will reduce the cognitive load on staff, students, and families. And if we get good at these rhythms, why not carry them over into the next school year! Think of the remainder of this school year not as a manic crisis, but rather as a time to create and fine-tune new consistent structures for years to come.