Tag Archives: tips

Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 2

More and more schools announced closures over the weekend; even my sister-in-law’s school in Small Town, Texas has announced that they will extend Spring Break by another week, at least. The Governor of Jakarta stepped up this weekend and announced that all schools in the city must close for two weeks beginning tomorrow, and they must offer online learning. For us, nothing changes, as we aren’t planning to open until 30 March anyway, but I am glad that the government is taking this situation seriously and putting measures in place (finally!) to reduce the spread of the virus.

With these closures, many of us are left scrambling to figure our how we are going to teach online, a concept new to the vast majority of us. I’m definitely not an expert by any means, but I have been doing it for the better part of two weeks, so here’s my advice and observations. I hope that they are helpful to you.

For my advice around student wellbeing during this virtual learning period, have a read of Advice for Virtual Learning- Part 1.

Staff Wellbeing, Including Your Own!

What they don’t tell you about virtual school is that it’s WAY HARDER than real school. As in you can work 12+ hour days and still feel woefully behind. The pressures you now face are overwhelming, to say the least. You are learning so much, so fast, but there’s no time to process that new learning or consolidate it before you are asked to implement it. It’s pretty much a crash-course PD, where you are constantly adapting and trouble-shooting and finding new ways of doing the same things you would do in the classroom. One thing I’ve learned is that something that would typically take a few minutes in the classroom can take 30+ minutes to accomplish online, especially when you’re trying to remotely support young students on how to use the new online tools.

In addition to the pace of learning and insurmountable tasks you now have on your plate, most of us have to contend with self-quarantine and isolation from others. Extended time alone, a dramatic increase in screen time, and a decrease in movement result in exhaustion. You will expend an enormous amount of mental and emotional energy throughout the day, and most likely you will do so on far less sleep than you are accustomed to, at least at first. Your patience will be put to the test, and your emotions are likely to bubble over from time to time. It’s all normal and expected. Be easy on yourself and know that it does get better.

Schedules and Routines

All of this is to say, you need to look after yourself and your family. Setting a schedule for everyone will help establish routines and cut down on chaos. Set boundaries for yourself. If you don’t, you’ll never step away. There will always be another notification, Seesaw post to approve, email to answer, text message to respond to, video chat to answer, etc. Take regular breaks throughout the day and set a start and end time for your days. Allot some time on the weekends to get your work done and get ahead for the next week, but take time out to rest and spend time with your family.

Get Some Sleep!

My biggest hurdle is not getting enough sleep. As I said, there’s always more to do and the guilt of not getting it all done is real. I’ve found myself staying up late most nights working, often not getting to bed until 11:00-12:00. The lack of sleep means I’m less effective during the day, meaning I have to stay up late that night to catch up. It’s a vicious cycle. Learn from me. Set a bedtime and keep it. Another thing is that you can’t just work right up until you are going to bed, because staring at a computer screen messes with your brain, and you’ll be so wired you won’t get to sleep. Try to put some distance between the end of work and your bedtime, such as a shower, cup of herbal tea, and some reading (in a real book!).

Connection and Collaboration

Virtual school is lonely and isolating. It’s a strange concept; you are connected digitally all day, yet you don’t feel a real sense of connection. One way to combat this is to reach out to your colleagues and friends throughout the day. Message one another in your school’s online platform (ours is Microsoft Teams), call a friend or family member on the phone during a break or in the evening, video chat with your students and colleagues, take a walk outside (but keep some distance between you and others). Reach out to other online communities you have. Do whatever you can do to establish and/or maintain that sense of community.

Collaborating is key to making virtual school a success for others. We cannot do it alone. We need to share what’s working and what’s not, ask for help when we need it, and share new ideas and resources we come across. When we do this, we all win, and more importantly, so do our students. At my school, we have taken the consistent approach across all classes in the Primary school. When we find something that is a good idea, we all implement it. This cuts down on comparisons between classes (and complaints) when it comes to parents.

We have a ‘Virtual School’ channel in MS Teams where we all load ideas and suggestions for virtual school. It’s a feed of ideas that we can all revisit when we have time.

We also have a Primary group chat on WhatsApp where we collaborate, ask for feedback, discuss concerns or issues, send announcements, and share links with one another.

Our students feel the same way, too. They crave connection and miss their friends and the daily interactions they have with their teachers. Reach out to them on video chats to help them feel some sense of normalcy. Listen to one of my students’ reflection on the week. You can hear how much she misses the connection with her friends that she has at school.

Self-care

I’ve already touched on some aspects of self-care, such as getting enough sleep and setting boundaries. Another aspect to consider is eating healthily, ensuring that you have a wide variety of fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the day. Being at home and under a huge amount of stress has led to me eating more snack foods and desserts, which only leave me feeling even more sluggish. I’m working on eating healthier. Drink lots of water all day. A plus to working from home means you get to go to the bathroom whenever you want! So drink water with wild abandon.

