fbpx
#32: Self-Care and Balance for Online Educators

#32: Self-Care and Balance for Online Educators

This content was first published on OnlineLearningTips.Com.

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge

It’s been an extremely challenging time for teachers who have moved from classroom teaching to online teaching while also trying to balance family life when spouses and children are also working and learning in the home. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen talks to Dr. Lisset Pickens, a professor at American Public University and licensed professional counselor about managing work-life balance and managing these new stressors.

Learn about the importance of establishing distinct learning and work spaces at home and setting boundaries so its clear when work and school time is over and the “family button” gets turned back on. Also, hear recommendations for self-care, learning to say no so you don’t overextend yourself, and ways to be creative with your family during the pandemic.

Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Welcome to the podcast. Today, I’m here with our guest, Dr. Lisset Pickens. Lisset is a professor at American Public University with an academic background in early childhood education, educational leadership, psychology, and child and family development.

Dr. Pickens is also a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified counselor and nationally certified school counselor. She holds certifications in teaching Pre-K through 12th grades, school counseling and educational leadership.

Lisset, thank you for joining me today. I understand that you have quite a bit of experience in online education and you’ve taught in higher ed for many years. Would you mind sharing a little bit about your background and the experience you have as an online educator to help our listeners get to know you better?

Dr. Lisset Pickens: Yes, I will. And thank you so much for having me, Bethanie. It’s a pleasure to be here. Let’s see. Where do I even begin?

My experience spans from working in the classroom directly with students at the elementary school level. I’ve also worked in the school counseling role and that also was primarily in the elementary school level. And from there I transitioned into higher ed, where I’ve been for quite a number of years. So my background stems between two areas: psychology on one side, and then education on the other.

My degrees are very diversified when it comes to disciplines. I also hold certifications in counseling and as well as in education. I’ve been an online educator since 2006, so it’s been quite a number of years. I’ve seen lots of changes over that time, but I definitely enjoy it.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Wonderful. Well, thank you for sharing your background. And can you tell us a little bit more about what your online teaching experience includes? Is this a lot of classes throughout the year? What’s that like?

Dr. Lisset Pickens: Well, it just varies. Every semester is going to be a little different. I do work full-time in a full-time capacity. I also do some adjunct work. But primarily, it involves teaching online. So actually engaging with students.

I do serve as well as a faculty mentor. So I do assist new and upcoming faculty with getting acclimated to the classroom and the role of whether it’s an adjunct professor or full-time status. So primarily teaching. I’m involved as well in a number of committees. I do serve on the grad council committee. I’m also the co-chair of the psychology club and a variety of other different hats that I wear.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Fantastic. Lisset, thanks for sharing all that. You’re definitely someone that our listeners are going to learn a lot from today. And I’m really excited that you’re here to talk about teaching online and life that we’re managing while we’re doing this.

So I came across a report from the Census Bureau just yesterday. I was thinking about how many people are online right now, with COVID-19 going on for months. And it is indicated right now that 93% of households of school-aged children actually have some form of distance learning right now during COVID-19.

And then of course, we all know that in higher ed, lots of universities have moved to online and they’re already anticipating spring terms being online. This is a big change for a lot of people.

With all these people learning online this means there are also teachers who have moved online and maybe they’re even working with children learning from home. So what’s your perspective about working online and teaching from home?

Teaching From Home Requires Planning and Adjusting

Dr. Lisset Pickens: Well, it has definitely changed the way that we not only manage our professional lives, but also our personal lives. Because of course, what has now happened is at home, you’re not only managing home, but you’re managing work as well.

And then for other individuals who may be in school, as non-traditional learners, they’re managing school, they’re managing work, and they’re managing home. So you’re going to definitely see an increase in the amount of stress that we’re dealing with because honestly, you’re juggling so many different plates, but you’re doing it in your home.

So it’s very important during this time to find a way to organize your home so that when it’s time for doing school, there’s a place for that. When it’s a time for work, there’s a place for that. And then if you have students, your own children that are also working remotely, they also need a space. So having these separate spaces is really critical because it will help to maintain that balance that you’re going to need.

You have to protect that home space as much as possible. So while you may have spaces that are dedicated to working and doing school work, it’s still home. You want to also enjoy the benefits of being at home. So actually taking the time to sit down and figure out the logistics, if you will, of how you’re going to manage these different areas is very critical.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Lisset, as I hear you saying that, you’re describing this real thoughtful approach to setting some boundaries, defining your space. And I would bet that there are a lot of folks out there listening, who haven’t really settled on that yet. What kind of things would maybe be the red flags they might notice where they need to stop and define their space a little bit more, and their time, a little bit more. What comes up?

Dr. Lisset Pickens: If you are sitting down for dinner and you’re reaching over piles of papers or a computer, it’s probably time to set up some boundaries. And if we don’t do that, what can be impacted is our ability to even function effectively within our various roles.

What we’ll see is chaos, confusion and of course we know this adds to stress. So having those boundaries are very important. We want at the end of the week, for that to truly be a celebration of the end of the week. We’re putting in a lot of time, we’re working with our kids, we’re working from home and the end of the week, you just want to simply spend that time and celebrate your family.

So if there are no boundaries in place, that can look very different. Those lines will be blurred. And then when we get ready to start the new week, we may not find what we’re looking for. It could be a case where our learners at home are not entirely ready for the start of the week. It can really cause additional stress. So establishing these places in your home is very important.

I know for myself, I have two middle schoolers. I have an elementary student and I have a one-year-old. So sitting down to figure out exactly who’s going where, when and how, all within the confines of our home is something that my husband and I really had to sit down and figure out.

Now I’ll be honest and transparent. When everything first started, when the pandemic started and students had to be at home, et cetera, it was chaos for quite some time. Maybe about a few weeks. And what happens is we are stressed out. My son needs a paper. I can’t find the paper, or other things are happening that is not conducive to what we like to see taking place.

So we had to take a step back and figure out exactly where the learning spaces were going to be, where our workspaces we’re going to be. And at the end of the day, we had to commit to turning it off. Once school was over, we turned it off. As long as homework was done, everything was turned off.

