With so much of our work and personal lives going virtual, T4L asked Rose Glassock to take a closer look at how teachers can take care of wellbeing in these digital times. Rose writes from her expertise as a NSW Department of Education Psychologist/Network Specialist Facilitator.
Over the past few months, we have often been reliant on our screens to connect us with our colleagues, our students, our family and friends.
While digital connectivity can be positive and inspiring, communicating via screens can sometimes cause fatigue. Here are ways to minimise any impact, together with some online resources to support your wellbeing.
Screen communication challenges:
Limited cues: Video calls require more effort, and we have to work harder to process non-verbal cues, facial expressions, tone and pitch of voice. Video conference calls can be even more challenging if many in the group have their cameras off.
The silence gap: Face to face, there is a natural flow to conversations, and our body language helps with communication. On a video call, the silence may leave people wondering if anyone is listening or able to hear. The wait time as people unmute to comment can feel uncomfortable.
Camera – action: On a video call, as everyone is visible there may be a perception of a pressure to perform. It is also hard to avoid looking at your image and being self-conscious about how you look and behave on camera.
Shared space: Our social personas play out in different locations and contexts. We have different roles, responsibilities, relationships and attire. When we connect to video calls from the same place, separate aspects of our lives such as work, home, family, and friends converge and can cause some role distinction and boundary challenges.
What can help minimise screen fatigue:
Have a breather and take a short break to establish boundaries between your various roles.
Schedule transition times between screen meetings. Start meetings at five past the hour and finish them at five to. This creates a buffer if you have a back to back schedule.
Positioning your screen to one side may help concentration and be less distracting during video calls.
Limit video calls if possible and practical: could this be a phone call instead, or could the information be shared via email or a text or even an audio message?
Develop agreements about the use of cameras, with permission to have cameras off at times.
Check-in how others are feeling:
Marissa Shuffler, an associate professor at Clemson University, South Carolina, who studies workplace wellbeing and teamwork effectiveness, suggests taking time during web meetings to catch up before diving into the lesson or topic. “Spend some time to actually check into people's wellbeing,” she urges. “It’s a way to reconnect us with the world, and to maintain trust and reduce fatigue and concern.”
Five online resources to support wellbeing:
These five Australian sites have great recommendations for technology to enhance teacher and student wellbeing:
1. ReachOut is Australia's leading online mental health organisation.
ReachOut for Schools has teaching programs, classroom resources and teacher wellbeing suggestions.
2. BeYou is led by Beyond Blue in partnership with Early Childhood Australia and Headspace.
BeYou provides online Professional learning, tools and resources to develop educators' mental health skills and knowledge.
3. Blackdog Institute: myCompass is a free online self-help program for people with mild to moderate depression, anxiety and stress.
It's also appropriate for people who want to build good mental health. Core features include fourteen different interactive learning activities and a lifestyle tracking feature to help users better understand themselves and learn strategies to improve mental health.
4. Smiling Mind: an online and app-based mindfulness program. Mindfulness is proven to lead to improved attention, memory, self-regulation and awareness.
The free app provides hundreds of guided meditations and mindfulness activities for both the classroom and for your personal practice.
The school program gives teachers a practical framework to deliver social and emotional learning capabilities to their students, and in turn, helps them establish a proactive and positive approach to good mental health and wellbeing at a young age.