Mental Health for Remote Teachers (or anyone)

The concept of staying physically healthy has always seemed simple and obviously important to me. The need to be doing things on a regular basis to stay healthy as opposed to dealing with health issues when they arise is something that. But for some reason, with mental health, I haven’t always had the same perspective. Dealing with mental health has always seemed like something you do when you have a problem related to your mental health. The current state of our world has caused a change in that perspective. It’s no secret that COVID has taken a toll on our mental health as a nation and worldwide. The increased time spent indoors and decreased time spent with people, the loss of routine, the sedentary lifestyle that a lockdown dictates; all of these factors can cause damage. Early on in the lockdown, I was aware of the damage that was happening to my physical health (and tried to mitigate it) but did not take notice of what was happening to my mental health. This caused some not-so-fun effects and left me in a place where I needed to pick up the pieces and do some damage control. My strategy going forward has been much more proactive. I think it’s extremely important to invest time, energy, and even money in our mental health before there is a problem. Here are a few of the ways that have been working for me! 

My strategies 

  1. Exercise 

I have found that regular, consistent exercise is very helpful even if it is fairly low-intensity and short duration. For me, that means 15-30 minute jogs about 4-5 times per week. Along with this exercise, a stretching routine has become just as important. We spend so much time at our desks that we need to stretch out those coiled up muscles even more than usual. The important part of this for me is staying consistent. If I jog once a week, all I get is tired once a week. When I’ve been able to stay consistent, I’ve seen longer term results with my mood and overall sense of wellbeing. 

  1. Eat healthy 

Probably the hardest one for me. With the packed schedule that we all have in this program, it’s really convenient to buy food out or have food delivered but those options are usually not the healthiest. And one of my favorite things to do is sit outside at restaurants and enjoy delicious food (and beer of course) with friends in the summer. But during our first term, I definitely did a little too much of those things and that had some negative effects on my physical and mental health. Eating better makes me feel better which makes me much happier! The time it takes to grocery shop and cook have been well worth it. And it also serves one of my hobbies since cooking for myself is usually healthier than eating out. 

  1. Therapy 

This is a new one for me! I started therapy about a month ago and I can’t recommend it enough! Having someone to talk to to process everything that’s going on with the pandemic, school, relationships, etc. has been extremely helpful. I’m a novice on this one so I don’t have many recommendations but I think it’s something to look into for anyone. And a great example of something that can be done as part of a mental health maintenance routine as opposed to being reserved for situations when there is a specific problem to be addressed. I held off on therapy for years because I didn’t think I needed it and I wish I hadn’t! 

  1. Invest in your hobbies 

Find those things you love to do that take you away from your screens, away from your work and school responsibilities and make time for them! For this term, the ones I want to make time for are cooking and hiking. That seems like a small list but I think it’s best to commit to making time to a few things so you’re less likely to skip them or prioritize other things. Stepping away from responsibilities is hard but I’ve found myself to be more productive in my school work overall when I’m spending less time on school and working to find a balance. 

  1. Invest in relationships 

This can be done in a lot of different ways these days. For me, I am so tired of zoom and facetime that I’ve decided to connect with a small number of people but really try to make that happen in person. Even an outdoor, socially-distanced park hang is so much more soul-refreshing for me than all the facetime calls in the world. I have a small group of people that I’m in close relationship with that I make sure to spend intentional time with them often. And I make sure to hug them often! We humans need that too! 

  1. Find your limits and follow them

This has been one of the biggest changes I’ve made in the last couple of months. Realizing that I have limitations and those limitations are only reinforced by a program like the MAT. I’ve realized that I have social limits, service limits (I can’t always help a friend move, even if I want to), screen time limits, media consumption limits, and more. I’m still in the process of finding the right balance of each of these but learning to say no to social events, skipping that extra article on what Trump said this time, getting off my phone are all examples of things that.

