Distance Learning Tips for Teachers

Three weeks ago, “Distance Learning” was a phrase most of us had never heard of, much less considered.

Now? Teachers can hardly open their emails, scroll through Instagram, or click on a website without being flooded with resources for Distance Learning.

The resources are helpful, they really are… until they aren’t. Therefore, major problem right now is that we have been abruptly thrust into this brand new world of Distance Learning and the information overload, analysis paralysis, and uneasiness that it brings along with it.

Teachers are planners. We are preparers. We are nurturers and collegial workers. Our classrooms are like our babies and routines and procedures are not just our jam, but our way of life. Distance Learning means that, in a mere week, we lost it all- the careful scheduling, well-practiced routines, happy environments, the smiles, hugs, and laughter that come along with teaching. We went from dancing and singing and building relationships with our kids to… wherever we are now.

So, that brings me to this: Where are you in this crazy process? Are you jumping into Distance Learning head first? Are you stunned and immobile? Are you overwhelmed with the amount of resources and the pressure to provide meaningful lessons yesterday?

Let’s make a plan to get you back on your feet!

First of all, you can do this- You CAN teach through Distance Learning and you WILL be successful at it. Your kids will be ok. Your parents will feel prepared and supported. You’ve just got to remind yourself that you already have the knowledge, Distance Learning only means that you are presenting it in a different way. In other words, you are still teaching sight words or multiplication or present tense. However, instead of doing it face-to-face, you’re doing it screen to screen. Same content, different format. You got this!

Step 1- Change Your Mindset About Distance Learning

We’ve had a week to process it all. You miss your kids. I miss my kids. We miss face-to-face contact with our colleagues and friends. We don’t like the way we look on camera. We hate the sound of our own voices. Etc. Etc. Distance Learning is not what we elementary and middle school teachers signed up for, yet here we are.

If you complain your way through this, you won’t grow through this. WE ARE ALL IN THE SAME BOAT. We’re not doing what we want to do right now, we’re doing what we have to do. Why did you go into teaching? To help kids and families grow. THIS IS YOUR OPPORTUNITY! This is the time that they need you the most.

So, wipe those tears off your face, take a deep breath, sit up straight, and let’s get to work.

Step 2- Choose One Thing

Write down a list of things you need to do for Distance Learning. For instance, it probably looks something like this:

  • Read through emails
  • Create list of links/resources to use
  • Create list of links/resources for parents to use
  • Set up remote meeting schedule with teammates
  • Create daily/weekly communication plan for parents
  • Create daily/weekly work plan for students
  • Figure out how students will submit work
  • Play around with communication tools and figure out what works best (Google Classrooms, Google Meet, Zoom, ClassDojo, Epic, PebbleGo, Wonderopolis, Pinterest, YouTube, Teachers Pay Teachers, Google Drive, Google Sheets, Google Docs, Sign-Up Genius, MailChimp, Constant Contact, PowerPoint, Google Slides, etc.)
  • LESSON PLAN for the next 2-8 weeks
  • Ask parents what they want/need in terms of support
  • Create in-home workspace
  • Schedule “office hours” for coworkers and parents
  • Designate times to do laundry, clean house, answer personal emails, be a parent/spouse/friend/neighbor, exercise, run necessary errands, etc.

When you look at this list, it looks overwhelming, right? That’s because it is. If your brain is running in all these directions at once, it’s no wonder you can’t accomplish anything! No one could! Take that list and ask yourself,

“Above all, what is the ONE thing I could do right now that would have the biggest impact on my students and myself?”

That’s it. Take that one thing and run with it. After you get a handle on that, choose one more thing. Then another. In addition to actually getting things done, you’ll feel more control and more confident in yourself!

Step 3- Create a Daily Schedule

You are a teacher and you need to be on a schedule, it’s as simple as that. Give yourself parameters and timeframes. Give yourself BOUNDARIES and office hours. And remember to give yourself free time! Just because you are not going to a building every day does not mean you are not doing your job. Similarly, don’t think you have to work around the clock to prove yourself and your worth.

8 million people in the US currently work from home and, by 2027, it is predicted that the majority of the US workforce will be working remotely. Statistically speaking, several of your parents probably work remotely, and understand the challenges that it brings. They are not assuming that teachers are lounging around on an extended spring break right now.

