5 Tips for Surviving Distance Learning

Distance learning dragging you down? I hear you. I feel you. I've been teaching 100% from the computer since mid-August. I've spent my fair share of days glued to my computer, solving tech issues I'm not really qualified to solve, and adapting our curriculum to work in an online environment all while getting to know my students, identifying their needs, and trying to make connections. Oh, and meeting the needs of my own family and home.

distance learning tips for finding balance

For the first several weeks, I was working 12 hour days. One night, my husband came home to see me crying at my computer. Feelings of hopelessness, frustration, and overwhelm got the best of me. But, it was that moment that I decided I would no longer allow this learning environment to be as all consuming as I had allowed it to be. My home was being neglected, my family was being neglecgted, I was on a constant verge of an autoimmune flare (if you know, you know), and I struggled immensely to help my middle schooler not only adjust to online learning, but middle school itself. Enough was enough.

Let me be clear, I still work hard, the work is still hard, and I still have my struggles, but now I'm in a groove. I can tackle each day with a clear mind and fresh point of view so that I can be the best virtual teacher I know how to be. 

Here are the things I did, and still do, to help me find some balance with distance learning. I hope some of these resonate with you.

Set boundaries

Just do it. Is it hard? Yes (at first, anyway). Is it necessary? Yes. 

I sit down at my computer at 7:30 every morning to begin my work. My contracted hours begin at 8:21, but I have always been one who goes in a bit early. At 3:31 (end of the contract day), I turn my computer off. That's it, I'm done. No matter what, I walk away and I don't return until 7:30 the next morning. I make good use of my prep time to attend to the tasks on my daily to do list.

And, I no longer do ANY school work on the weekend. I just won't do it.

Was this hard to do? Yes. Truth be told, I had to baby step my way there, but I'm there now. I no longer feel as overwhelmed or hopeless. And, I haven't cried since that night my husband came home to that awful sight.

A few things I reminded myself of as I made this transition are:
  • My mental and physical health are crucial to being an effective teacher.
  • I can't teach effectively if I am burned out.
  • This job does not pay me enough to sacrifice my own time and energy at the expense of caring for my own needs and family.
  • Being a teacher does not mean I need give up my life and health.
  • No one cares how much of my own time I commit to making distance learning work.
  • Talking to fellow teachers who felt the same and wanted to lessen the burden of online teaching themselves.
Let's be honest, I still remind myself of these things.

Find other ways to spend your time

Part of my feeling of overwhelm stemmed from the fact that I was no longer making home cooked meals and my home was being neglected. I'm stuck and home. All I see is the inside of my house. And, it wasn't looking so hot. I'm a firm believer that your physical environment plays a huge part in anxiety, mood, and overall well-being. 

I started watching "Clean with Me" videos on YouTube (yes, they're strange, but oddly motivating) and started taking that time I now had available by setting boundaries to attend to our home. I didn't actively seek these out, they just popped up on my feed one day. I guess it was a sign. Haha! I've been decluttering, deep cleaning, and fixing small things here and there ever since. 

I also started exercising regularly. Again. This has always been something I do, but with all the work I was doing to stay afloat with distance learning, I simply couldn't make time for it. And that was another thing that was contributing to my sense of overwhelm. Now, I'm back to several workouts a week. I love using Beachbody workouts, but I also go for walk around our neighborhood because you can only stay cooped up for so long.

Plan with others and divvy up the tasks

Share your workload. If you have a team that works well together, capitalize on that. Divvy up the planning so that each person is responsible for planning one subject each week. 

When my team and I decided to do this, it helped make the process of setting boundaries a lot easier. We were all overwhelmed and on the verge of burnout. Each member of my team is responsible for planning a subject using our adopted curriculum and preparing the digital materials for that subject. We have a strict system in place where plans and materials must be dropped into a designated Google Drive folder by a certain day each week. This works well for us and everyone has done an amazing job of staying on schedule. 

We meet weekly to go over the plans and answer any questions others have, and also share tips and things that have been working for us. We ask each other for advice as needed. 

Sometimes, I even plan with teachers outside of my school. We bounce ideas off each other and share successes. So, if your team is too small to divvy up the planning, you can ease the burden of planning by reaching out to other teachers you might know.

TPT is your friend

I make a lot of materials using screenshots of our curriculum and the like, but sometimes I just need something a bit more engaging for our asynchronous assignments. I've been creating on TPT for many years now, but I can't create it all. And, when it comes to distance learning, I need my fair share of supplemental digital resources. Rather than spend 10 hours creating one resource every time I need one, I search TPT to see what I can find. This saves me tons of time and I'm willing to spend a few dollars here and there if it means my own time remains my own.

With that said, I have created some digital resources that I rely on often. Click below to check them out.

Find something that brings you joy

Read a book, binge watch whatever, play a board game with your kids, diffuse your favorite essential oil (mine is peppermint), leisurely peruse Pinterest, bake something, decorate for the season...these are all ways I bring joy to my world these days. 

If you're looking for some binge worthy shows, here are a few of my faves on Netflix:
  • Jane the Virgin
  • New Girl 
  • Schitt's Creek
  • Man with a Plan
  • The Last Kingdom
  • Ashley Garcia Genius in Love
  • The Good Place
  • Community
  • One Day at a Time
  • Mr. Iglesias
  • Lucifer

I realize most of these are comedy. What can I say, I like to laugh.

Bringing joy doesn't have to be big, it just has to warm your heart and take your mind off other things. What brings you joy? Share in the comments below!

If you are still experiencing a great deal of overwhelm and hopelessness with distance learning, I hope some of these ideas might resonate with you. Remember, teaching cannot dictate how you live your life. It should not come between you and your home, your family, or your well-being. I hope you are on the path to finding a groove and a bit of peace. 



distance learning and tips for finding balance

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