And there has to be a time where the family button gets turned back on. Because typically what would happen is your children go out to school. You go out to work and on your way home, you enter the door. That family button gets turned on. You’re looking at dinner, you’re figuring out homework. And you’re spending that time with each other.

But what happens if all of this is taking place within one location, which happens to be your home? So establishing a sound routine and figuring out those spaces are so critical to the effective functioning of your family. All of these things have to be taken into consideration.

Prioritizing the Quality of Your Home Life Brings Creativity

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: You’re absolutely right, Lisset. And I love the way you described this as turning it off and the family button getting turned back on. So that sounds like you’re focusing a lot on the quality of your home life. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?

Dr. Lisset Pickens: Yes. You have to put just as much effort into protecting the quality of your home life as you do anything else, whether it’s work or school or whatever the case may be. Your home life, that’s your support system. That’s your place of comfort. That’s your place of refuge. You want to protect that, but it’s going to be difficult to do that if you do not take the time to kind of map and figure everything out.

Figure out the logistics of the different times when your learners need to be online, the different times when you’re at work. And when you need to turn the computer off, you have to come up with a plan.

One way that I protect the quality of my home life is I make sure that at the end of the week, once everything is done, that, like I said, we turn on that family button. We spend time together. And of course, we’re having to spend a whole lot of time together now, but it’s different.

I think it’s really forced us to be more creative as a family. I think it’s brought us together, just being transparent there. And my children, I think now are, they’re more into ways that they can address different things, but in a variety of different ways.

So, for example, during this pandemic and the quarantine and everything, it was Father’s Day. And typically, what we do on Father’s Day is, of course, we figure out a way to celebrate my husband. So we usually go out to eat. That’s typically what happens.

But during that time, we weren’t able to do that. So my kids came up with an idea, “Well, why don’t we do it outside? Why don’t we figure out what we can do outside?” So that ball got rolling.

And by the end of it, we came up with watching a movie outside while we dine outside. And that was something we had never done before. That was something that we probably wouldn’t have thought of, at least not right away. But what I love about it is that it was my kids who came up with the idea and I just helped to execute it.

So I think the quality of your home life, even though we’re dealing with everything we’re dealing with right now, can be maintained. It can be improved. For me, I know it’s been improved because now we’re doing more things together and we’re finding creative ways to do things together because we’re around each other all the time. So we have to be creative.

What else can you do besides being around each other all of the time? Well, we’re going to think of some different things we can do. We’ve been taking walks around the neighborhood, which typically before this, we would say, “Oh, we can’t do that because we have to go do this, or we have to do that.” And that always got pushed on the back burner. But now in protecting that home life and the quality of that life, we/re making a conscious effort to do some of these things. So it’s been really nice.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Lisset, thank you so much for sharing all of that with us about the fact that creativity has emerged. Some new activities maybe that you would not have thought of before, and also this closeness with your family and really intentionally focusing on that. That is so helpful.

And I’m sure, great ideas for our listeners as well in thinking about, well, how can we balance? How can we self care a little bit more and focus on family time and the time outside of being online?

Three Tips for Online Educators

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: And Lisset, you’ve shared with us some great ideas about creativity, closeness with your family, turning off the online work, and also turning back on that family button as we call it.

So if you were to suggest three tips for our listeners today, to help them with balance while they’re teaching online, what would you suggest?

1: Set Boundaries

Dr. Lisset Pickens: Sure. I think having boundaries would be the most critical point. I can’t stress that enough. So when I say boundaries, I mean having some firm boundaries at a certain time where shutting things off, we’re interacting with each other.

In my house, it involves technology. So no phones, no computer, no games. It’s just time to actually interact. We need to check-in with each other. That’s very important. To see how our kids even are processing what is happening.

I have four children, like I said, and each one of them is so different. And what I found throughout this experience is that each one of them, probably minus my one year old, is processing things very differently. For my daughter, who I like to call my social butterfly, she doesn’t meet a stranger. She’s very energetic. So this for her, I can see where it’s kind of changed. And sometimes she would feel a little down but those were the times we made sure we checked in with her. “How are you feeling today? What’s going on? Would you like to do something?” And go from there.

Versus my middle son, he has flourished during this time. He was usually my very quiet child and now he’s engaging and he’s actually doing better remotely than he was in person. So just trying to figure out each child and what’s going on with them.

So I definitely think we can maximize on those opportunities when we have those cutoff times. Just a time to get away from the technology, because of course we’re all using technology right now. We have to for a large majority of the day. So there has to be a time where we turn things off.

2: Take Time for Self-Care

So I would say this will also prevent you from being overextended. You want to establish a healthy schedule. You want to engage in self-care. You want to ensure that you are balancing those plates well, so boundaries are important.

The next thing I would say, and I just briefly mentioned that, was the importance of self-care. We want to avoid burnout as much as possible throughout this time. So we have to sometimes take a step back, even step away and just reflect.

For me, reflecting is listening to music just for a few minutes, just to kind of step away and ensure that I’m checking in with myself to engage in that self-care. So we have to take time for ourselves even during all of this.

And it may look different. Maybe before we would’ve went and gotten a massage, or maybe before we would have went and did something else outside of the home. And maybe now it looks a little different, but again, that’s where we have to be a little creative in how we are addressing a lot of the things that are happening now.

So, for some people, it may be reading a book. Like I said, for me, it’s listening to music. Something else that has come out of all of this, that is somewhat new to me is I finished writing a children’s book.

And that was not even on my radar for some time, but through all of this and making sure that I engage in self-care, I took some time. And every day, just for a few minutes, I write a little, write a little, write a little. Until they started developing into this project. So I think that’s very important.

3: Learn to Say NO

And then the last point would be to embrace the ability to say, “no.” That is a tough one for some people, it was a tough one for me. And honestly it took me a while to get there, but you want to ensure that you do not overextend yourself.

