All of us in the world juggle many different hats. Educators are no different…we juggle our job, our relationships, our responsibilities, our interests and joys, and if we are parents, our own children. During this time of Distance or Hybrid Learning, so full of fears, questions, challenges, and joys (yes there are joys); educators are stuck in this challenging space between being Teachers and Parents. So, I made up a new word – Teachrent…sounded better than Pareacher to me…feel free to comment.
A teachrent is an educator who has two sets of “children”, their school kids and their own children. This dual role is so challenging to manage. Now, all working parents feel this push between their own job responsibilities and their children. But, for an educator it is especially hard. There is a constant ebb and flow of feeling like you are giving one group of your “kids” more of your time and energy than the other. During remote learning, it is even more challenging feeling like you have your own children at home with you who need you AND your school kids at their homes who need you. This can feel utterly overwhelming. Then, you add on the abject fear of bringing home a deadly disease and add those onto your many responsibilities, and you have the Teachrent…. which often feels like an utterly impossible role.
So – what is a Teachrent to do?? Here are some helpful suggestions from my own successes AND failures.
- TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF FIRST – I know…I can hear many of you laughing (or crying) right now at the absurdity of that statement. But, without a doubt, self-care is your best weapon. Sleep, rest, eating well, exercising, taking care of your mental and physical health needs…essential. Check out this post from last year that addresses this: https://authenticteaching.blog/2019/08/25/preaching-and-trying-to-practice/
- Ask for and use the help around you – We are so blessed to have a tribe of people willing to support our children. My secret weapon in distance learning – the grandparents! If you don’t have seniors in your life able to support, connect with a local seniors home, church members, retired teachers, etc. Seniors are often “stuck” at home during this time and with the magic of about a dozen different live video chat options, they can support your children with their schoolwork. Regardless of their physical location, they can check in daily with your personal children to support. We share our emails from the teacher, give access to the student platforms, and let them work directly with helping our kids. What a gift! Beyond this, we have long term close family friends willing to help with check ins and support. This is easier if we all work together.
- Play to your strengths – The biggest mistake I see educators making PERIOD during distance learning is to try to do things to match a specific district or admin. direction or expectation. The BEST thing you can do for yourself is make your on line and in person (if your district is in a hybrid model) work for YOU! If your students and parents are happy and engaged, that is success for everyone. Really take some time to reflect on what would a successful classroom look like in THIS weird time and make that classroom happen. You have to give up any preconceived ideas of what your kids “should” be doing and/or how you have always done it…but it you visualize what is authentic to you in THIS kind of school you will make it happen.
- Set some boundaries – Distance Learning is just too easy to be “live” as a teacher 24 hours a day. Make rules for yourself of when you are going to work and when you are going to be a parent (or spouse, daughter, etc.). The work is NOT going anywhere, but your children are growing every day. The GIFT of distance learning for a parent is unprecedented time with your children. Treasure and honor that gift by setting boundaries and accepting what you CAN do in the time you have set aside to work (even if it isn’t perfect).
- Foster a positive mindset – This is so unbelievably hard in this time. Watch the news, read social media, listen to the comments people are making about teachers – that is enough to shake the strongest of faith. So, purposefully and intentionally look for the good AND be the good. https://authenticteaching.blog/2020/07/09/angels-among-us/
- Work as a team – What teacher do you know who is not a control freak? It is just too easy to want it “your” way and not work as a unit. YOUR LIFE WILL BE BETTER IF YOU WORK AS A TEAM AND FOSTER RELATIONSHIPS. https://authenticteaching.blog/2019/08/06/banana-bread-bribery/
- Have Fun! – I just heard the gasps…how in the world can this? this…be fun? Well – like anything else, fun is something we CHOOSE. EVEN if this insane time, choose to have fun with your colleagues, your students, your children, your families…because FUN makes this all better. Here are some great ideas: https://www.hollyclark.org/2020/04/21/virtual-learning-ideas/ https://jakemiller.net/ways-to-keep-remote-learning-fun-for-students/
- Release control and take control – Ultimately, everything in our life is on some level out of our control…except our response to it. Give yourself the gift of letting go of trying to control it all and take control of your response.
- Allow yourself and both sets of your kids to REST – Sometimes, life can be simplified, by just accepting that what IS possible may not meet our expectations or vision. REST is essential for all of us, so allow some down time, lessen the load, or just give yourself a break so that you can do what is possible. https://authenticteaching.blog/2020/03/09/no-rest-for-the-weary/
- Use the tools available – We are living in an unprecedented time of ACCESS via technology tools. USE THEM! Feel unsure – go find that teacher in your school who gets how to use these, watch some videos, and/or experiment with them.
- EdPuzzle – recording your lessons…kids not watching them? Create an EdPuzzle that puts in questions they have to answer before continuing in the video. This FREE program aligns with almost every platform (Google Classroom, Microsoft TEAMS, CANVAS, etc.)
- Nearpod – A spectacular way to have kids in a live distance class sharing their thoughts. They have FREE Nearpods premade or you can make your own easily on so many topics. Now with new features including an “EdPuzzle” like feature, collaborations with Flocabulary, and so much more.
- Flipgrid – Wonderful for younger students especially to share their hand written work and explain their thinking. This tool allows video responses of up to 10 minutes with an easy click of a button.
- Actively Learn – fantastic high interest and timely reading passages in every genre, structure by genre, unit, grade level, and/or lexile level.
- What are your favorites? Comment below to add on to the list.
YOU…are a TEACHRENT. That is a wonderful gift and tremendous responsibility. Allow yourself the grace to do this job…with the best you have at that time. All you are capable of being, is what you know how to do right now…and THAT, that is enough. You are enough!