Prepare 3-3.5 hours of work for your students. Similarly, spend another three hours planning, creating content, and communicating with your team. You don’t have to fill an eight hour day! There is no commute, transitioning across campus, turning on lights, plugging in iPads, or supervising bathroom breaks. If you can remind yourself of this, you won’t feel so guilty about having a shorter workday.

First, write down the things you need to do every day. Next, assign a consistent time frame for each one. Finally, share it with your team and parents so they know when to expect responses from you.

You might also like: 5 Research-Based Time Management Tips

Here is the schedule that I sent to my team via text yesterday:

  • 8:00-9:00 Check email + Morning Meeting via Google Meet
  • 9:00-10:00 Film lessons
  • 10:00-11:00 Grade Level Meeting via Google Meet
  • 11:00-12:00 DO the action steps we talked about during our Meeting
  • 12:00-1:00 Prep & eat lunch with my 2-year-old, then put him down for his nap
  • 1:00-3:00 “Office Hours” for parents + film tutorials for/email parents
  • 3:00-4:00 Check email + Wrap up day
  • 4:00 Shut off computer and switch into “home mode”

Also read: Best Time Management Apps for 2020

Step 4- Take Care of Your Mental Health

In our faculty meeting this week, our Head of School used the analogy of “put on your own mask first.” In other words, you will not be any help to anyone else if you are spiraling out of control. So get your mental and physical health together before you try to jump into teaching.

There are SO MANY great apps for managing stress and anxiety. For example, my favorite one is Sanvello (formerly Pacifica). I have been using this app to manage my anxiety for over a year and cannot recommend it enough! This past week, Sanvello announced that its Premium membership is free for the duration of the COVID-19 crisis.

Additionally, you need to set boundaries between “working” times and “home” times. Since there is no way to “leave” work, try turning off your text or email notifications from coworkers/parents/students after a certain time. Otherwise, you may start to feel burdened, overwhelmed, resentful, or stressed.

Here are 11 More Apps to Help Manage Anxiety

Step 4.5: Take Care of Your Physical Health

Eat/drink/exercise like you know you should! While researching The Blue Zones of Happiness, Dave Buettner and his team found that the world’s happiest people eat six or more servings of fruits and vegetables every day. So do not let yourself sit around loading up on carbs and non-perishable foods all day long!

Also, drink your water (half of your body weight in ounces is a good rule). And don’t forget to exercise! Is your gym closed? So is mine. Here are some workout apps you can download. Here are some YouTube channels you can watch. If you live in a place where you can go outside, then do! If you can’t go outside, then at least spend time in front of a window to get some sunlight!

Read: 3 Tips for Forming Good Habits

Step 5- Create a Workspace in Your Home

Classrooms are such a HUGE part of teaching! For Distance Learning, you still need a designate place for all your “teacher stuff.” This looks a little different for everyone: some teachers were able to go in their rooms and fill a wagon with everything they would need, while others never got the chance to get in their rooms. Maybe you were so bewildered on the day you were supposed to get your stuff, that you couldn’t even think clearly enough to grab anything meaningful. It. Is. Okay.

One of my favorite quotes is “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” Your Distance Learning videos don’t have to to be fancy or influencer-quality productions. I love this example by @thehappyteacherspalette.

Could you temporarily clear out a closet? What about removing decorative items from a bookshelf for a while? Remember, this is only a temporary thing! We are doing what we can with what we have for as long as we need to.

You might also like: How to Feng Shui Your Workspace

Finally, it’s OK that you don’t have it all figured out- none of us do!

But we are teachers. We literally TEACH problem-solving skills for a living. We will get this done and get it done well. Remember, our kids are watching us now more than ever, and we have an incredible opportunity to help them learn by modeling growth mindset, positive attitudes, and adaptability.

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Best Time Management App List 2020

Finding the best time management apps can be a challenge. Every one has a different ideas of what “works” and what’s “effective.” When I look for a time management app, whether it’s a daily routine app or a calendar, I look for something to keep me on task, send me reminders, and you know… look pretty 🙂

My road to time management proficiency was a rocky one. I was homeschooled until high school. I never had to keep up with homework, quiz dates, chapter readings, etc. When I started high school, I cried almost daily because I didn’t how to study effectively or manage my time. It wasn’t until college that I started to set myself up with systems that would keep me on track no matter what!

best time manage app 2020

By the time I hit grad school, I was a time management pro! I was student teaching, studying, newlywed, living in a house that was for sale, and trying to maintain a somewhat relevant social life! That’s when/why I started this blog! And here we are 🙂 So, when people ask me: “What are the best time management apps for college students?” I’ve got quite a few suggestions!!