Just because you may be working from home and you’re in a state of comfort, we can work from home comfortably and we don’t have to get dressed up or do anything like that, but it can create a false sense of comfort to the point where we are saying yes to everything.

Your boss messages you, “Hey, can you do this?” And you’re already overextended, but “Sure, I’ll take that on.” Or, a friend asks you to do something. “Sure, I’ll do this.” And before you know it, you’re burnt out. So it’s okay to say no.

And I know it can be difficult because you’re working from home and it just feels like it should be okay to take on more. But again, that’s where my previous point of self-care comes in and why having that balance is so important. So embrace the ability to say no sometimes. And I think by saying, no, sometimes you’re saying yes to yourself.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Lisset, I really appreciated you sharing all these points. Honestly, they’re each effective and useful points and we all need to practice them. And the one that stood out to me, you were talking about self-care, taking time, and that you set aside a little time to write and then wrote a children’s book. Congratulations on the book, by the way!

Dr. Lisset Pickens: Thank you.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Yeah, that is so exciting. And also it goes really nicely with what you just said about your family activities that really turning things off gave you this space to plan together. The fun movie under the stars, outdoor, the father’s day experience.

And it sounds like that same space for creativity is what is helping you to create as well in writing this book. What do you think might change long-term for people when we’re taking this time and having the space that the pandemic has sort of forced us into?

Challenges We Can Anticipate When We Return to “Normal” Work

Dr. Lisset Pickens: I think, and I thought about that recently. What is the adjustment going to be like for some people who now work from home for an extended period of time, what is that adjustment going to feel like? Or even look like? Let’s say they do return to a brick-and-mortar building after this, or their schedules become a little bit more rigorous because things have opened up or things have changed.

And I think at first it will be a little challenging. It will be a little challenging, especially if you have invested the time needed and protected your family space, invested in the logistics of your workspaces at home. And you’ve gotten into the flow of everything. Everything is working pretty well. And now you’re going to have to change again and go back to the way it was. So I think initially it will be challenging.

However, I don’t think we’ll remain there forever. I think out of that challenge, what is going to happen is, hopefully, we’re going to adapt some new practices. We’re going to put new practices in place and we’re going to take a lot of the skills that we’ve developed during this time into those workspaces, for example.

And I think it’s going to produce a more productive professional life, a well-functioning family life. Because this is the rehearsal. We’ve had this opportunity right now to really try different things, trial and error. Try something and if that doesn’t work, figure something else out.

For example, with my three school-aged kids at first, I had everyone working in the same vicinity, the same space. And that was a no-no. That did not go very well. So I had to figure out a new strategy.

So I had my daughter who, like I said, very energetic, likes to interact. What I figured out: she needs a space, all of her own, where if she wants to stand and talk on the computer with her teacher, she can. If she wants to do cartwheels while she’s doing that, she can. But she needed her own space because then my middle son, he’s one who gets distracted very easily. So he needed a quiet space. He needed an area where he can engage and be free of distractions. So I had to move him to a different place.

And then my oldest son he’s kind of like me, he goes with the flow. So he was fine either way, but this is what I’m talking about in regards to trial and error. So we’ve rehearsed this throughout this time and we’ve learned how to protect that family time. So hopefully those are skills and opportunities that we’ll take back with us and we can implement that.

And especially when it comes to saying no and engaging with self-care. Making sure if we set up a time or there’s an event that we have taking place, and someone comes and says, “Hey, do you mind doing this?” We feel comfortable in saying no, because I’ve already committed to something else with my family. Or, I may have something else going on.

Whereas before, that may have been very difficult to do. So I think that it would be challenging at first, but I definitely think this has prepared us for those challenges and that we’ll be okay.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Fantastic. Lisset, thank you so much for sharing your time with us on the Online Teaching Lounge podcast today and for your wealth of knowledge and advice for anyone who is teaching online right now, and especially working with family members at home. Thank you for being here.

Dr. Lisset Pickens: Thank you so much for having me. I enjoyed it. Thank you.

Dr. Bethanie Hansen: Yeah. And what you shared with us about boundaries, self-care and saying, no, these are all areas that can help us manage the work and to thrive. So to our listeners, we wish you all the best this coming week in your online teaching and setting healthy boundaries as well.

This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast. To share comments and requests for future episodes, please visit bethaniehansen.com/request. Best wishes this coming week in your online teaching journey. For more information about our university, visit us at studyatapu.com. APU, American Public University.

Lisset Bird-Pickens, Ed.D. is a full-time associate professor in the Human Development and Family Studies program at American Public University. She holds a B.S. in Psychology from Georgia Southern University, an M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from Mercer University, an M.Ed. in School Counseling from The University of West Alabama and an Ed.D. in Education/Instructional Leadership from Nova Southeastern University. 

Dr. Bird-Pickens has experience in online learning and has taught at the university level since 2006. She has taught elementary students and adult learners.  

Lisset’s academic background is in early childhood education, educational leadership, psychology, and child and family development. Dr. Bird-Pickens is a licensed professional counselor, nationally certified counselor and nationally certified school counselor. She holds certifications in teaching pre-K through 12th grades, school counseling in K-12, and educational leadership in K-12. 

 

Bethanie Hansen, DMA, PCC, is a Faculty Director and Certified Professional Coach for the School of Arts & Humanities at American Public University. She holds a B.M. in Music Education from Brigham Young University, a M.S. in Arts & Letters from Southern Oregon University and a DMA in Music Education from Boston University.

Bethanie focuses on personal and professional development, self-growth, teaching and working online, and mindset. She is an educator, coach, manager, writer, presenter and musician with 25 years of experience helping others achieve their goals.

#31: Teaching Military and Veteran Students Online

#31: Teaching Military and Veteran Students Online

This content was first published on OnlineLearningTips.Com.

Subscribe to Online Teaching Lounge

Military students, especially those on active duty, are a unique segment of the online student population who have specific needs. In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen provides advice and recommendations for instructors about teaching military students including encouraging them to ask questions, making accommodations for unexpected deployments, focusing on real-world connections with learning material, helping them with time management strategies, and much more.

