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Your Day as a Distance Learning Educator
posted by: Melissa | March 26, 2020, 09:18 PM   

For most people in the United States and across the world, our day suddenly looks different. Restaurants are closed, and office workers have set up laptops on their kitchen tables. Educators may be used to waking up at the crack of dawn so that they’re in their classroom by 7:00 am, but in this new reality, they’re being asked to log in to a computer instead. A day of a classroom teacher is highly structured with every minute planned for. Now at home, teachers are having to plan their own day and figure out how to spend their time. So what should that look like? 


Start your day off right. No matter what your job is, when you’re working from your home, how you start it will determine how the rest of your day will go. You want to create a morning routine that leaves you clear-headed, focused, relaxed, and ready to tackle whatever the coming day holds. This starts by waking up at a scheduled time, getting dressed in real clothes, and eating a healthy breakfast. It may also include prayer, meditation, taking a walk, exercise, or whatever else you find helps get you in the right mindset.


When you’re ready, you want to move to your “office.” Your office doesn’t have to be a literal room, but you should set aside a certain part of your house for working. This should not be where you watch TV or lounge, working in the living room makes it harder for your brain to focus. Instead, choose a spot where you can sit upright and are able to focus.


Before you do anything, get yourself organized. When you walked into your school building, you’d check your box, glance at your email, and make sure you had all the materials you needed for the day. It’s very similar in an online environment. You still want to check your email for any messages from parents or admin, and you’ll also want to check in to your LMS or Learning Management System.


Your LMS should be the hub of how you spend your day, and looking at it should tell you what your students accomplished yesterday, who’s falling behind, what you might need to reinforce that day. Many schools already have an LMS that they’ve been using with their students. If you don’t have one already set up, there are many good, free alternatives online including Google Classroom, Edmodo, and Moodle.


Class check-ins keep everyone on the same page. The next thing you want to do is whole-class check-ins where you pass along essential information, give assignments, and review subject material. In general, these should be short. And can be done via a forum post on your LMS, a whole-class email, a daily YouTube video, or by using a video conferencing system like Zoom or Google Meet. Many teachers will find that some combination of the above works best for them. They may send out a weekly email, and then schedule fifteen-minute daily video check-ins on Zoom. What you decide to do in your classroom will be determined by your students’ needs, their age, your class content, and previous routines.


Set aside non-instructional time as “open office” hours. You may be used to working with leading a whole class through an activity, but in this new environment, students will be doing most of their work on their own time. You are now truly a “guide on the side” and the vast majority of your time will now be spent working with individual students or small groups of students.


In between class check-ins and video calls, you want time when you’re generally available for video chats, texts, direct messaging, or calls. This is the time where you reach out to the students who need your attention. It’s also the time when parents and students can reach out to you with their questions. You can also schedule tutoring sessions either with individuals or small groups of students. Most importantly, whatever methods of communication you choose, you want to be generally available. If your LMS has a forum or a chat system, spend your time on there, answering questions and weighing in. Send texts to parents or students who you haven’t heard from in a while.


End your day by “closing your door.” Just as you want and need a routine and a schedule to start your day, you want to have a time of day when you cut off communication and start to wrap up your work. Think of this as closing the door to your classroom, but don’t stop work just yet! Just because you’re not actively engaging with students, that doesn’t mean you’re finished with work. Check in with your LMS and make sure that everything is set for the next day. This may include adding assignments for the next day’s work, writing out a list of students you want to talk to tomorrow, or reviewing your own personal to-do list.

When you’ve set yourself up for success, leave your office. Yes, physically stand up and go someplace else in your house. Just as it’s hard to work in a space where you usually relax, it’s equally hard to relax in a space where you usually work. Educators are notorious for taking their work home with them and when their work happens in the house, it’s an easy trap to fall into. Working all the time is terrible for your mental health and is actually counterproductive to being a better teacher. Now is the time to focus on your family, get in some exercise, walk outside for a few moments, and refresh and recharge, so you’re ready for what the next day brings.

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