Many teachers work long hours, making the most of limited resources. Teaching virtually has benefits but also presents challenges. The following are tips to help teachers balance their personal lives with work when teaching online.
To learn more, check out the infographic, created by American University’s Master’s in Teaching, Master’s in Education/Policy, https://soeonline.american.edu/.
The Rise of Online Education
During the COVID-19 pandemic, school closures affected over 1.2 billion students in 186 countries, leading to a sharp increase in online education. As a result, teachers and students have adapted to online learning in record numbers.
Online Education Growth
Between 2015 and 2019, public schools experienced a jump in online education. During the 2015-16 school year, only 20% of public schools nationwide offered at least one class online. During the 2017-18 school year, 21% of public schools offered courses entirely online.
By 2019, over 2.7 million students across the United States were enrolled in online courses, and 30 states offered some form of online learning to K-12 students. Many of these students were in grades K-12 and were enrolled in full-time online public school.
The Challenges of Teacher Work-Life Balance in Online Education
Online education presents unique challenges for teachers to successfully navigate.
Challenges of Teaching from Home
Before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, online teaching was already tough. Hurdles that still continue to pose challenges include:
- Greater workload
- Lack of preparation and support for online learning
- Difficulty monitoring student progress without face-to-face conversations
- Difficulty tailoring instruction to each student’s unique needs
- Feelings of isolation
- Lack of physical workspace
- Excessive screen time
- Lack of motivation in online learners
- Technical difficulties with online tools
- Difficulty finding and creating resources for students
Online Education and the COVID-19 Pandemic
When pandemic restrictions and school closures forced students and teachers to transition to online learning, new challenges emerged. These include a decline in regular interactions with students. In 2020, according to one study, only 39% of teachers reported interacting with their students at least once a day.
Access to technology among low-income families has also proved problematic during the pandemic. Nearly 50% of low-income families and 42% of families of color didn’t have sufficient access to the distance learning technology they needed.
Despite the best efforts of all concerned, the pandemic has caused student achievement rates to drop. Researchers estimate students roughly 30% lower reading gains and 55% lower math gains from the previous year due to the so-called COVID-19 slide.
Tips for Maintaining Work-Life Balance as a Teacher
Teachers can take simple steps to manage their workloads, alleviate stress, and deliver quality online education.
10 Tips for Succeeding as a Teacher
- Identify and eliminate nonessential tasks. Use the 80-20 rule to focus on tasks that produce measurable results.
- Develop close relationships with colleagues. Research has shown that close relationships at work boost employee satisfaction by 50%.
- Take a break. Take a walk outside and enjoy the fresh air to relax your brain and refresh your senses.
- Invest in professional development. Read the latest research in education, join a professional association, or volunteer.
- Celebrate your accomplishments. Treat yourself to simple rewards, such as ice cream or a movie after work.
- Set physical and mental boundaries between work and home. Avoid checking email after a certain hour, have a designated work area, and give yourself one day every week to completely disconnect from work responsibilities.
- Engage in hobbies. Reconnect with your favorite pastime, whether it’s gardening, dancing, or photography.
- Schedule time to do nothing. Put your phone away and don’t think about what’s on your to-do list.
- Get enough sleep. The more work you have, the greater your stress and the more sleep you’ll need every night to recover.
- Write in a journal. Take 10 minutes a day to reflect, process your feelings, and stay in touch with your inner self.
What Teachers Can Expect from the Future of Online Education
Despite challenges, the future of online education is bright. Colleges are looking into research-based teaching and mentorship for online course offerings. Most educators plan to address digital inequalities among students, including insufficient broadband capacity.
Instructional designers and other education specialists such as teaching coaches will be called upon to support online course success, such as student learning. Overall, teachers will continue to strengthen technology skills, improve their online teaching techniques, and shape the future of online education.
Online education poses many unique challenges to both students and teachers—challenges that will require complex solutions. Teachers can best discover and implement these solutions when they prioritize their own health and well-being.