Transcript:

Dr. Bethanie Hansen:

Welcome to episode number 31, teaching military and veteran students online. This podcast is for educators, academics, and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging, and fun.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics, and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the episode today. Thanks for joining me for the podcast. I’m happy to work with you on teaching students who are either currently serving in the military active duty or perhaps they are veterans students. Either way, we have a special population who needs a little bit of attention and understanding.

I work at a university where we have a very high percentage of military and veteran students. And I personally have really enjoyed what these students bring to the experience.

By definition, for today’s discussion, student veterans or military students are either currently serving, they have served in the past. They could be undergraduate or graduate students. They might be active duty, National Guard in the Reserves, separated from the military, or retired.

This is a broad definition, and for today, I’m just going to talk about these individuals as all being in the veteran population. We’re going to get started with a little bit of understanding to help out if you’re new to teaching military and veteran students, or if you’d like a little grounding on what I’m going to talk about.

Military Students are Highly Disciplined, Structured, and Team Players

The first thing is, veteran students understand roles and hierarchy. In the military, you might understand that there is a chain of command. There is a military commander who has the authority in a given situation. There is a tradition of receiving and obeying orders of various kinds. They are followed, and they dictate a lot of one’s work, one’s existence in the military structure itself.

There’s also a lot of discipline that military individuals bring to their studies and to their work. And they’re used to working on teams and interacting with others and having their results also depend on other people as well.

Encourage Military Students to Ask Questions and Provide Them Clear Instructions

Because of this, there are a lot of things we do as online instructors, where we might catch military or veteran students off guard just a bit, and we might need to let them know they can approach us with questions. They can ask questions to clarify things. They don’t need to take things just on face value and walk away and try to guess.

If requirements are not very clear, we want to encourage them to reach out, communicate, ask questions. If they have a special situation or a circumstance that takes them out of class, we also want to reach out to them to communicate that we’ll be flexible with them and we’ll work on things.

Some communication basics that will help you in working with military and veteran students are to be clear and concise with all of your communications and your instructions. Be direct. Keep it brief.

Act first and ask questions later is a mantra for a lot of veteran students. So giving a lot of information up front will help them because they might not ask first.

Apply Andragogy Theories to Teaching Military Students

They give respect and we want to demonstrate respect in our teaching toward them as well. As I mentioned, there’s a chain of command that exists in the military. So there’s this understanding of the hierarchy of the top-down leadership. You as the instructor, they might be perceiving in that way.

Some of the work and life experiences that military and veteran students bring to their learning really center on the principles of andragogy, which is adult learning theory. And Malcolm Knowles is widely known for this theory as are many others.

Some of those things about the art and science of adult learning really apply here. Our military students are self-directed, autonomous, and they need to be able to control a lot of things in their learning experience.

For example, they might want to plan their own learning. They might need to work ahead. They might want to decide their project, based on the parameters, and just jump in. Their learning experience is the main resource in who they’re going to become as a student. If they have life experience that you can tap in to the work they’re doing in the online classroom, this is going to really help drive home the concepts they’re learning. It’s also going to really personalize it for them.

Help Students Make Real-World Connections to Classroom Learning

If students in the military and veteran population understand why they’re learning something, they just show up ready to learn, and they have intrinsic motivation, for the most part, to get it done.

An example of this life experience and work tying into online learning comes from the course that I taught. I did a research experiment with students who were in a music appreciation class and also in an art appreciation class. In this course, during week one of the forums, I specifically asked them: What was their life experience with the music or art of other cultures? Had they been to other countries? Had they seen the art or heard the music of other people who were maybe new to them?

I had students with the whole barrage of different experiences. Some had served in Japan, some in Korea, some in various countries in Europe. Some had served in the Middle East, some in Africa. They were able to draw on those experiences before the class really started rolling along. And as they were learning different musical things and artistic things, they were also able to make more connections because we had tapped into that experience early on.

Then at the end of the course, I asked them the questions again. How does this help them frame the experiences they have had with other cultures, and what might they do in the future? Some students even said they wished they had had a course like this before serving in those other countries, so they could value the culture more and really taste of the different offerings, different cultures, and different countries provided to them.

Anything that we can do to tap into their existing knowledge, their life experiences, and their learning is going to really help the military and veteran student, and for that matter, even the whole adult learner population.

Familiarize Yourself with the Language of the Military

There is some special vocabulary you might encounter when you’re working with military students. For example, there are common military terms. You might hear the words TDY, or the abbreviation TDY. TDY stands for a Temporary Duty Assignment. There’s also TDA, and it could be called TDT, Temporary Duty Travel. It could be TAD, which is Temporary Additional Duty in the Navy and the Marine Corps, or TDI, which Is Temporary Duty under Instruction. And that refers to a training assignment.

All of these kinds of things are going to take a military or veteran student out of the classroom. They’re going to be on an assignment where they may or may not have internet. There might need to be some flexibility with due dates, with the weeks where they’re actually showing up in the forum discussion; and there might need to be some either opening assignments early or giving them flexibility to complete the work when they get back from those temporary assignments.

Now, there are also some different phrases that might be interesting and new. For example, the phrase “embrace the suck” is a phrase that a lot of my students used to throw around in class. It means to love it when work gets tough, because when it’s over, you will better appreciate the not so tough work that you’re going to do.

It could be referring to a class they didn’t really want to take. Maybe it’s a Gen Ed class, something like that, but they’re going to just power through it and do the best they can to get the tough work done.

Another one is Lima Charlie, that means loud and clear, or in other words, I heard and understood what you said. Another phrase might be “to nug it out,” which is to get it done. Also, there’s a WARNO, W-A-R-N-O, which means a heads up that a project is coming soon. Literally, it’s a warning order.

So military students do have a lot of jargon they might use. In the transcript notes from this podcast, I’ve given you some links to translations and glossaries so that if you are not experienced in the military, and if you do teach a lot of military students, you can meet them where they’re at. You might look up some phrases you might see in discussions or in messages that they send you.

