Timeline, Impact, and Pandemic Fatigue
We are now eleven months in. The USA has the highest death toll of any country, and each day more and more people are getting sick. Luckily, vaccine availability is on the rise, but we have a long way to go. We are living in a strange time, straddling the line between what has been and what lies ahead. We each face decisions on how we interact with others and how we spend our time. Each day we are inundated with information on death tolls, virus strains, and vaccines. This is all very overwhelming and most people are dealing with significant pandemic fatigue.
People are Tired and Worried
We are weary and we are tired of zooming and tired of the pandemic in general.
Many of us had never used zoom before in our lives. Maybe we did an occasional video call, but now, it is a daily part of our interaction with others. Online life has taken its toll.
As teachers, we have been both forced to return to work and teach online at the same time. No one is happy. No one feels calm. We have, however, adapted.
For the past few weeks, really months, I have felt exhausted after teaching. More so than a usual day of teaching. I LOVE teaching. I love the interaction with students. It brings me joy, but teaching online has been tough. However, teaching in person also brings a level of anxiety.
I hate that I can see myself teaching when I’m teaching online for hours at a time. Yes, I know that I can minimize my screen and only see my students. However, I’m still there.
Staring at myself.
Staring at them.
Dealing with delay, reminding students to treat the screen as the audience and battling microphones, internet connections, and odd camera angles. It is exhausting.
After a day of teaching online, I’m spent. Totally spent. Currently, I teach about 20+ students 1:1 lessons a week. I also teach an online class of about 25 students.
All of my meetings are online, and there seem to be more of them.
So I’m in front of the screen a lot.
The Perils of Being Online
The online platform and working from home has ruined our ability to unplug after work. We already lived in a 24/7 communicative society and online life has blurred those lines to an uncomfortable and unhealthy level.
So, what do we do?
(I take walks, I run, and do yoga. I make efforts to get away from the screen.)
Cautiously Teaching F2F
I am required at the university to offer a certain percentage of classes F2F.
After consulting CDC guidelines, I developed protocols for how the lessons could occur safely for my studio. The university has a mask mandate and requires students to distance in the classroom, but I ask my students to screen themselves before entering the studio. We also keep an open line of communication as situations and exposure can change by the hour.
We have been easing into it.
I’ve been SHOCKED at how I feel after teaching a day in person compared to a day online.
The most distinct difference occurred last week when I had a blended day. I taught five online lessons back to back, then saw a student in person. After the five lessons online I was exhausted. Really feeling like I needed a nap and was worried about having to teach one more hour. However, the in person lesson was like a B-12 shot. Interacting with another human face to face brought me so much energy and joy.
I’m always nervous on an in person day, but after we take all of the safety precautions, the ability to interact with another human playing strings is really incomparable!
Not a Unique Story
My story of exhaustion and conflict of teaching in person or online is not unique. It is mine, but I know I’m not alone. So, with my background in research and professional student-ism I started digging for studies and articles on pandemic fatigue. After that search proved fruitful, I started researching zoom fatigue.
It’s a thing.
Seeking Resources and Understanding on Zoom and Pandemic Fatigue
Turns out, this “synchronous” learning isn’t so synchronous afterall. I was RELIEVED to learn that the exhaustion I feel after teaching online is supported by science and isn’t due my lack of technological prowess.
We are wired to interact with other humans and pick up on cues from one another. I felt very comforted by this excerpt from an article on nea.org:
“Zoom fatigue occurs when we feel tired after overusing video conferencing. It is not, however, merely a matter of tired eyes, a stiff neck or an achy lower back. We can actually feel exhausted after spending too much time on these calls. The reason, says Dr. Brenda Wiederhold, a clinical psychologist, lies in the fact that communication over these programs isn’t in fact real-time. For educators and students specifically, so-called “synchronous” learning over a computer isn’t really all that synchronous. And brain science tells us why.”
According to Wiederhold, our subconscious brains react to the lag in online calls. We can end up feeling very tired and anxious because our brains “look for ways to overcome that lack of synchrony.”
Honestly, this made me feel so much better. For weeks I’ve been concerned with how tired I am after a long day of teaching online.
Many of us are weary of working from home, but worried about going out and being exposed too soon.
We live in a stressful time where some people are vaccinated and some aren’t, even within the same household.
Many people are tired of the pandemic in general, and have decided to proceed as normal. This makes me the most nervous of all!
More Resources on Pandemic Fatigue
There are a lot of articles out right now about how to deal with pandemic fatigue. One of the best I’ve read recently is: “ How We Can Deal With ‘Pandemic Fatigue’” by David Badre for Scientific American.
I do not have all of the answers, all I know is that we are tired. I am tired.
We are weary, but we are close to the eventual end of this so let’s stay vigilant!
Call for Action
Now isn’t the time to let down our guards. It’s the time to be careful and do what we need to do to keep each other safe. I am committed to teaching online for as long as needed. While it is exhausting, the alternative is much worse to me. The health and safety of my students and my family are my highest priorities.
Teachers are being asked to do it all. Teach online. Teach in person. Be sacrificial. Set a good example. It is a lot to shoulder.
I look at the good times teaching in person on occasions when I get to, as reminders that those days will return. Right now, we do what we can how we have to.