“Time management” is the process of organizing and planning how to divide your time between specific activities. Good time management enables you to work smarter – not harder – so that you get more done in less time, even when time is tight and pressures are high. Failing to manage your time damages your effectiveness and causes stress.

MindTools.com

So, let’s break apart this definition of time management and apply it to your life!

  1. Define your activities
  2. Plan your time
  3. Organize your environment
  4. Be effective with your time
  5. Manage your stress

Define Your Activities

The first step to good time management is to define what’s important to you. I once heard that we can do about five life activities well. Think about what yours are. For me, this looks like:

  1. Work
  2. Being a mom & wife
  3. Writing a blog
  4. Gym time
  5. Tutoring before & after school

For you, the list may look like:

  1. Classes
  2. Studying
  3. Church
  4. Work
  5. Friends

If you find you have more than five major life activities, it may be time to cut down some time spent on things. For example, I’m currently in Junior League. But it just isn’t a high enough priority to make my “top 5.” Knowing that, I submitted my resignation for it last month. I don’t believe in doing things half-heartedly or being busy for busy-ness sake.

You may also find that you need to eliminate some things- and that’s ok! It’s ok to do less in order accomplish things more effectively!

how to create a time map

Plan Your Time

Now it’s time to put those times into your calendar! I like to use a “time map” for this step. Here is a step-by-step tutorial on how to create a time map. Your time map will allow you to map out your weekly schedule! Remember to start with the activities that are most important to you! And remember to be realistic about how much time you need for driving, sleeping, getting ready, etc. Leaving a bit of “transition time” will keep you from feeling stressed!

best time management app TimeTree

Time management app for this: TimeTree

Cost: Free

TimeTree is by far my favorite calendar app! And believe me, I have tried a LOT of calendar apps! I just wanted something that was simple to use, could be color-coded, and had pretty colors 🙂 TimeTree delivers all those things, and also has the capability of being a shared calendar. You can schedule long-term tasks, and even “keep” events that don’t have a date yet! This app is so positively reviewed! Perfect for college & grad students, and busy families!

Organize Your Activities

So, organizing your activities would include keeping an effective to-do list or keeping up with your progress on different tasks. Everything fits neatly into your schedule, and now you need a way to keep up with your progress. Make sure you update this information daily so you don’t waste time figuring out where to start next time!

Best time management app: TickTick

Time management app for this: TickTick

Cost: Free ($2.40/m Premium subscription available, but I don’t have that)

No, not TikTok (which is probably the opposite a productive app). TickTick is a SUPER simple to-do list app that makes it easy to quickly add tasks and send yourself reminders to do them! It’s kind of like the Reminders app on the iPhone, but I find it easier to set due dates on TickTick. I have the regular (aka free) version, but the Premium version shows all kinds of graphs and insights about your task management, too!

Be Effective with Your Time

When I think about being effective with time, I think about actually having the energy and focus to do each thing. Make sure you have things scheduled at times that you’ll actually get them done. For example, don’t schedule a 5:00 AM spin class in your time map if you know you’re not a morning person! Schedule activities at realistic times for you to accomplish them!

What does research say about the best time of day to do things? A lot!

Here’s a quick list of the “best times of day” to do all kinds of things!

  • The best time of day to accomplish “work” is between 8AM-12PM. This is when your brain is most alert. Productivity is highest on Mondays and drops daily throughout the week. We also accomplish more in the Fall and Summer than we do in Spring. Winter is the least productive month. (Source: Quartz at Work)
  • The best time of day to handle household chores/cleaning is 4:00PM. Your hand-eye coordination is most effective and your brain is starting to take a break from all it’s hard work in the morning. (Source: CNN.com)
  • The best time of day to exercise is between 1:00PM-4:00PM. Although, there is also a lot of research showing that morning workouts are also effective for helping you focus throughout the day and sleep better. Most importantly, squeeze in at least 20 minutes of exercise whenever you can! Any time is better than no time!! (Source: Time.com)
  • The best amount of time to spend on creative work is 90 minutes. It could be right after waking for you or at night, but schedule in 90-minute blocks of time to work on your creative projects! (Source: PsychologyToday)
  • The best time of day to study is 5AM-10AM or 5:00PM-9:00PM. These are times with the fewest distractions. This is also perfect for both full-time students and night students (with adult jobs)! (Source: Quora.com)
Best Time Management App LifeCycle