Disruptions or Challenges Facing Military Students

Now, back to this idea of disruptions. Students who are actively serving in the military or in the reserves might be called away unexpectedly. They might not be able to tell you that they are now out of the classroom.

When you see them missing, definitely reach out in the messages or the email, whatever your method is, so you can connect with them and reassure them that when they get back in the course, you’re going to be there for them and able to help them catch up or get back on track.

They might have longer work hours. They might be using government-issued computers, which is an issue when you’re using something like YouTube videos. There are certain kinds of videos and media that might actually be blocked on government-issued computers.

So they might be using a common or shared computer with other students, with other people in the military, or with others in a government organization. In those shared computers, they may or may not have different software or permissions. This is something important to be aware of.

They’re likely taking more than one class online at a time. A lot of military students that I’ve worked with, as I’ve taught online, have been taking three or four classes simultaneously. They’re out of the country, away from their family. They’re filling their free time with learning to take advantage of it, whether it’s to advance their career, prepare for time after the military, make a rank advancement. There are lots of reasons that students will do that.

Assisting Them with Time Management Strategies

For you, and for your students who are in the military, time management is essential. You have many roles, instructor, developer, researcher, advisor, all kinds of things that you do in your online teaching job. And also some physical and time boundaries of work and home life to navigate. Just like you have this time management and boundary stuff to navigate, your students do too. They may be stretching to develop new strategies and be student while also serving. And you may need to coach them in planning their work and working their plan if it doesn’t show up automatically.

Some ways to limit distractions, there are several apps and programs that can help you out. There’s a limiting program called keepmeout.com and another called stayfocusedapp.me. Both of these are worth looking at to limit distractions, to really focus when you’re in your online space, and also to encourage your students to try new tools to help themselves get the work done quickly and get done.

You might consider, for both you and your students, using a timer, setting a work area with your ringer on your cell phone turned off. Maybe set “Do not disturb.” Establish the school working hours, set boundaries for work personal and family time. Let others know that you cannot be disturbed. And then, if you’re teaching at more than one institution or your student is taking more than one class, you might consider how they’re going to juggle the demands of various assignments and put those all on their calendar. Also, use a planner yourself to make sure that you’re on track and able to return grading in a timely manner, and stay engaged.

Ensure Assignment Instructions are Comprehensive and Clear

Some helpful adjustments as you’re working with military and veteran students, you might want to detail the development of the assignment itself. What are the steps to complete the assignment? What should it look like when it’s done? Make sure the assignment description stands alone. It doesn’t need to require you to give more explanation or send additional emails or announcements to help students figure it out

We want the assignment description to tell students how long the finished product should be. Is it going to be a written paper, a slide show? What is it? Whatever the approximate length is going to be, students need to know in advance.

They also need clear and specific requirements and invitations to contact their instructor and receive guidance should they need extra help. Some students might also need the opportunity to resubmit after they have revised the work, especially if they were unclear and acted before asking the questions, which might be common.

Lastly, we need a lot of tools for our military and veteran students to reach out for all kinds of help and support. For example, if there is a writing center at your online school, you want to give them that information. If there is some kind of tutoring or help improving the essay or the assignment, we want to give them that kind of stuff too. So definitely give your students tools for outreach of various kinds, whether it’s tech support, academic support, or other help.

If you have large class sizes or several classes you’re teaching at once, where you have more to read, more to grade, you want to communicate and personalize your messages to students.

I recommend trying Dragon, naturally speaking. It’s a product sold by Nuance, and it helps you to dictate the things you’re going to say into written documents. You can dictate into your announcements, your discussion forums, your other messages that you send students, and also into your grading feedback. This is going to give you a chance to be more personalized with all of your students and connect with them even better.

You might consider keeping a roster of each student and noting what background they have. For example, if they’re out of the country, if they might have internet issues, if they’re currently active duty serving somewhere.

When you make notes like this, you’re going to be able to adjust to your students’ needs much more quickly, and also anticipate the fact that they might have connection issues. Or they might have changes that come up during the semester or session that impact their ability to do the work and do it on time.

You also want to be aware that there might be different expectations, requirements, and standards that students need to learn when they’re in your course, that might not necessarily be the same everywhere.

Anticipate the Needs of Military Students

One thing I highly recommend when you’re working with military and veteran students is to anticipate what they’re going to need as much as possible. You can do this by giving them some screen overviews of your course.

You can use Screencastify, Screencast-O-Matic, or a paid app called Camtasia. You can record walkthroughs of the classroom to give them a guide around the place and where they need to engage, where they need to read things, where they’re going to find their assignments and all of that.

You also can give them a netiquette guide. I’m going to give you a sample netiquette guide in the transcript of this podcast as well. If you want to click on the hyperlink, you can visit the site that has the downloadable netiquette guide.

You can, of course, personalize this to work more for you. But when you tell students upfront how to dialogue in the forum, what you’re looking for and what you discourage, that’s going to help them show up the right way from day one.

Lastly, you want to guide them to shift their level of conversation from casual into academic conversation. Some students approach their online learning like they would texting. And so, language can be brief, abbreviated, and more concise than we would like.

Modeling forum posts, giving that netiquette guide, and sharing what makes a good reply, maybe in your announcements or other feedback that you share, that is going to help your military and veteran students know exactly what’s expected. It’s also going to empower them to meet your expectations much more quickly and more fully.

Think about these things that are going to work for you in working with your military and veteran students. Some of the things that I covered so far really are ways to adapt and help meet them where they’re at.

Think about also genuine teaching engagement when you’re working with them. How can you guide them to participate the most effectively that they can by launching things up front, proactively giving them some steps to do things, and giving them a lot of examples and guidance? Then when you give your grading feedback, how can you be as rich and informative as possible so students can really improve rapidly for the next assignment?

Recommendations for Instructor Tools

You might consider trying some automated grading tools that give you even more additional feedback space. One of those that I highly recommend is this add-in toolbar for Microsoft Word. If you download load your essays in Microsoft Word, and you like to give annotated comments on essays, this add-in toolbar is called GradeAssist. It’s sold by a company www.educo360.com. That’s spelled E-D-U-C-0 360.com. This allows you to create comments that you would normally give, for example, formatting style, quotations, grammar, a lot of those standard things. Then you can also add personalization because you can speed up the process of the more common feedback and give yourself the space and the time to give more personalized feedback as well.

