We are all in debt to the teachers who made us
We are all in debt to the teachers who made us. Teachers have always done an incredibly important job, helping us to shape our minds and mature in chaotic environments. You may not see many YouTube videos of people leaning out their windows to applaud teachers coming home from a hard day’s work, but if anyone deserves such a show of appreciation, surely teachers are near the top of that list.
But now, with the added pressure and constraints that come with teaching during this global pandemic, teachers are shouldering a whole new level of responsibility. Teaching from home requires that teachers utilize a host of new skills they may have never expected to need, like designing digital lessons and creating quality video content.
Like many office workers, you’re going to need an established environment to function as your at-home office. But unlike a lot of other kinds of employees, your office has to double as a kind of film studio. We’re all spending a lot of time on video chat at the moment, but you’re also having to create digestible lessons for groups of students to watch and review on a daily basis. And on top of that, you have to come up with hands-on activities to fill their time and implement strategies to deepen your relationships with students as individuals. It has to feel impossible at times.
Thankfully, there are a lot of resources out there to ease your stress. With the right information and the right solutions, the impossible can become a good deal easier.
Here is a list of some of the best, sanity-supporting strategies for teachers teaching from home.
1. Setting up your digital classroom
This one really does not have to be hard, but it will be a thorn in your side until it’s properly figured out. You need to be able to feel comfortable working where you work and you also need to feel comfortable with the content you produce from there. That means getting the basics of lighting handled once and for all.
Very few people nail the lighting in for themselves when they’re working on video chat. It’s just not something many people are trained in or get intuitively, and so a lot of us are either swimming in images that are too dark, or washed out, or—thanks to harsh overheads—we get that dreaded mug-shot look for our office meetings.
So here are the basics of great lighting:
- Choosing a light source: All you need are some free-standing light sources like desk-lamps, swing-arm lamps, or floor lamps. If you’re lucky enough to have a window in your office, you can experiment with natural light, but be prepared to just shut your blinds when you’re on video because mixing light sources don’t look good.
- Positioning your light: Keep your primary light source behind your camera or computer, generally pointed at you. If it’s right behind your camera, and generally eye-level with you, that’s probably going to look good and highlight your eyes.
- Adding light: The second light source you should put behind you, perhaps on the floor, where it’s out of sight. As long as its offscreen, it will add definition to the background while avoiding the dreaded backlighting look which drenches your face in shadow.
- Reducing glare and harsh lighting: If your lighting is coming off as too harsh, consider softening it up with some gels or even just some tracing paper placed over it. You can also try taking your primary light source and aiming it at a wall, where it will bounce its light towards you as opposed to aiming it directly at your face.
No need to get fancy here. You probably don’t need professional equipment like softboxes or a beautiful camera. Those things are great, but in a pinch, simple lamps and your laptop should do fine.
2. To Stream or Record?
There are definitely some advantages to having to learn on technology so much, and one of those advantages has to be flexibility. It would be one thing if you had to stand in front of your camera all day like you would stand in front of your classroom and just teach into the void for the entirety of the school day, hoping digital students were paying attention. But this where lessons learned from remote work in all industries comes into play.
Just like how most industries are adjusting to remote work by transitioning from synchronous tasks to asynchronous tasks, you also can free yourself from the responsibility of always being directly in front of your students as they engage with the material. Instead, you can create a lesson, upload it once, and remain engaged if a student needs to follow up with you on it. But you certainly don’t need to teach all of your lessons live at all times, even though that is definitely a preferred style for some teachers, it would just be too much work.
You don’t actually have to choose. With many video-conferencing apps, including 8x8 Meetings, you have the option to record any stream and get a transcript provided. So whatever you happen to do live with your students doubles as a pre-recorded lesson, that students can go over whenever they want. As long as you’re making the content available for them later, you can actually rest a lot more than you could in your previous life as an in-person instructor.
3. Use Open Sourced Resources
And then there’s even another option—don’t use material created by you at all! There are millions of teachers like you in the exact same situation, trying to find engaging ways to teach the same material, and it’s mostly all being recorded. Why not lean on each other?
After this school year, there will truly be an unprecedented amount of teaching material uploaded on the internet. Make use of the open-sourced brilliance of your peers. Take inspiration from each other, but also invite someone else’s video into your classroom in the same way you might bring in an outside expert. At the end of the day, you’re not lowering the quality of the teaching material, but you are lowering your stress.
4. Know when to “go home.”
Many of us are falling into the trap these days of working 24/7 because there is no clear line between work and home. We work at home, so who’s to say our clients, or our students, shouldn’t be reaching out and sending us emails at 10 pm just like they did at 10 am? And even if you weren’t in the habit of responding to work emails at all hours of the day before the pandemic, quarantine has made 24/7 employees out of many of us.
We all need to know how to “go home” after the workday is over. All the messages you receive throughout the evening will be there for you the next day.