Most adults have to juggle several responsibilities. I’ve been perfecting my own juggling act for over a decade. If you ever want to know what goes on between filming social media videos, hosting live streams, and giving private lessons, just picture me running up and down the stairs as I keep up with endless loads of laundry and other daily chores. Going from one task to the other, I call out reminders to my children so that they stay on top of their own to-do lists. On any given day of the week, there always seems to be a list of phone calls to make and and an even longer list of emails to respond to. I also need to make time for our energetic family dog, who demands walks and healthy doses of affection.
But there’s one time when I tune out everything except the screen in front of me. That’s when I teach. My focus has to be entirely on the lesson because within the virtual classroom, the juggling act changes. Perhaps I could describe it as a transition from macro- to micro-juggling. An online teacher has to manage the technology and leverage her pedagogy to help learners reach the objectives.
What helps me do my best? Looking after my physical and mental well-being. Here’s what I need.
1. A good chair. No kidding. My feet used to hurt by the end of the day in the traditional classroom. If I ever go back to that environment, I’ll see if my orthotic inserts can keep me pain-free. As an online teacher, I face another danger: sitting for too long. Filming keeps me on my feet, but live teaching keeps me on my backside. I remind myself to get up after a lesson and walk around. On weekdays, I usually eat my breakfast and lunch while standing to avoid sitting even more. I also invested in a seat cushion with memory foam and a lumbar support pillow.
2. Good posture. Yes, for real. Slouching and hunching my shoulders is easier to do while sitting, but I struggle to maintain good posture even when I stand. Did I find a solution? I believe so. I’ve been using a posture corrector for a little while. I strap it on each day for a stretch of time to build muscle memory for proper posture. Sitting and standing up straight has helped reduce various aches. I think it looks good, too!
3. Warm tea. Private lessons can be 30 or 60 minutes. Live streams can last as long as two hours. A bottle of water doesn’t always do the trick for me. I like to start with hot tea, knowing it will cool as time passes, but actually warm tea works best for my speaking voice. My favorite kind for teaching is called Throat Coat, which is made with slippery elm bark and licorice root. I drink this before a recording session as well.
4. An inner circle of colleagues. I have a small list of people I contact when I have a language question or a request for advice. Being an independent online teacher doesn’t mean I have to face every challenge on my own, nor should you feel you have to do this because you’re now working from home, separated from staff. We should all have at last one colleague we can turn to for support. I haven’t had a real water cooler chat in ages, but I have people who I can reach out to and who help me feel connected to my profession. If you’re looking for a larger network to tap into, don’t forget the many communities of practice within TESOL.
5. My piano. My office is actually a living room, and the focal point is the baby grand piano I got second hand a few years back. I don’t play every day, but I do play throughout the week. As busy adults, we have to remember what makes us feel whole and happy. For me, it’s playing favorite tunes without any interruptions. When I play, especially at the end of a long day, I can put all concerns aside and enjoy the moment. I prefer soulful ballads and uplifting pieces. By the way, I recently shared “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie with my followers. I wanted to spread some positivity.
We certainly need to eat well and get enough sleep. It’s actually been a little easier for me to get the rest I need now that the kids are in lockdown with me. We’re not getting up before dawn, and I can set the alarm for 8:00 or even later. This is a luxury that I’m treasuring! I can stay up to midnight and take in a TV show or part of a movie with a family member and enjoy entertainment that almost convinces me the world is still normal.
In short, our job is to continue delivering the highest quality of instruction we’re capable of. In order to remain at the top of our game, it’s not enough to stay safe in the midst of the pandemic; we also have to stay strong and healthy in body, mind, and spirit. Please take care of yourselves!
Featured photo by Peggy_Marco. Retrieved from https://pixabay.com/photos/juggle-balls-sinai-in-the-air-4919335/.