I don’t really recommend using automated tools for all of your feedback. Students need personalization, and they need to know that you read their paper and you’re not just saying the same things to everybody.

Other efficiency tools that can help you meet their needs would be to try auto text expanding apps like TextExpander or ActiveWords, or TypeItIn. All three of these are great tools.

You might consider investing in two computer monitors. When I’m working with my online courses, and especially when I want to give better feedback and more quality engagement, I’ll put part of the class on one monitor and part of the class on the other, so I can move between spaces. Having two computer monitors is going to make your online teaching just a lot more pleasurable and efficient.

If you grade early and handle things only once and return things quickly, it cuts down the overall time you’re going to spend giving feedback, because students can make the adjustments more quickly.

Also, you might have military and veteran students reaching out to you to extend the due date on something. If you’re pretty firm about due dates, and you’re going to move that due date for a student, be sure to give them a week at a time when you extend a due date, because they may not be in class the very next day or two.

So if you only extend a due date by one or two days, that’s not going to help them very much. Extending it by a week or longer, that’s going to be better, so they have a chance to get back into the classroom and see your communication, and then do the work. This is a great strategy in working with all kinds of adult learners, who just might not be logging in every day in addition to the military and veteran population.

Writing Assistance for Military Students

Military considerations that I want to bring to the forefront here, as I tie up these comments today, is that military personnel is often guided to be as succinct and direct as possible in their writing. If you’re working on quality writing with your military and veteran students, keep this in mind. You’re going to coach a lot and you’re going to give a lot of examples to help them grow.

When you’re grading their work, look for potential jargon use or excessive brevity, where guidance and coaching could be helpful in developing more complete ideas. Then make your feedback relevant, personalized, and helpful. They’re going to continue improving and learning and be very efficient at doing that as you give them that quality feedback.

So thank you for being here as we talk about working with military and veteran students online today. This is a wonderful population of students who are going to do a great job with you as you meet them and give them proactive strategies upfront, and also understand a little bit more about the culture they’re coming from. It will help you be more effective, and you’ll enjoy your work with military and veteran students all the more.

Best wishes to you in your online teaching this week. And definitely reach out using the request form on my website. If you would like to share any comments about this podcast or suggestions for future episodes.

 

#30: Using a Planner for Amazing Time Management in Your Online Teaching

#30: Using a Planner for Amazing Time Management in Your Online Teaching

This content was first published at OnlineLearningTips.Com.

The use of online teaching has risen in popularity due to restrictions from the coronavirus pandemic. But teaching online classes can be incredibly time-consuming, because the classroom is always open.

In this episode, Dr. Bethanie Hansen offers several time management strategies to help online educators complete their teaching tasks in an efficient, effective, and organized way while also improving their classroom presence and student engagement activities. Learn more about creating an online planning grid that designates time for grading, classroom activities, curriculum creation, professional development and personal time.

Read the Transcript

This is episode number 30: “Using a Planner for Amazing Time Management in Your Online Teaching.” This podcast is for educators, academics and parents who know that online teaching can be challenging, but it can also be rewarding, engaging and fun.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge. I’m your host, Dr. Bethanie Hansen, and I’ll be your guide for online teaching tips, topics and strategies. Walk with me into the Online Teaching Lounge.

Welcome to the Online Teaching Lounge, and thanks for joining me for today’s podcast. Today, we’re going to talk about a subject that we all care a great deal about. And the main goal of this subject is to conserve our time and energy, and also help us stay connected to our students while being part of that bigger professional picture. One of the things that keeps me engaged is having that variety in my own online work, and I wish the same for you.

In today’s podcast, we’re going to talk about three different areas of time management and how we can plan carefully to get it all done. The first area will be a principle from Getting Things Done, also known as GTD.

The second principle will be to plan a weekly routine that alternates items that must be scheduled so we don’t overlook them. And the third will be a planning grid that includes central teaching tasks and a bigger curriculum work or creative pursuits you want to be involved in as part of your overall career and professional goals.

Understanding Time Management

So let’s dive in. First of all, what does time management really mean when we’re teaching online? Time management is really all about using the energy that we have as human beings to the best way possible. The more we can manage our time carefully, the more productive we can be, the more we can get things done in a responsive way, and the more we’re on top of our game as educators.

After all, our students are looking to us for some sense of connection, for guidance in a subject matter, and for overall connection to the bigger content that they’re learning about. The more we can manage our time well and the more engaged we are in our own thoughtful process, the more we’re also able to connect with them and the more we’re able to also manage all that’s going on in that very complex environment.

Lastly, the more we manage our time carefully and thoughtfully, the more we’re able to do those other things that matter to us in life, like spend time on our personal lives, our family lives, do something outdoors, have healthy sleep habits and other patterns that really need to show up for us right now.

Getting Things Done (GTD)

So let’s get started with Getting Things Done. I took this workshop about a year and a half ago, and one of the biggest takeaways that I had from getting things done was sort of this split idea that there are things you can do in two minutes or fewer than two minutes. Those tasks, when we come upon them, should be just done immediately.

Will It Take Two Minutes or Less? Do It Now.

If we have something that literally will take us two minutes and we schedule it, and we manage it, then we’ve already spent more than two minutes on the task. Pretty soon, we have spent way more time on a two-minute task than the time that it was actually worth.

So the first idea is that when you come across, say, a message from a student, it’s very easy to just respond immediately and be done with it. If we come back later, like I said, we’re going to spend a lot of time and wasted energy just putting it off and trying to manage that.

Store Big Ideas in Your ‘Incubator’ File

The second idea that comes from getting things done that I particularly love is this idea of a folder called “incubate.” Now, an incubator is something that is a machine that we used to put, or we might still today even, put eggs in to keep them warm until they hatch into chickens or other fowl.

