Back in 2016, I wrote one of my most well responded to blog posts on The MEHRIT Centre Blog. The post addresses that tired feeling that seems to deplete us even on the best of days, and how exploring this feeling through a Five Domains of Self-Reg lens might help us understand it more. I was reminded of this post this morning when I saw this tweet by Helen Benvenga, a fellow educator.
Wow! Reading about stressors in the #EmotionDomain and #CognitiveDomain in #SelfRegSchools is powerful after the 1st wk of #distancelearning. Realizing why many educators feel exhausted, even though we are not physically in front of 20+ kids! #selfawareness ❤️
— Helen Benvenga (@Hbenvenga) April 10, 2020
Our new distance learning reality means that “school” looks and feels very differently right now. While I’ve certainly experienced a lot of good learning as part of the process, I wonder if my feeling of exhaustion each day might be explained through a closer look at the Five Domains.
Biological Stressors – While my current classroom is in the basement of my house with a fairly empty desk, limited scents, and not too many items around, I still find biological stressors at play. I sent this tweet in reply to Helen’s one.
I rarely get headaches, but almost every day, I find myself having at least a slight headache after the Google Meet call. Staring at so many little bubbles of people on the screen, watching the bubbles dance as new people enter and exit, and then taking in the noise variation from static on microphones, provide lots of different stressors at play. I also choose to work in the basement because my dogs won’t come down the stairs, so I know that our “classroom time” won’t be impacted by two barking dogs. Sometimes though, I hear them on the floor above or barking at the top of the stairs. What’s wrong? The additional noise, especially the noise that I can’t deal with at the time because of the class in session, adds additional stress.
Social Stressors – I like, and appreciate, quiet. In fact, some might joke that I’ve been training for this pandemic lockdown since I was born. 🙂 Even in class, I tend to connect one-to-one or with small groups of kids, instead of looking for full class interactions. Now though, our daily Google Meet calls mean that every day is about socializing with the full class. It’s not just the students though. You are also interacting with parents and siblings that join in on these calls. I love the family feel to this environment, but I also feel the drain of so much interaction happening quickly and all at once. It’s almost like a full day of socializing grouped together into a half-hour or one-hour block.
Emotional Stressors – Even with the social stressors at play, I love the face-to-face time that our Google Meet calls bring. That said, every day, I also feel the emotional tug knowing that my teaching partner, Paula, and I can see the kids, but are still separated from them by a computer screen. Smiling, waving, and having some quiet conversations together online are all better than not having them at all, but I still get a little choked up every time that I see our wonderful class. The other day, as we were signing off, one of our kids blew us a kiss. A small gesture, but also one that had me fighting off the tears. Distance Learning Kindergarten is better than No Learning Kindergarten, but it doesn’t come devoid of emotional stressors.
Pro-Social Stressors – This is the empathy piece, and I’ve felt this stressor a lot this past week. Sometimes I feel it when I see one of our kids who’s obviously sad or angry. We might be able to talk together on Google Meet, but the physical distance makes the connection piece — especially for some of our youngest learners — harder. How do we bridge this gap? So many of our students look for a hug, but a digital one just does not suffice. Then there’s the child who signs into Google Meet each day absolutely beaming. Her smile could fill the screen! I love her excitement about seeing the class, and Paula and I try to match her enthusiasm with a big smile, wave, and “hello,” but is it enough? Every day, I’m left wondering.
Cognitive Stressors – There are also a lot of these at play. Technology is not new to me, and as a group of us have discussed recently, we were actually talking about some of these same topics ten years ago. I wasn’t teaching kindergarten ten years ago though, and a full-day, play-based kindergarten model was not occurring at this time. Back at the end of February, I blogged about how Paula and I now approach technology in the classroom, and then weeks later, I’m forced to reconsider this model. Like many other educators, I’m left wondering,
- Are we providing the right options for kids and families?
- How much technology is good for students of this age, and what might distance learning look like beyond a computer screen?
- How are families responding to our new approaches? Do we need to scaffold more?
- How might our program compare to others, and should we be worried about these differences? Embracing them? Or trying something else completely?
Like many other educators out there, I worry, am I good enough, and is “enough” good enough for me?
Thinking about these stressors at play, it’s no wonder that I’m tired. It’s no wonder that you are too. What do we do about this then? Self-Reg might be the answer.
- I now start my morning with an extra cup of coffee and a few chapters in a good book. Thinking about something other than education helps me breathe a little more and feel a little better.
- I exercise way more than ever before. I have a stationary bike at home, and I used to bike for 30 minutes a day. It was a push. Now though, I’m up to 80 minutes a day, and feeling great. It’s almost like I can peddle away some of the stress. I find some time after our online class meeting and before planning for the next day to take an exercise break, and this gives me way more energy in the afternoon.
- I take a break from the computer screen. Yes, I’m compulsive at checking email, and I tend to reply to most quickly, but I’m trying to do so a little less each day. Maybe I take that extra time on the bike, for an extra coffee, or to read another chapter in my book, but even those few minutes make a difference. I feel revitalized and can then go back to work!
- I have a good dinner every night. I try to cook something yummy and nutritious, and maybe even something that takes longer to prepare, but I can do now because I’m always at home. A homemade spaghetti sauce. A new chicken dish. Some scrumptious fish. Healthy food does give me way more energy!
- I take time to connect. Obviously physical connections are out, but through FaceTime, texts, GoogleMeet, and Microsoft Teams, there are still opportunities to talk, to laugh, to plan, and to feel invigorated again. Yesterday, Paula and I had an unplanned team meeting. We thought of a way to better approach our larger group Google Meet times, and our new ideas have me excited for the upcoming week. Sometimes it’s just something small that can make a big difference.
Parents, educators, and administrators, what are some possible stressors for you in each of the Five Domains, and how might Self-Reg change that “tired feeling” that comes with the additional stress? As we enter a second week of distance learning, I wonder if a closer look at stressors might actually make me feel better. What about you?
Aviva Dunsiger is the Co-Reg Community Moderator and completed the Foundations 1 Certification Program. She has taught everything from Kindergarten to Grade 6 and enjoys blogging about her teaching and learning experiences. She blogs professionally on her blog, Living Avivaloca. Aviva is excited to contribute a monthly post on The MEHRIT Centre Blog.