Time management app for this: LifeCycle

Cost: Free ($9.99/m Premium subscription available, but I don’t have that)

LifeCycle is a super cool app that runs in your background all the time. It uses your location to determine how much time you spend on various activities! According to their website, this app only uses 1% of your phone’s battery. I downloaded this one over a year ago, so I now have a donut showing how I spent my time for the whole year! It also tells you “trends” about how you’re spending your time. I highly recommend it!!

Manage Your Stress

The final part of effective time management is to manage your stress. Keeping your time balanced is a great way to reduce stress! Those 12-hour study sessions? They’re the enemy of a calm mindset! Instead, plan studying or work on projects for short increments of time over a longer period of time. Use a long-term project-planner to help with this!

Best Apps: Sanvello

Time management app for this: Sanvello

Cost: Free ($8.95/m Premium subscription available, but I don’t have that)

Sanvello used to be called Pacifica. What I love about this app is that it has several different activities you can use to manage stress, anxiety, and depression. You can do a weekly check-in, get your “score” for the week, and then do the suggested activities. It also asks how much time you spent on various mental health activities each day, such as time with friends, exercise, or time outside. It also gives you insights/trends over time. Super great for self-cultivation and maintaining a balanced, positive mindset.

Conclusion

Effective time management comes from prioritizing your activities, scheduling into your day/week at effective times, and giving yourself starting and ending times. Keep your workload low by using these tips to plan ahead! Finally, manage your stress with frequent reflections and practicing mindfulness. We’ve all got busy lives, but you are in charge of how you manage your life. YOU GOT THIS!!

Best time management app 2020

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Encouraging Books for 2020

Encouraging books are one of my favorite parts of my morning routine. Last summer, I downloaded Audible as a way to pass the time during summer break. But I had no idea that once I downloaded it, I would become an audiobook junkie!

Encouraging books for millennials

Now, I listen to encouraging books (read: audiobooks) for about an hour every morning while I get ready! It takes the boredom out of doing my hair. And the promise of learning something new actually gives me more incentive to get out of bed in the mornings!

Here are some of my favorite encouraging books for Millennials:

Girl, Wash Your Face, Rachel Hollis

Girl, Wash Your Face | Rachel Hollis

This is one of the most encouraging books of the decade. Everyone has been all about this book lately, and for good reason! I’d never heard of Rachel Hollis before it, but listening to this book made me a huge fan! She is honest and real, even when it’s embarrassing (like a story about shaving her toes). It’s like advice a big sister would give you. And since I don’t have a big sister, I appreciated it SO MUCH. This book is great for anyone in college, out of college, in their first real job, newly married, new moms, and working moms… I honestly can’t think of a stage of life where this book wouldn’t be helpful 🙂

Of Mess and Moxie, Jen Hatmaker

Of Mess and Moxie | Jen Hatmaker

Jen Hatmaker is one of my most favorite authors ever. Her book, Interrupted, literally changed my life. It’s what made me want to leave the world of private schools and teach in one of the most low-income neighborhoods in America. She is so real and raw and FUNNY. This book is way less intense than Interrupted or Seven. This book is about extracting all the joy you can out of your daily life. Jen’s writing is fun, encouraging, and will give you the emotional boost you may be needing. This book is fun and encouraging for women of all ages!

Captivate by Vanessa Van Edwards

Captivate | Vanessa Van Edwards

This book is all about body language and other subconscious things that are important for relationship building. Vanessa is a social researcher and she shares the best place to stand in a party, what to do in a job interview, and how to work better with your coworkers. Plus, I love it that she backs everything up with science. And I love it even more that she conducts most of the research herself. Her stories and experiments are fascinating! If you are job-searching, YOU SHOULD CHECK OUT THIS BOOK!