So if you are not familiar with the idea of an incubator, it is carefully designed to a certain heat and temperature setting. And also, it’s going to be housing the eggs for a certain period of time.

So the idea of an incubator in our own professional practice means that maybe we come across a multimedia tool we would like to integrate into the online classroom. When we come across this tool, it’s not urgent; it’s not necessarily important to the now. And so this tool can be put into the incubator file until we have a little bit of time, maybe between classes that we’re teaching in the future, during summer break or something like that.

So big ideas that we really want to dive into and pursue can be stored in that special file that we label “Incubate.” That way, we don’t have to always say no to ourselves.

And then we can schedule, like you could schedule one hour a week to just work on things in your Incubate file. That would give you permission to create new ideas, spend time developing things and not feel like it’s always the heat of the moment or the urgent items.

So those two areas of Getting Things Done, I highly recommend for our time management and online teaching. The first was the two minutes or fewer pile and just do them quickly and the second one is to use a special folder called “Incubate,” to put those big ideas that don’t really have a due date. They’re worth considering, but just not right now.

Now everything else that’s not immediate short, two-minute things or long-term, come back and think about it later. Everything else could be scheduled and managed carefully. So these other two ideas are going to be helpful in managing and scheduling the rest of the workload.

Strategies on How to Plan a Weekly Work Routine that Alternates

So we’re moving on to idea number two, planning a weekly routine that alternates the items you need to schedule. So one time management strategy that would really work for planning your routine could be to post a minimum number of your forum discussion responses to your students every other day, and completing a percentage of grading students’ work on your off days in between and taking one day completely offline so you can have a mental break each week.

Schedule a Break from Work

This is going to help you have the space to recharge and come back at it fresh. I have known a lot of online educators who literally are online seven days a week. They’re really answering messages every other minute on their phones. They’re taking their laptops to their outings with them, and they’re sort of half-present when they’re with family members or doing other things.

I don’t recommend this. It is helpful to be responsive, but if you plan that time, instead of kind of putting out fires and treating it like everything’s an emergency, you’re going to have better peace of mind, a more planned approach to your work. You’re going to also have a greater sense of wellbeing at the end of the week.

Time Management Scheduling Example 1: Divide Work by Day

So this one-time management strategy of posting in your discussions every other day, and doing a percentage of your grading work on the off days in between, it might look something like this: Maybe you’re going to grade 30 essays this week, and you’re going to post in your forum discussions Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday.

Well then on Tuesday and Thursday, you could divide that up and grade 15 of the essays on Tuesday and 15 of them on Thursday.

Now, some people really love to go all out and just do all of their grading on one day. I personally find that a bit draining, and I also find it difficult to treat each student’s work uniquely when I take that kind of approach.

So I do like to split it up. I like to plan it on a couple of different days, and you’ll need to just decide what works for you in terms of do you want to do a little bit of grading every day, every other day or all on one day.

Time Management Scheduling Example 2: Divide Work by Time Duration

Another time management strategy you might consider in terms of this second idea, planning a weekly routine that alternates, could be to engage for a specific length of time each week, a specific duration. This would be instead of dividing the workload into quantities or proportions.

Again, I always recommend taking one day completely offline each week to disengage and be able to come back fresh for the week ahead.

So with this approach, you might find that there’s a bigger workload waiting at the end of each week if you use the duration method.

The duration method might look something like this: I have a 40-hour workweek I’m trying to fill, and I’m teaching four classes. And that means I’m going to try to get the work done in each class during a 10-hour period, spread out throughout the week.

This might mean that I’m going to spend about two hours each day in the class. That would be correct if I think all of my job is teaching. Now, if some of my job is also creating curriculum and contributing to bigger professional endeavors outside the classroom, this might be different.

Maybe 30 hours a week is my teaching and 10 hours a week is divided between my curriculum work and my professional pursuits. Or depending on my teaching load, it might be further yet broken down differently.

Either way, when you use an approach of time duration spent in each course, you’re going to need to anticipate what will happen at the end of the week when there is a large workload still waiting if you haven’t budgeted to adjust to getting the grading done throughout the week and being in the course, engaging with students regularly.

Weekly routines overall include developing and posting your announcements, engaging in forum discussions or other interactivity, grading and returning your students’ work, replying to their messages, answering emails and questions, posting your grades, hosting virtual office hours, if that’s something you do, and creating additional content for that course.

When you establish a pattern or a schedule for these routines, this is really going to help you ensure that you’re able to complete everything by the end of the week and at a professional, helpful level for your students.

Create a Planning Grid

I love this idea number three, trying a planning grid that includes your essential teaching tasks and curriculum work or creative elements and including your bigger professional goals.

I created this grid several years ago. I was a full-time faculty member at American Public University. And in my courses, I wanted to engage my students fully, but I also wanted to be sure that I was demonstrating social presence, teaching presence and cognitive presence. I really thought about these, read some of the research and decided what this would look like for me.

Once I decided how this would show up in my courses, I broke my teaching down into little tasks. For example, certain days, I would engage in the forum discussion. Every day, I would answer the messages.

And on certain days, I would do my grading and post the grading. There were a few other things I also needed to do, like publishing a weekly announcement.

Either way, I planned this out thoroughly and then I scheduled another section for my professional responsibilities. I had an agenda of posting lots of research, writing a lot and contributing to professional conferences. I decided I wanted to actively present at professional conferences every year, and so I did that. I scheduled that time using this kind of block planner that I created.

Now, I’m going to include a link to this planner in the podcast transcript so that you can check it out, see what it looks like and perhaps, it will inspire you in your own version of this kind of planner.

There are also a few examples in my book published by Oxford this year, Teaching Music Appreciation Online. In Chapter 12, there’s an example of the weekly schedule of how you might use time limitations to plan your work. And then there are a lot of different discussions in there about how to engage, how to plan time for grading, and some example grading comments. You might find these helpful if you’re looking for more ideas about that.

