5 Easy Steps To Make Teaching Online Less Stressful
In the middle of a busy day of teaching online, the calming sound of a trickling stream may be impossible to imagine.
There’s no room for restful imagery today. Instead, you furiously multi-task between multiple student demands, administrative responsibilities, and a large pile of unmarked work waiting to be graded. It’s easy to become exhausted and overwhelmed. And then your job suddenly looks a lot harder than it actually is.
But happily, there are ways to combat the kinds of stress that come from teaching online. Here are 5 easy steps to replace the feeling of constant pressure with a calmer, zen-like mindset that makes your job a whole lot easier, and more enjoyable.
- Define “urgent”.
To a panicking student who’s left everything to the last minute, everything is urgent. That might be true for them, but not necessarily for you. A demand for instant feedback on a draft essay doesn’t represent urgent work. It doesn’t automatically take priority over everything else on today’s To Do list. This kind of work can simply be added to your queue. Like everyone else on your list, the student will have to wait their turn.
- Explain your standard time frames.
I routinely get impatient emails from students who have been checking their inboxes daily for feedback on their work. They haven’t “heard”’ my (several) explanations of how long standard processes take. I answer emails the same working day. Graded work is returned within 10 days. These are the policies of my workplace. So I explain the policies again (and make them more visible in my Learning Management System). I never miss a deadline, so students learn that these official timeframes are reliable. They can relax, because everything will get done on time. But not within an hour of their request.
- Come out of the tunnel.
When you have a big workload, it’s too easy to sit in front of your computer for hour after hour, churning through the essays. And sure, sometimes the only way to get enough work done is to sit down, and put in the time. But relentless paper grading can lead directly to tunnel vision – and total exhaustion. When it’s just you and that pile of essays, you get more and more overwhelmed. You seem to have been sitting there in the darkness forever. There’s not even a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel. This is a clear sign you need to see daylight again. Step away from the computer. Get up, make a coffee, go for a walk, do some errands. Anything that puts you back in contact with the non-computer world will help perspective to return. And when you sit down to work again, you’ll be working in natural light, not a darkened tunnel.
- Create a sense of achievement.
One of the most common causes of stress is that awful feeling that your To Do list never seems to get any smaller. This is an illusion, of course, but it’s still really dispiriting, isn’t it? The way around this is to tackle a job that you can complete today. It’s a real morale-booster to tick something off your list once and for all (or even for the rest of the week). You suddenly feel like you’re getting somewhere, instead of constantly digging yourself out from under a mountain of work.
- Revisit your positive feedback.
I freely admit that I have an email folder titled Compliments. Whenever a student or a colleague sends me a nice little note, I move those messages into that folder. They always make me smile, and they can help balance out a stressful day with some positivity. It can really help your mood to remember that you ARE getting through to your students. Your colleagues DO appreciate your efforts. Those little messages are proof positive of that.
There’s no doubt that teaching online has its stressful moments. But that stress can be reduced with sanity-saving techniques like these.
How do you achieve a zen mindset when teaching online?