Teachers have a saying:
There's no tired like teacher-tired.
Being a teacher has always been a tough job that can drain the last ounce of energy out of you regularly. In the past year, "teacher-tired" has changed into "digitally fatigued," moving towards a new exhaustion level.
Read more: The impact of digital fatigue in the educational system
Since the pandemic has turned everyone's life upside down, teachers have had to adapt to the digital classroom and hours on end spent in front of a screen.
Willing to do whatever it takes to provide education to their students, teachers have tried to find the best solutions, resources, and materials to ensure they continue to pursue their development and reach their learning goals online.
This process, however, happened abruptly for most teachers, which implied long hours of self-education on how to use the digital tools and adapting existing resources to fit their students' needs.
It hasn't been an easy task, and it has led, in most cases, to digital fatigue. This newfound condition is caused by an amalgam of triggers such as the inability to manage screen time, switching between multiple tools, and the lack of a clear schedule or a designated space for work time and home time during the lockdown.
How to overcome digital fatigue as a teacher
Being constantly exposed in live sessions, having limited free time, and a feeling of not doing enough can affect your physical and mental abilities.
If you recognize yourself in this outline, read more to find out what methods you can use to overcome digital fatigue:
Less is more
Organize your sessions to avoid overstimulation and burnout
Whether you find it easy to believe or not, the less is more approach to teaching will allow you to regain control of the time spent preparing or teaching online classes.
Teaching online doesn't automatically mean constantly being in direct contact with your students, similar to face-to-face classes. You can balance synchronous and asynchronous teaching to integrate different types of activities into your routine. With an LMS, this option is easy to implement. Such a platform allows you to give individual feedback and guidance to students. Asynchronous teaching is actually enhancing the students' learning experience.
Read more: Adopting the asynchronous mindset for better online learning
To avoid feeling overwhelmed by the exposure you face in live sessions, you can decide together with your students to turn your camera off occasionally, especially when it is not of utmost importance. For the same reason, you should also use the mute button while your students work on their tasks. Moreover, you can switch from "gallery view" to "speaker view" when you feel that a full screen of eyes is too much.
You can organize your sessions to delegate responsibilities to students, let them get involved, ask them for suggestions on how to approach the classes, and allow them to take the initiative. This will ease the burden of doing everything by yourself and create opportunities for student ownership.
With the unlimited possibilities of online resources, materials, and tools to use in remote classes, it's hard to stop at just a few. I'm not contesting their value and what they bring to a class, but you can achieve the same results with a smaller selection that suits you and your students.
Less is more applies to your virtual background as well. Even if you are a primary teacher, the screen you are presenting and your virtual background should be simple instead of colorful and over the top. This will help you and your students avoid overstimulation.
Most importantly, don't underestimate your efforts and try to relate to yourself and your students at a human level. Be sympathetic towards yourself first to be able to empathize with others.
Prioritize the time you spend on yourself to ensure you have good physical and mental health
Digital fatigue comes as a result of chaotic scheduling, lack of personal time and space, overworking, and failing to care for oneself. Consequently, you cannot function properly and, before you know it, your body and mind will shut off.
Prioritizing is key in this case. You have to create a schedule that includes time spent for your own needs, enabling you to relax and recalibrate yourself to continue doing your job healthily and successfully.
Although online schooling is a good alternative in times of an epidemic, it does take its toll on the human spirit. We are social beings, and avoiding human interaction affects us at the core of our being. Try to create moments of interaction, at least with family members. However, if that is not possible for safety reasons, make sure to connect with your peers, even online, because they are the ones you can relate to most and can offer you advice.
Spending hours on a chair while teaching remotely harms the body as well. Firstly, your eyes suffer from constant exposure to artificial light. Secondly, your body needs to move at least a few minutes per hour, mainly because our posture is not always appropriate during sessions. The impact of these aspects can be diminished if you make time for short breaks between classes to stretch, rest your eyes, hydrate, and get some fresh air.
Another stressor is the lack of separate space for work. The feeling that you are always at work makes it difficult to disconnect and relax. This also translates into the inability to say no and leads to exhaustion.
If possible, designate a space in your home for work time only that is clearly delimited. You can also create a routine and pretend to go to work and come back from work to connect to your home time.
As much as you want to do it all at once and be productive, try to take things one at a time, especially when whatever you need to do happens online. Switching back and forth between pages, tasks, assignments, or emails will have the opposite effect.
Remember, you are still human even in the digital world. Listen to your body and make the necessary adjustments for your health. This way, you can continue doing a great job every day.
Read more: Teacher PD training: Should self-care be part of it?
All in all
Digital fatigue is real, so you need to take real actions to avoid or overcome it. Take some time to appreciate your efforts and make sure you can do your job in the long run. Focus on your health to be able to offer the best of you in class. Reach out to your peers when you feel overwhelmed, and remember you are the ones creating the future.