  1. Meditation

Meditation, mindfulness, quiet time, whatever your preference is, I have found it very helpful to start my days with intentional time to be quiet and still and block out my regular thoughts as much as I can. This has allowed me to stay grounded, stay in control of my thought patterns, and most importantly to someone like me who deals with ADHD and an anxiety disorder, to quiet my mind. It’s taken some time and practice but this is probably the most important item on this list! 

The hard part is that all of these things take time and effort. Both of which we are short on these days. But I have found that the time and effort they take is a small price to pay for the mental health benefits they bring. Every time I’ve decided to take a break from homework, even though I was short on time, and went for a quick jog or cooked a real meal or had a conversation with a friend, I’ve noticed that my productivity improves and I actually accomplish more than if I had stuck to my schoolwork. Find the balance that works for you! And share your findings with me because it’s always a work in progress! 

A New Normal: Distanced Learning

During this time of distanced learning, teachers and students find themselves adapting to a different kind of learning. This type of learning is meant to protect our communities and people we care about by limiting the spread of COVID-19 so we can one day, hopefully, return to our classrooms and normal group gatherings. However, this poses new challenges for teachers because it requires them to take the traditional classroom, typically filled with bustling energy and important socialization, online. Online education is an opportunity to incorporate new tools and technology into a schools curriculum. New apps are being created every day that can have a classroom application where students are creating their own work with the knowledge they gain from class. Timeline creators can be a fun way for students to grasp sequences of events and evaluate cause-and-effect relationships. With the online aspect, students can also share their work with classmates and get creative. Through access of millions of pictures, layouts, themes, and content, students are really able to express themselves and guide their own learning. As teachers, we need to formulate our classroom in ways that inspire students to learn. Content should be relevant and students should express themselves. We should be flexible with due dates and get creative with how we perceive participation. Since students may not have access to the same technology or internet, we should do our best to compromise with students and allow them to show their work how they want or at least give several options in terms of how we want assignments to be turned in or what assignments can be.

It is important now more than ever to also build a sense of community among students because due to social-distancing, students can feel isolated and stressed during these important formative years. Because of our need to interact with people, I believe, as teachers, we need to make sure our students know that we are here to support them and create an online environment where students feel comfortable chatting with each other in chat rooms, video calling each other, and overall still feel connected to their school community. This can be accomplished through meeting with students one-on-one and checking in with them frequently to get to know them and offer our support in these times. Students should also be encouraged to study with each other over video calls and talk about their day or academic content if they would like. Synchronous parts of class should be informative and value their time as students, and their willingness to ‘show-up’, therefore transitions should be smooth and offer a time for students to discuss what they are learning in their asynchronous part of class. While asynchronous parts of online teaching is student-directed learning, teachers should be readily available to talk to students or host group study sessions.

Online learning can be an isolating experience. However, with proactive planning and working on creative alternatives within departments, we can make this experience a little less lonely by showing our students that we care about them and that we value the time they are putting in. I am nervous going into my student teaching because I really want my students to know that I’m trying my best and that I care about them. I also want to inspire my students to learn and make the content not only interesting but accessible to students. This is a learning experience for all of us and we should approach it with compassion, empathy, and relevant content.

The Concerns and Hopes of Virtual Instruction

When I decided to become a teacher, virtual instruction is not what I had in mind. So much of what I love about the craft of pedagogy is rooted in the face to face content between teachers and students within the classroom community. Online instruction is a hurdle for both students and teachers, as both look to continue their academic careers. As an MAT candidate, an extended online period is obviously scary and concerning. While I am confident in my abilities to build student relationships and wield content, lack of time in the classroom may decrease my confidence as a standard educator. 

Although our current MAT courses prepare us quite well for the modern COVID-19 world. I wonder what we’re missing in terms of classroom management that is not related to virtual instruction. If things were to snap back into the pre-pandemic world, will our unique training help us secure jobs in the “normal” world? Obviously, this is just one of the concerns MAT students might be dealing with as educators of the uncertain future. 

