Checking in with my Year 12 students is as much a pleasure as it is a part of my job – and a privilege to speak so openly and candidly with these wonderful young men about the challenges (and surprising benefits) of learning online.
One of the biggest challenges many reported to me in the last week was a sense of “cabin fever” – not of being at home as such, but of being in the same room for all lessons throughout the day.
Our students are used to roaming through the various buildings of the school, engaging with different spaces and personalities throughout the school day. Staying on one study space – no matter how handy or how hard we have all worked to make it wonderful – is such a big adjustment.
It occurs to me that many teachers and parents working from home might feel the same way – that they spend all their time in one small room and it makes life feel a little small and unvaried.
In addition, it seems to me that more and more of us are ignoring the regularly scheduled break times, thinking that this is a good chance to get more work done, and get out of that room a little bit quicker.
But I am going to suggest that taking those breaks could not be more important.
While often guilty of working through recess and lunch at school, I am holding to a strict schedule of classes and breaks during lockdown. Why? To make sure I stave off feelings of being overwhelmed or, well, locked down.
We have breaks scheduled for a reason. The brain can only concentrate for so long before we start to lose focus and efficiency.
You need to take your breaks to ensure the work you are doing is the best you can do.
But you also need to take breaks for your mental health. In fact, I am going to go out on a limb and say that you should prioritise taking a 30 minute break at recess or lunch (try embracing school time breaks parents!) to get some sunshine (all important Vitamin D) and physical activity, than to do 30 minutes more of study.
Routine has never been more important than in a time where work and personal time are sliding into each other. You need to embrace a new routine to reflect the changing times and our own changing needs.
Whereas I used to get up earlier to walk the dog before work – now I am ensuring I get an extra 30 minutes of sleep that I find I am needing more and more. I take the dog for a walk at recess or lunch now – which really gets me out of my study and helps me appreciate this task as a pleasure rather than another thing to tick off in my day. It’s also much lovelier weather instead of doing it while it is still dark.
You must get out of that study during your breaks and do something that has ABSOLUTELY NOTHING TO DO WITH YOUR WORK (teachers and parents this means you too!). Do an online Yoga workout. Chop veggies to make a healthy soup. Bake cookies. Read a book (if your eyes aren’t square). Paint something – be creative in whatever way you can. Take a 15 minute dance break. Do a meditation from one of your apps. Look at these breaks as a way to address those 9 daily needs the Hive points out you have.
And never once feel guilty for taking them. Nor for suggesting strongly to those in your household to do the same.
You never know, once we all get back to normal, we may have set a wonderful pattern of being kind and nurturing to ourselves that just might be hard to break.