Dear Future Teachers,
Whether you have experienced school online, in-person, or a combination of the two, this semester has definitely been unlike any other. For some people, online learning (or teaching) may have been a breeze. For others, myself included, online learning was a nightmare at times. A myriad of issues plagued online learners across the country, from Zoom malfunctions to simply missing the in-person interaction and benefits from being in a classroom. Personally, sitting in front of a screen all day for class, and working remotely through my laptop, grew to be pretty draining. That being said, I've learned a lot about myself and navigating education online within the past few months, and I wanted to share that with you all today.
Be gentle with yourself.
If you're not used to online learning, or it's not as effective as in-person learning, remember to be kind to yourself! It can be frustrating, annoying, or overwhelming to keep up with schoolwork on a platform you're not familiar with or efficient in. I can personally say I've experienced a lot of stress headaches or bad moods because of online learning. It's hard to have to learn without your teacher or peers. Some classes don't hold live lectures at all, so it takes a lot more discipline to stay on top of learning the material and doing assignments. I've felt like a failure a lot this semester, or I've felt unproductive and disorganized. I have to remind myself that this is not how I typically learn or participate in education. Don't put pressure on yourself to perform exactly as you would under the usual circumstances because these are not the typical circumstances. It's okay to struggle, but don't link your self-esteem to how "productive" you are through a new system of learning.
Be mindful of how long it's been since you've last moved from your workspace.
With both my school and work being solely through my laptop, I would go hours without moving from my spot without even realizing it. I went from walking 20 minutes to class on campus everyday to being completely sedentary, and that was not healthy for me. It's important to get your body moving, even if only for a minute at a time! You can set reminders for every 30 minutes to nudge you to take a stretch break or a walk, or take advantage of time in between synchronous (live) classes to get up from your seat. You can also work time into your day for a more intensive workout if you're more accustomed to an active lifestyle. Your body will thank you!
Interacting with your teachers means so much to them!
I'll be the first to admit that Zoom meetings can be awkward, especially when you've never met your teachers or peers in person. Remember that if it's awkward for you, it can be awkward for your teacher as well! It's very likely that they are just as upset about teaching online as you are about learning online. As intimidating as speaking out in Zoom calls can be, try to find ways to interact with your professors/teachers so they aren't met with silence and blank screens, especially in small classes. Turn your camera on (if you're able to), send a message in the chat box, or try to answer a question out loud if no one else is. My professors would look so happy when we would engage with a lesson that they probably worked hard to put together! Going to office hours and getting to know your professors better might also help make you feel comfortable participating during class time, too.
Remember to talk to people outside of Zoom meetings/classes.
About halfway through the semester, I realized that I only talked to people during a required Zoom class or work meeting. All of my interaction with others was for "productive" purposes and not for fun. I made an effort to call friends and family members just to catch up and chat, which can be so refreshing after hours of Zoom calls in a day. You can also join an organization or find and attend a Zoom lecture that is centered around something that you enjoy, so that Zoom doesn't become too monotonous and unpleasant to think about.
Leniency is key... for everyone.
Whether you are a student or a teacher, it is so important to be understanding and lenient with others. Online or not, a lot of people have suffered personal hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Now more than ever, it's important to be patient with each other and not expect everyone to produce work as quickly as possible. Sometimes I would grow impatient waiting on grades to come back in, but professors are teachers too, and most of them are getting our work back as quickly as they can. As teachers, it's also important not to be too strict on deadlines during this time. If a student asks for an extension, they probably really do need it. If an assignment is being turned in with enough time to grade within reason, late work shouldn't be too penalized. Give grace to others, you might really make a difference!
I have made the decision not to return to campus or take in-person classes in the Spring, so I'm hoping to take what I've learned and create a more positive and healthy routine for myself to tackle online classes for another semester. It's difficult, and I miss the regular college experience, but I've chosen to focus on the things that I can control, letting go of what is out of my control. If you're struggling with online classes, you are not alone. I hope that what I've learned can resonate with both students and teachers alike. If you have any lessons or tips of your own that you've come up with in your own online learning experience, please share them with me in my Contact Form on my Home Page or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.