Back to this last idea, the planning grid. The planning grid that I used had a big category of daily requirements for Monday through Saturday, grading tasks, also for Monday through Saturday, housekeeping announcements, notes, and wrap-up posts and lastly, other professional activities. And I would just call those my research and scholarship time, even though some of it was curriculum creation and some of it was preparing to present at professional conferences.

Under those daily requirements, the kinds of things that I would look at every day in my online teaching that I highly recommend thinking about are checking your email every day or at the very least every other day, checking and responding to messages, reading forum discussions and posing questions and sharing expertise, prompting students for more thought, more engagement there.

Forum Work Section

In that forum section, I always broke down a few ideas just to remind myself. So I have some bullet points here that include:

  • Instigating higher thinking that applies to students’ lives, jobs, etc.
  • Connecting conversations between posts to guide productive and relevant dialogue about the task
  • Establishing a supportive community environment

Another area that I scheduled every day is whatever I felt was my minimum attendance in the classroom as the instructor. I always wanted to make sure I at least met that and hopefully went beyond it.

But sometimes there are days where meeting the minimum is all you can do, and then there are other days where you can spend a lot more time and a lot more energy in that online classroom.

Grading Task Section

In the grading task section, I included:

  • Forum grading
  • Posting announcements
  • Zeroing out the grade book so students know when they haven’t turned something in
  • Editing written assignments to ensure the directions are clear in their examples
  • Returning the graded work with comments on it in a timely manner
  • Zeroing out the scores for quizzes at the end of the week. So if there are quizzes in the course, I would always add the zeros after the due date, so students would know they missed that assignment. If I’m going to let them go back and fix it, they can always do that, but they need to know where they stand at all times.

Housekeeping, Announcements, Notes and Wrap-Up Posts Section

And then this last section, housekeeping, announcements, notes and wrap-up posts. In this section, I have private messages and video screencast tips to guide students.

During Week One, I spend some time giving them guidance to move around the classroom. I like to help them know how to get started, what are the critical spaces they should know in that classroom, and how can they engage in their assignments, their learning, and their discussion.

I also have some before the week starts announcements. I also include instructions for how to participate, and I give a screencast that shows me so they know I’m a real person and I’ve got some presence there.

There might be a wrap-up announcement or something that’s telling them their grades are published, and they can check for feedback. I might use a closing comment in the discussion forum to wrap up the dialogue that has occurred.

I’m also going to reach out to non-participating students. Now this is a big area and it’s really helpful to add it to the calendar.

We often forget that when a student is less engaged, they need some follow-up. I like to schedule that so that by Friday of the week, if I haven’t reached out, I’m going to do that because some of the work is due on Thursday.

And then lastly, I’m going to communicate when an assignment or a quiz has been missed. The passive way to communicate is to fill in zeros in the gradebook. And the active way would be to send messages or emails to reach out to those students.

Scholarship and Professional Time Section

In terms of the scholarship and professional time on that planner, I try to do one thing a week at least. That might begin with looking at a call for proposals to a conference. Maybe I will read some research papers to get some ideas about what I might study next or write about next.

Either way, I’m going to do something that consumes or contributes to my field in research, scholarship or conference presentations, or nowadays it might also include writing blog articles, creating podcast episodes, or otherwise engaging with people about things.

Which Time Management Strategies Work for You?

Whatever your calendar is going to look like in the end, it’s very helpful if you use a thoughtful approach so that you can manage the workload of teaching online and ensure that you’ve got every avenue finished up and checked off. One of the things that is going to help you the most as you do all of these activities and consider your time management, whether you use the getting things done approach, plan the weekly routines that alternate or try the planning grid, or maybe you want to do all three of those things.

All of these depend on having a well-developed class that you really prepared and ensured is ready to go for students before that first day of class. These time-management strategies I’m talking about have to do with teaching the course itself.

Presence in the live lecture class can be easily established when you’re just walking around the room and talking to your students. But in online teaching, your presence comes through in all of these different ways: teaching presence, social presence, and cognitive presence.

Each of these areas are needed to help you connect with your students. And also to build that robust academic atmosphere where all kinds of learners are going to be successful.

Together, all of these time management strategies will allow you to develop a strong presence in your online teaching. But more than that, they’re going to help you be efficient and help you connect more with your students.

It might take some time to develop time management strategies that really suit you, but it is highly worth the time and effort to allow you to enjoy your online teaching and to focus on getting connected with your students, overall.

I wish you all the best in your online teaching this week. This is Dr. Bethanie Hansen, your host for the Online Teaching Lounge podcast to share comments and requests for future episodes. Please visit bethaniehansen.com/request/. Best wishes this coming week and your online teaching journey.

#9: A Strategy for Grading Essays in Microsoft Word Efficiently

#9: A Strategy for Grading Essays in Microsoft Word Efficiently

Where can I find a strategy for grading essays in Microsoft Word efficiently?

If this is your question, you’ve come to the right place! Using Microsoft Word for grading is easy with several specific tools, all built into the software. Enjoy the latest podcast for suggestions, tips, and strategies for using Microsoft Word to grade essays.

Autotext is an excellent tool for inserting chunks of feedback you might regularly use. Furthermore, in the Autotext feature, you can add entire rubrics and insert them on the document you’re grading with only one click.

Two images are included here. These images illustrate the process for using Autotext as a grading tool. And for more details, visit Teaching Music Appreciation Online, chapter 12.

 

Autocorrect is another great tool for inserting paragraphs of frequently used commentary by typing a few letters.

For more tips, listen to the podcast.

#8: Manage Energy and Stress while Teaching Online

#8: Manage Energy and Stress while Teaching Online

How do I manage my energy and stress while teaching online? I’ve heard this question from many people. And, it’s normal for online teaching to become demanding on one’s time and energy. Stress increases unless we find balance and set limits.

In today’s podcast, you’ll learn about managing your energy, not your time. And when you’re experiencing high stress levels, you’ll love these tips to manage your stress!

For additional learning about The Science of Stress, in a special Time edition, please click on the link provided here: Special TIME Edition, The Science of Stress: Manage It. Avoid It. Put It to Use.