We have had a week of working from home getting to grips with teaching our students remotely. Some parts of the job have remained the same yet much has changed. Sadly, as one of my team commented the other day, it is the most enjoyable part of the job interacting with young people in the classroom that has been removed.
Personally I have adjusted to the new normal perhaps a little more quickly than others as it is not entirely new to me; several days each holiday have been taken up with my sidelines of writing and examining so the discipline of working from home is not a struggle. Although it has to be said that this situation really is something else…
I am aware that others have written about this far more eloquently than me but if it helps, here are 5 thoughts as we enter the second week and very likely prepare for the long haul
1. Balancing structure and flexibility – it is important to keep some structure in terms of work and household. Each day I have got up at the normal weekday time and have been at my desk by the usual time of 7.30am. Activities have been posted to appear at usual lesson times and I have taken a lunch break at the usual time. My son is autistic so some structure has been built into the family routine too. Yet flexibility is also important: sometimes joining the family on the daily walk at 11am has boosted my mood and responding to my dad’s needs during what might normally be the working day has been different but the right thing to do.
2. Simplicity and familiarity – someone once said ‘what do you do when you don’t know what to do? – do the things that you DO KNOW to do.’ Keeping the things that can be the same and that we are sure will work is important. For students we have continued to use Google Classroom, Google Forms and Google Drive rather than trying to do too many new and clever things. Where we have delved into n
ew things such as Google Meet, this has been done sparingly. Any further developments in TLA will be introduced gradually and carefully.
3. Accept that some days will be better than others – we are all well and truly sick of the word ‘unprecedented’ but we are very much in uncharted waters. Emotionally this is highly demanding. Some days will be better and more productive than others; we have to accept this and not beat ourselves up about it. Most days I have been able to have a productive 5-6 hours but not every day. On Tuesday worries about my father – a dementia sufferer who still lives independently – and planning what to do with/for him consumed much of my thoughts and energies that day. Some days will be better than others and that’s ok.
4. Connect – maintaining connections with colleagues is really important. We have had two departmental meetings via Google Meet and these have been a 50/50 split of work chat as well as discussing how we are all doing. We check in with our teams and our line managers each day by email too but this is as much about wellbeing as monitoring. Our college, unlike some other institutions, seems to have got the balance right. Connecting with others matters; one colleague said to me that our 15-20 minutes on Google Meet was a highlight of his week!
5. Boundaries – finally, working from home particularly in these times could cause a blurring of boundaries and a sense of always being on call. I have written a lot on boundaries previously; it I s important that we set our own boundaries and avoid the pressure to constantly refresh emails. Having my own office at home probably helps to be fair as I am still to some extent physically going to work and leaving work even if it is just in the next room. Physically and mentally separating from work is important
Hope these thoughts help. It is likely to be a marathon not a sprint and it is important that we pace ourselves and do things that we can sustain over the remote period however long it may be.