SIP 11.10 Recovering Momentum After Spring Break – COVID-19 Edition

Thirsty for a Strong Instructional Practice?


Student sitting in the grass while working on a laptop.The week after spring break can be a challenge under the best of circumstances. Whether you were on a beach, hanging at home or even catching up on work, it can be difficult to recapture the everyday routine of the semester. This year, the task of getting back on track promises to be even more difficult – our entire lives have turned upside down, and there is no real “normal” to return to. So how can we get ourselves and our students in gear so we can finish the term in the best possible manner?

Take a SIP of this: recovering momentum after spring break – COVID-19 edit

In the true spirit of “put on your own oxygen mask before assisting others,” the first person who needs to reestablish a routine is you. Self-care must necessarily underpin all attempts to establish a good WFH (work from home) routine. Here are some ideas around formulating a healthy daily routine that will allow you to work at your peak and support your students untiringly:

  • Wake up, eat and get dressed every day as if you were leaving the house to go to work. Keeping your circadian rhythm stable (as opposed to watching Hulu until 2 a.m. and waking up at noon) will help to boost mood and energy.
  • Eat healthy meals on a regular schedule. Perhaps this is even an opportunity to eschew the eat-on-the-go packaged meals that have been fueling your busy days for years.
  • Work exercise into your day. Set a timer and take a break every 20 minutes or so to go up and down your stairs, do some squats or pushups, or lift your screaming toddler into the air 20 times. You are no longer running around campus or standing up for hours in front of a class, so you need to compensate for that lack of daily movement.
  • Sleep!! In addition to getting a healthy amount of sleep each night, consider taking a brief nap during the day. Naps have been proven to “increase alertness, boost creativity and reduce stress,” all of which we could use right now.
  • Connect with friends and colleagues via FaceTime, Zoom or just a regular old phone call. Maintaining personal and professional relationships will help you feel less isolated. Try a virtual happy hour with real glasses of wine!

You may also need to reconfigure your workday to maintain productivity (and sanity). Especially if you are now working surrounded by toddlers or petulant teenagers home from school and off their own routine, it will help to create a new sense of normal for your job. Try a few of these practices:

  • Clear out a space in your home that you can dedicate to work. Even if you don’t have a truly defined “office” area, being able to set up and work from a consistent zone can make it feel less like home and more like business.
  • Create a work schedule and stick to it. Nine-to-5 might not do it for you, depending on your circumstances at home (kids, parents, spouses, pets, etc.). But set aside some time to work.
  • Keep the schedule realistic. Shoot for four to six hours of solid work per day, then engage in community-building and self-care.
  • Set a goal for each day and celebrate when you accomplish it. Keep the goal manageable: “email my class” is more reasonable than “write an article for publication.”
  • Try to take weekends off. When home is all-consistent, you need to differentiate between the workweek and your off time.

Finally, communicate openly about setting up this new routine to your students. As awful as it is, this pandemic can provide us with the opportunity to connect with students in truly meaningful ways, and talking about the struggle to get on task might be one of them. Here are some ideas to spark conversation:

  • Show your students this great, short “for students, by a student” video on students working from home (shared by a colleague at Texas A&M).
  • Create an assignment around sharing daily schedules. Using Blackboard discussions or any other platform (even a massive email thread), ask students to share what they are doing each day to keep on track. This will have the added benefit of boosting community in our new virtual reality.
  • Encourage students to privately share their struggles with this new reality with you. Connect them to the appropriate campus resources (which are all still serving students) to support them through this. You can also file a CARE report on their behalf – this is a service to get students the support they need.

Tips from the SIPsquad

Finally, check out what some members of the SIPsquad are doing to institute new and meaningful routines in their lives:

* I’m reading a poem every day, beginning with Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum’s amazing new book,  “Visiting Hours.”

* I have started a gratitude journal with my kids. Every morning, we each write down one thing that we are grateful for. It helps to remind us of what we have and to keep our minds off the friends, events and milestones we are missing.

* We “go to school” every day by going for a walk or a bike ride around the block and back again – it gets us out of the house and dressed and a tiny bit of exercise.

* I have made a commitment to finally use all the workout equipment that has been collecting dust for the past several years and work out at least 30 minutes every day.

* I’ve been using what used to be my commute time to sleep later each day and waking up refreshed.

Still thirsty? Take a SIP of this: recovering momentum after spring break – COVID-19 edit

The New York Times Daily Briefing on March 23 had some great tips on “what to do when you are isolated” to maintain physical and mental health and a productive daily routine.

The Let Me Learn Bulletin on March 23 has similarly focused suggestions for productivity and well-being.

This article from the Chronicle provides some great realistic insights and comforts: “Why You Should Ignore All That Coronavirus-Inspired Productivity Pressure.”

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