Many school districts across the US are starting the school year fully online or using a hybrid model. This of course will come with its own challenges and for mindful teachers it may seem impossible to remain mindful while teaching online. In this blog post I’m going to share some helpful tips and ideas to help you and your students remain mindful, compassionate, and support everyone’s well-being while teaching and learning online.
Just like in face-to-face instruction, it’s important to be fully present during your instructional time. I know how challenging this can be especially when there may be more distractions at home when you have kids, pets, a partner, and other potential distractions. However, one of the biggest distractions while teaching online are the digital distractions. I suggest having only the digital tools you need for the lesson you’re teaching open on your device. So, close all the windows with social media platforms, news outlets, digital games, and so on. Keep all of this closed and remain closed while you’re teaching. Also, just like you would in your classroom have your smart phone on silent or off and hide it away in another room, again unless you need it to teach. The fewer distractions you have the more present you’ll be for your students. By the way, you can include your students in this practice and as a class set this as an expectation. Of course it is easier to manage distractions in a physical classroom, but we can gently remind our students about this expectation of being present for ourselves and each other at the beginning of each lesson.
Many of us had to immediately teach using online tools the last few months of the spring semester. Hopefully, you had an opportunity to learn what worked well for you and what didn’t work well. This is the time to revisit those lessons you learned last semester.
My biggest take away from last semester was to simplify. Meaning, I don’t need to use thirty different digital tools or have 15 activities in a lesson. Use digital tools and resources that you’re already familiar with and improve your skills with those digital tools. There may be one or two new tools you’ll have to learn especially if your district has new platforms or security protocols, and that’s fine, but don’t voluntarily add more to your digital plate. Use what you have and use it well.
Take frequent screen breaks
Be sure to include frequent breaks for yourself and your students. Staring at a screen all day is exhausting and can actually cause fatigue in the eyes. Earlier this year I had an eye injury and was having issues with using screens, which was problematic since a good portion of my work involves the use of screens. So, my doctor explained to me a helpful tip, which is the 20-20-20 rule. Every 20 minutes look away from your screen, gazing at something 20 feet away from you, for at least 20 seconds. This will help with eye strain and headaches. You can set a timer to go off every 20 minutes. You can include your students in this exercise and create mindful moments every 20 minutes or so if you notice that you and your students will be staring at a screen for an extended period of time.
Include time for movement
In addition to breaks from your screen, it is also important to include throughout the day times to move your body. This was something I personally struggled with last semester when we went online. I am not used to teaching sitting down and it really started to take a toll on my body. So, I’m making sure to include time in my lesson to give myself and my students time to stretch and move. You can lead your students through a few chair yoga movements. I actually have a chair yoga video you can check out HERE.
In addition to including movement time in my lesson, I bought a few things for my home instructional space that’s been really helpful. The first is a small adjustable laptop desk that I can easily adjust to my height if I want to stand or if I want to sit. I find standing, even when teaching online really helpful and it actually energizes me a bit more. The other thing is a balance board. The balance board is a great thing to include in your workout routine like doing pushups, squats, and lunges to make your workout a little more intense, but I’ve found this to be great while I work. I get a chance to move a little, work on my balance, and remain stationary at my desk. Finally, another helpful tool is a balance ball or exercise ball. Again, this is something that I typically use for my workouts, but this is great to use if you want to remain active while sitting. Just be sure to buy the correct size based on your height.
Check-in with your students
My final tip is to continue to check-in on students as you would in a traditional classroom setting. It may be a bit more challenging virtually, but you can still welcome your students in by name as they “enter” your digital classroom. You can ask students how their weekend was, include morning meetings, and have warmups that ask students to name one thing they are grateful for, favorite summer song, a meme that describes their current mood, and so on. This will help you get to know your students, get a sense of their state of mind, and help you connect with your students even though you’re not in a physical classroom. I also suggest, setting out time during the week for office hours where you can meet students one-to-one or in very small groups to support them academically, but more importantly to be another trusting adult in your students’ lives.
Remember, teaching online or in a hybrid way is temporary. There will be some challenges, but you’ve got this. Also, you’re not alone. We’re all facing similar challenges, and by supporting each other we’ll be able to continue to do what we love, which is teach and support our students.
I’m interested in learning from you ways you’re continuing your mindful teaching practices while teaching online or a hybrid model. Be sure to connect with me on facebook or instagram and share with me how you remain mindful while teaching online. Also, if you’re interested in my work from home routine and tips be sure to check out my one of my latest blog posts HERE.
Finally, if you need support on how to start or continue your mindfulness practices in your personal and professional life I’d be happy to coach you along the way. This school year is going to have its unique challenges, but I can guide you through these challenges. If you’re interested in learning more about my mindfulness and wellness coaching services be sure to sign up for your FREE introductory coaching session today.