How to teach online and secure work-life balance

how to teach online and secure work-life balance

When you teach online, you will only secure a great work-life balance by creating daily structures, procedures, automations, and interactive lessons using google apps like Jamboarding. We will discuss those later but first, let’s start with you and your morning routine.  

Ok so you’re not going out to school, but YOU are going to meet with your students. Try to keep to a good dress code at least your top half. Maybe a nice blouse or a clean shirt at the top but you’re wearing your track pants below. Pay some attention to your face and hair; you don’t want to look dishevelled.

Make sure you have everything you need so you don’t have to stand up and show your bottom half if you’re wearing your favourite casuals on your bottom half. 

A friend of mine was being interviewed online and got up without thinking showing her PJs and slippers below. No – she didn’t get the job.

Your morning routine

Start the day with a morning routine. Learn to trust your sleep cycle. I like to wake up early before everyone else. It’s quiet and serene but you need to pick a wake-up time that suits you. 

Think about the time you’re likely to go to bed and ask yourself if you’re getting enough sleep. I have midnight as my goal to get to sleep by but I try for 11 pm, so I can wake up early at 5 or 6 am to have that time when everything is silent, with no distractions to get work done before school starts.

Have the clothes you’re going to wear ready the night before, so you don’t waste time trying to decide in the morning. I learnt from a school teacher who fostered me always to set the breakfast table the night before. Try to set up your computer station ready to teach online the next morning. We always try to do it for face to face classes.

Have something that will help you get focus when you wake up each morning. For example, you could be reading the newspaper, journaling, quiet contemplation, or starting the process of getting ready. 

When it’s a cold and wintery morning, we’re often tempted to sip hot coffee or tea and lay on the couch. Resist it and drink water, juice or milk, and get your body moving. The movement will help wake you up and get the blood flowing. You don’t have to make it a 5 am CrossFit class; this can be simply walking around your house. 

If there’s something you’re dreading, get it done as soon as possible before you teach online.  


How to Teach Online

Structure your teach online day

Set your students’ regular short breaks every hour or so. When you teach online tell your students to log off for breaks and independent work, throughout the day. Make sure to have full instructions set up with a routine poster and set it up on Google Classroom or your classroom website. 

I’ve used both Edublogs and Google Sites. If you don’t have any experience in creating websites and want to set one up – google sites is simple and connects easily with Google Classroom. However, I prefer Edublogs because you can do so much more and create individual student blogs all for free. 

We have posters in our physical classrooms for students to remember procedures, so I create simple digital ones and upload them to my class website. You can upload them to your google classroom or/and a Jamboard or somewhere you teach online.

Midday, make sure you and your students take at least a 40-minute midday break. Go for a short walk, sit in the garden, or open a window if you can’t go outside, and get something healthy to eat.

At the end of the school day, reward yourself. If you’re working in a room in your house that you can shut off at the end of the day, then you have it easier. You can shut the door and relax with a cool or hot drink for at least 30 minutes. 

If your setup is in the open area of your home, then you need to tell your body it’s time to switch off. I have a beautiful Ikea stand-sit table my hubby bought me for my birthday, and though it’s in our main room – as soon as I sit or stand at it, it signals the time to start work. (Before I got the sit/stand table – I would put a box on my table for my laptop to sit on and then stand up but this stand/sit table is so much better).

So, at the end of my school day, I make a cool ice drink or a hot tea and sit down in my Lazyboy recliner to read my novel for 30 minutes sometimes longer. My sit/stand table is only a metre away, but I set it to it’s lowest position, and everything is put away on the bookshelf behind me. Or I go out to the garden and just sit and take in the scenery. 

It will be different for everyone, so long as you make time to relax and switch off from work.

Save time by creating automations

When I started creating my classroom website to teach online even though we were in class; students still had questions. Senior students didn’t want to read instructions if they can help it, so I started making short instructional videos. 

I suggest setting time aside to answer questions and create simple video recordings or online posters. If you have a smartphone, that’s the easiest to use or screen record on your laptop.

Record short video explanations that give the solution. If you teach online and at school, record videos that demonstrate how to do things in both contexts. 

For example: how do you expect students to submit assignments? – I made it easier on myself and taught students to submit them to google classroom. You can do this for both in-class or online. When I taught senior art, I used an app that enabled students to take photographs of their artworks in different stages with a grading system. It made marking and giving feedback so much easier and faster.

Suppose you don’t have a website, add your video explanations to google classroom or YouTube. Categorise and number them so you can send students to them easily.

Synchronous and asynchronous online learning

Synchronous learning happens in real-time and is ‘live’ when you teach online, just like in the classroom. It’s engaging and dynamic with instructional depth but has a rigid schedule that must be adhered to like as if you were at school.

Asynchronous online learning is flexible happening anytime and is self-paced. It offers more choice for the student like when we assign project work or some group exploration. On the downside, it can run the risk of being isolating due to the student working alone with online material provided by the teacher. 

However, if you provide 2 to 3 hours of synchronous learning, i.e. in the morning, then students could continue with asynchronous online learning in the afternoon. Doing so will most likely stop parents pulling their hair out in trying to get their child to get everything done—less stress for everyone.

During the afternoon hold, individual zoom calls with each student in a group. Maybe do a fun activity together or read or chat. Rotate through your groups each day, so by the end of the week; you’ve seen each student in your class individually in a private zoom call and done something fun together not just going over work – good as that is.

If students don’t get their work finished, don’t immediately call parents. Try another tack the next day to keep them engaged. If the matter persists, you might want to discuss with parents a better way to work. Parents are overwhelmed with all that’s going on, and some may have relatives affected by the pandemic.

Google apps in break out rooms will save your life

A face to face lesson takes less time than an online lesson to prepare. So, set aside more time for recording videos, use google slides and forms to create interactive activities to reduce time preparing them. 

Plus, interactive activities make learning more interesting for students. It’s best to keep it simple at first, then add more later.

Students might find it difficult to keep on looking at the speaker in a zoom meeting, so try not to penalise them; they might be listening. 

The best way to keep attention is to do what the Café Sisters do in daily 5 – short mini-lessons. Facebook says 3 min videos are best for keeping attention, so why not take a leaf out of their book and keep instruction short. 

Use Jamboard an online interactive whiteboard and set up a board for each group to work on in google meet or zoom breakout rooms. You can create boards for individual students and whole-class activities.

Students can add posties or images, brainstorming ideas, responding to questions. Groups after a breakout can show and share their findings on the Jamboard.

Don't be a people pleaser

There will always be some parents who feel you expect their child to do too much, and some will believe you’re not giving their child enough work to do. You can’t please them all – remember you couldn’t please them all when teaching in the classroom. So, listen to their concerns, make adjustments where you can but don’t try to be super-teacher.

Hey, you didn’t stay at school every night and all weekend, answering text messages from students and parents. So, please don’t do it now because you teach online. 

I didn’t get text messages when I taught primary, but when I moved to secondary – another story. So, I trained my students to know that on the weekends I switched off my mobile and school email. If they wanted to know something, they would have to ask during school time or early evening after school. 

It worked but, at first, some would try to contact me on the weekend when they had ample time to ask during the school week. So, I just ignored the messages, and soon they learned to see me at an appropriate time. The trick is to announce what your expectation is. Don’t just leave it to chance. 

It doesn’t matter when the messages or emails are sent, parents and students can do that at their convenience. Just make sure it’s clear when you will look at and respond to their messages. You will stress yourself out if you continually keep checking messages and emails. 

Do you have a time-saving trick for when you teach online?

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