When I first received the news that schools were going to be closing for two weeks, it seemed almost unbelievable, but with a small frisson of excitement, given the novelty of it all.
However, after two weeks of teaching remotely reality hits. You know every crack of your four walls, your pupils appear to have forgotten every minute of the hours you spent painstakingly training them to use your chosen e-learning platform and non-teaching friends and family ask you: "Are you enjoying your extended holiday?"
Teaching from home poses a wide range of challenges, both logistical and mental, which should not be underestimated.
Cabin fever is a real threat. Loss of routine, lack of direct contact with the students you have invested so much of yourself in, the creeping monotony of another day spent indoors, alongside the multitude of societal pressures; all this builds up to have a real impact.
Teacher wellbeing amid coronavirus closures
So, let’s clear away those cobwebs and break through the drudgery. Here are five rules for teachers working from home that I have adopted to help make my life better and hopefully they can work for you, too.
1. Separate work and play
Easier said than done, but possibly the most important one to follow for the sake of your mental health.
If you have been given working hours, or if you have set yourself a working day, stick to it. Make your students and parents aware when you will be contactable and work only within those times.
Once you respond to the odd parent out of hours, in the evening or on a weekend, you give all your students and parents permission to expect your response at their convenience.
In education, it is difficult enough to do this under normal circumstances. Without the structure of the normal school day to support your barriers between work and play, the lines will blur very quickly so try and maintain this strict division.
2. Get out more – if you can
Having an excuse to stay inside for a day or two may sound fantastic at first, but it gets very old very quickly. With the pressures of the new working environment, it also begins to get harder to motivate yourself to get out.
However, if you can, try and get outside at least once a day during daylight hours. Go to the shops, walk to the park, do some gardening for half an hour, or just sit outside and feel the breeze on your face.
Obviously some of these ideas will depend on what's allowed under the rules being imposed amid the coronavirus outbreak, and the importance of keeping your distance from others must be maintained at all times, but if circumstances allow it then do what you can to see some green spaces.
3. Work up a sweat
We all know that exercise is good for us, yet it rarely sounds like a good idea. With the early mornings, late evenings and sacred weekends of teaching it can be especially hard to find the time and the energy to get physical.
However, if you follow rule number one and get your working hours in order, then use your free time to do some exercise. You could do yoga in the garden, follow an exercise class on YouTube, or go for a run – again, though, ensure you keep away from others you see out by at least two metres.
4. Practice social media hygiene
This is a difficult one to follow. All around us, there is a media furore that verges on hysteria, reporting on the daily implications of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Add to that the Whatsapp and Twitter rumours of travel restrictions, mandatory health checks, flight cancellations, government deliberations – it quickly becomes impossible to keep a clear head. As such, trying to limit social media at this time is vital.
Follow the official channels for news announcements, mute those Whatsapp groups (you know the ones) and focus on what you can verify, not what others have heard about from a friend of a friend who might be in the know.
5. Spread the love
If you are finding today difficult, then you can be sure that someone you work with is in the same boat. Your frustrations and the pressures that cause them are universal for your colleagues, so don’t go it alone.
Check in with your work friends, is there someone who has fallen off the radar over the past couple of days? Reach out, have a phone chat, a video call, organise a remote film night together, play a game over the internet, set each other a challenge to paint something or write a poem.
It's easy to feel like you're alone when teaching remotely, but the truth is we are all in this together, so keep in touch whenever possible.
Oliver Ireland is assessment coordinator at The New English School, Kuwait