Designing Your Life by Bill Burnett and Dave Evans

Designing Your Life | Bill Burnett & Dave Evans

These two guys actually teach a course on this at Stanford. But since taking a course at Stanford isn’t practical for most of us, this book is a good substitute! This book primarily focuses on Design Thinking, which along with Growth Mindset, is all the rage in education these days. This book tells stories of people who had no life plan or who changed the current path of their lives. If you are contemplating a career change, this book is for you. If you are fresh out of school and looking for your next steps, this book is for you. No matter your phase of life, this book is for you. It will definitely give you some insights into what you are passionate about!

You are a Badass, Jen Sincero

You Are a Badass | Jen Sincero

This book is probably the most self-helpy one on this list. However, Jen Sicnero’s style of writing and storytelling is pretty funny, even if you aren’t into that kind of book. Her basic message is that the universe is conspiring in your favor. It may sound cheesy, or fantasy-like, but I truly believe there is something to be said for a positive mindset! She talks a lot about how she has overcome obstacles in her life. And she tells stories that have helped her learn important life lessons. Her honesty is refreshing and maybe the motivation you need to get back on track. This book is perfect for anyone feeling a little down or stuck in life.

Better than Before by Gretchen Rubin

Better Than Before | Gretchen Rubin

Gretchen Rubin has become one of my favorite authors over the past few months. Even if you haven’t heard of her, you would probably recognize the cover of her first book The Happiness Project. I remember seeing it in FedEx Office in college (I spent a LOT of time at FedEx Office). This book is like Organized Charm on steroids. Gretchen is amazing. She researches, she writes, she shares. Everything in this particular book is about creating new habits. 21 different strategies total. 21! It will help you run daily, eat healthier, sleep earlier, study consistently, WHATEVER your dream goal it! Definitely check it out 🙂 This book is good for anyone looking to make life changes, but needing concrete steps to do it!

Read: 3 Habits That Will Boost Your Productivity
Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Daring Greatly | Brené Brown

Brené Brown’s main topic is vulnerability. She researches vulnerability, why we hate it for ourselves but like to see it in others, and how it can make us better leaders and humans. This particular book focuses on taking risks and is full of advice and great quotes. “If you’re not in the arena also getting your ass kicked, I’m not interested in your feedback”. How often do we accept judgments of others WHO ARE NOT IN OUR SITUATIONS? And on the flip side of that, how often do we judge others when WE are not in the arena? This book is perfect for anyone needing a little extra boost of encouragement to take a big leap.

Braving the Wilderness by Brené Brown

Braving the Wilderness | Brené Brown

Brown encourages you to look at what lies you tell yourself and the power they hold over you. Everyone feels like they are a little weird/different/unlike anyone else. And guess what? You are. None of us have had the same mix of personality, upbringing, life experiences, education, skills, talents, etc. This is something we P R E A C H in Kindergarten, but it’s so hard to follow as adults. Brown encourages you to be true to yourself, even at the risk of feeling like you don’t fit in. It’s a message that we start needing to hear when we’re about 12, and apparently never stop needing to hear. This book is perfect for people who are “pleasers” or are seeking to fit in.

You might also like: How to Actually Accomplish Your Goals
The Four Tendencies by Gretchen Rubin

The Four Tendencies | Gretchen Rubin

This book is like a spin-off of Better Than Before. Rubin talks about how there are four main categories of people when it comes to habit formation. What I like is that she’s not saying there are four main ways to BE or four main personality types. She’s saying, when it comes to forming (or quitting) a habit, there are four ways people handle it. This book helps you find out what YOUR tendency is and those of your children, coworkers, roommates, spouse, etc. Great for anyone who is starting new habits or looking to work better with others. 

Also read: Good Habits for College Classes
Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic | Elizabeth Gilbert

Big Magic is one of those books that gives you a little surge of optimism with every paragraph. Elizabeth Gilbert’s writing is so encouraging, matter-of-fact, and inspiring that you can’t help but pick up her positive energy. She talks about how long she spent on her dream of being a writer before her first book was ever published. Gilbert walks us through how to be courageous enough to share our creative work. She talks about not trying to satisfy your ego (because you never will). And she talks about creating for FUN, not for money. This book is great for any makers/creators who hold themselves back out of fear.

You might also like: How to Feng Shui Your Work Space
Encouraging books for 2020

Most of these books are ones that focus on emotional, warm and fuzzy type things. I’ll probably do a follow-up book on my favorite professional growth books soon! I know that there are SO MANY encouraging books for both personal and professional growth. Please tell me which ones are your favorites! 🙂

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