Over the past two weeks, Liz has been not really thrilled with this “New Normal” of working from home. I think that she envisioned that we would be able to spend more time with one another because we would be literally in the same location, BUT that was not the case. Every morning for two weeks, I would sprawl-out my “stuff” across the kitchen table and hunker down for the day. To my surprise, it was like going to work, except ten times busier! I found that I had to schedule my breaks still as I could work straight through the morning and into the late evening. All the while, I would be sprawled across the kitchen table working furiously and attending so many Google Meetings that I can’t tell when I am in a meeting and not :)…like Inception-style… This is the same experience for educators holding virtual class for students, Principals, Superintendents, and other District Administrators. Now, let me be clear, I am totally blessed to have a job but also know that this environment is not the same as in-person education. My personal and professional focus for this remote learning experiment as been geared at first and foremost balancing our curriculum around the needs and unique circumstances that many of our families are under, while at the same time providing a “good” educational experience for students and families. At the same time, we also need to be mindful of how challenging it is to move to this virtual work environment for many of our educators. One thing we need to do is….
Lead by Example
After reviewing the literally hundreds of resources and ideas from so many talented educators across the country, I have developed my own LIST of the top FIVE things to do in order to make this remote work experience work in terms of balancing your professional and personally obligations, as the lines can be easily blurred!
1. Buy a Desk
So this one is probably the most important tip I can give you. If you do not have a desk….buy one! Really, working at the kitchen table does not work for many reasons. Not only will your back and rear be calling to quits before your day is over, but you need to establish a “dedicated space” for working. I have the added benefit of having an extra room that I can take over with a desk, but many families are utilizing ALL space within their homes. By buying something with the purpose of establishing a work environment, it helps you to psychologically associate that desk with work. Whatever you leave on that desk is like leaving things at work. When you leave the desk, you are no longer at work. This can be a super helpful reminder for not only your own psyche but also for your family members that see you at home every day and wonder why you are not able to talk to them. Special consideration is to spend more money on the chair than the desk…the chair makes a world of difference. Although the work from home photos are humorous, sustainable, they are not.
2. Set a Schedule
This is one that I have struggled with…We cannot work 12 hour days; it just is not doable. If you don’t set your hours and create a schedule, then it will overtake you. Set a schedule, just as you would in the school year, but at the same time, allow it to be flexible not only for your own needs but for the needs of your students and families. In the typical school year, I would answer emails into the night and be always available….as hard as it is….I am really trying to push back on that. Why? BECAUSE NO ONE NEEDS EMAILS PAST 6pm. I used to think I was being productive and staying on top of things by being readily available into the late hours of the evening. Still, realistically, I am a contributor to the cycle of people not being able to disconnect and just watch Stranger Things. Really, take my word, no one wants to hear from us at night, so set the example…I am role-modeling this myself effective today.
3. Keep things in Perspective
For the last two weeks, I have been consistently encouraging everyone to focus on supporting students and families emotionally and socially during this time of crisis. Of course, we have educational responsibilities, but if we let that lead the work that we do, then it will become all that matters. Let the social connections and needs of your students and families lead the work we are responsible for and trust me; it will all fall into place 🙂 Below is a wonderful Hierarchy of Needs for during the COVID-19 Distance Learning Era, sourced from George Couros who sourced it from Jay Dostal.
4. Seek Inspiration and be Inspirational
Okay, so Segwaying from my sourcing of George Couros material. All of us need someone to inspire us, and honestly, I have found that George Couros ignites my educational passion and inspires me to think differently. Not to mention he is a super genuine guy. With that being said, during this time, it can be very easy to lose our inspirational drive as educators, but I would challenge you to seek it out more than ever. Push against the system and use it to your advantage. If you are not typically a “Twitter” user, then start an account and be active. If you have always wanted to start a blog, then as I am trying to “Lead by Example” launch a blog and project your thoughts into the world. In the end, seeking inspiration will cause you to become more inspirational in your practice with others and ultimately impact your students and colleagues, and now is a better time than EVER to sprinkle some inspiration in the world.
5. Shut it Down!
This is my CLOSING tip. DO NOT WORK ON THE WEEKEND! Seriously, same rules apply as I mentioned regarding evenings and setting office hours. Maybe there was a time in the pre-COVID-19 Era when working nights and weekends was OK, but now, we need to disconnect if not for our own sake but the sake of those we work with and ultimately serve.