However, there is hope – and quite a large amount of it. Obviously, regardless of our education medium, we can be confident in the course work which we are completing. As MAT candidates of the UP program, we can take pride in the rigor of our academic requirements, and at the quality of our performance. We must be sure that the education which we are receiving will arm us for the challenges ahead and prepare us the change the minds of the future. Although we are currently online, our process of becoming greater educators is not stowed. The work we do for the next 9 months will help us secure future jobs, and create a future generation that fosters change within their societies. 

The education methods which we add to our arsenal are amazing techniques which will help us as future teachers and mentors. Our road ahead may be tricky and untraversed, but it does get easier.. hopefully. As I look to the future, I am delighted for what’s in store. Despite adversity, I know that my experience here will prepare me for the challenges ahead, whether online, or in-person. Fear not – for the future is bright! 

Going the Distance: Creating Engaging Educational Experiences in the Age of COVID-19

Technology in education has come a long way since when I was the first student at my elementary school district to use a laptop in class. While I certainly cannot wait to get into a real classroom and teach in person, I believe the online teaching environment of COVID-19 is an excellent opportunity to experiment with a variety of technology-based adaptations, strategies, and rituals to create a more engaging experience!


Teachers and students are both dealing with difficult times right now and allowing for more genuine human interactions to take place could help students feel more ready to learn and engage in classroom conversations. Sitting in front of a computer all day in an online classroom format can be isolating. As Jennifer Gonzalez states in Distance Learning: A Gently Curated Collection of Resources for Teachersnot every minute of the day needs to be set aside for instruction. Start every day with a community-building ritual, which could be as simple as encouraging them to write a journal, playing a game, share poetry, or even just leave sometime in the day to encourage storytelling, laughter, and venting. Teachers should be creative and try adding new rituals and activities into online classes that might be more difficult to pull off in person.

Embrace asynchronous learning and flexible deadlines:

An unfortunate reality of the current remote teaching scenario is that not everyone has equitable access to the same internet connection, personal computer, or quiet place to participate in educational tasks. Some students may have additional responsibilities at home, which could impact their ability to participate as much as they otherwise could due to these circumstances. Creating short videos, chat tools like Gmail chat or Slack, and utilizing tools such as Google Docs or Voice Thread to embrace an asynchronous learning style could help create a collaborative environment.

Additionally, teachers should create a more flexible deadline policy for their classes, and communicate these policies with students early on. It could be helpful to provide students an anonymous way to communicate particular concerns that could impact their participation and ability to meet deadlines at the beginning of class. This could be completed by asking students to complete an ungraded ‘getting to know you’ survey or quiz during the first class through Google Docs, or Poll Everywhere. Establishing expectations early on will help avoid misunderstandings and create a clear process for students to reach for extension requests or help when needed.

Encourage students to take ownership of their learning:

In the age of COVID-19, teachers should be careful that their instruction doesn’t become little more than a low-budget MasterClass video. Students should be encouraged to take ownership of their education, and teachers should differentiate assessment to encourage experimentation and creativity. This can be accomplished through a choice menu that offers learning targets, resources and options for assessment for students to choose how they would like to demonstrate their knowledge of a particular subject. Rather only presenting students with the option of writing a paper on the overall causes of the Cold War, students could create a presentation and narrate over it with Voice Thread, make a podcast or video on the topic, create an interactive map with Google Tour Builder or an interactive book with Book Creator. Each of these options presents engaging ways for students to share their mastery of concepts with the class either synchronously or asynchronously.


Most teachers and students will be happy to be back in a physical classroom once it is safe to do so. However, rather than viewing online teaching inherently bad, I believe this period is an excellent opportunity to experiment with new ways to make instruction and content more engaging. Methods we develop for effective online instruction could help uncover better strategies for engaging in-person instruction as well.