Move your body several times during the day. It’s sooooo easy to get stuck in your chair, hunched over the computer all day, but you’ll be paying for it later. Take a walk outside for a few minutes on your breaks or after school. Do a yoga YouTube video when you wake up. Play the Wii with your kids after lunch. Whatever you can do to move, do it.

Take some time away from screens. Do something you enjoy offline, such as reading, knitting, working on a puzzle, coloring, cooking a meal, trying a new recipe, listening to music, dancing around your living room, taking a bath, taking a nap, playing a board game, etc. Whatever it is that you enjoy, spend time doing that. You are no good to anyone if you’re run down.

I came across a *FREE* PD on Designing Online Learning this morning and I’ve signed up. The PD runs from 23-30 March. The catch is you have to sign up by Sunday at 7pm ET if you want to take advantage of this offer!

I still have lots more to share…so there will be a Part 3 tomorrow. Stay tuned!

10 Interviewing DO’s and DON’T’s

Let me preface this by saying that I’m an international school principal, so these are my recommendations when interviewing for an overseas position, although many are transferrable to local positions.

1. DON’T wear your pajamas.
International schools conduct many of their interviews via Skype. While you don’t need to wear a suit and tie, appropriate clothing is appreciated. Take that little bit of extra time to at least make sure the top half of you looks professional and presentable. If you want to wear your flannel panama bottoms, I won’t judge— I’m probably wearing them, too.

2. DO use your real name.
While you may have a cutesy nickname that your friends and family call you, go by your real name during the interview. Unless it’s a name you go by all the time, like Mike for Michael, refrain from sharing on that first interview.

“Hello Hannah, how are you?”
“I’m fine. By the way, my friends call me Heavenly.”
“Oh really? Why’s that?”
“They say I’m like an angel from Heaven.”
“Okay…I think I’ll stick with Hannah.”

3. DON’T tell the interviewer what to do.
Interviewers appreciate feedback and questions, however telling us what to do is a sure way to guarantee we won’t call you for a second interview.

“Have you read all of my recommendation letters?”
“No, that’s usually something we do when we want to offer someone a job, not for the first interview.”
“Well, I suggest you read them all so that you know who you’re talking to.”
“Noted.”

4. DO your research.
Before your interview, take the time to get to know a little something about the school. Peruse their website, read their mission statement and values, find out about the curriculum the school uses, write down any questions you have. Employers are impressed that you took that little bit of extra time to find out more about their school. There’s an added benefit for you, too. You’ll get to know whether this school is a good fit for you or not. Do you believe in their mission and values? What about the curriculum? Is it one you are familiar with or one that you believe is best for students?

5. DON’T ask about salary details during the first interview.
The first interview is a time for both the employer and the potential employee to get to know one another, determine if it would be a good match (getting a job goes both ways), and ask some preliminary questions. Asking about the salary right away tells your potential employer that you’re only in it for the money, and not really interested in much else. Of course, salary and benefits are important, but this is something we save until later, when we are interested in making an offer.

6. DO display confidence, not cockiness.
Confidence is great—showing what you have to offer, highlighting your strengths, and selling yourself—but cockiness is not. A cocky attitude is such a turn-off for an interviewer. Look at it this way, if you are this cocky now, what will you be like when you work here?

“So, Sam, what are you looking for in a school?”
“I’m looking for a school that recognizes that I’m the whole package.”
“Oh, okay…”

Pretty sure I was looking for something along the lines of…collaborative, good sense of community, a place to grow professionally, but okay.

7. DON’T bad-mouth your current school.
We get it. You don’t like where you work now. This is probably the reason you are searching for a new job. But please, don’t complain about your current school. While you may think this makes the school look bad, it really just makes you look bad. What goes through my head when someone does this is, “What are they going to say about us if I hire them?”. It’s kind of like when your friend gossips to you about another friend. You have to worry about what they say about you when you’re not around. You don’t have to paint a flowery image that doesn’t exist, but avoid blatant complaining.

8. DO ask questions.
Most people think the interviewers are the only ones to ask the questions, but especially when looking for a position overseas, the interviewee should ask some questions, too. After all, you would be committing two years of your life to this school should you get the job. Preparing questions ahead of time will help you remember what you want to ask. Common question themes include: specific curriculum-related questions, demographics of student body and staff, what life is like there, professional development opportunities (particularly if it’s a new curriculum to you), support and resources available at the school, and school culture. Don’t bombard your interviewer with questions, but ask ones that you truly important to you.

9. DON’T be boring.
Interviewing on Skype is different than in person. I get that. But that’s no excuse to be boring. Let your personality shine through. Be engaged, listen thoughtfully, and show us who you are. The saying “You only get one chance to make a first impression” is true. If you’re a dud during the interview, it won’t matter how impressive your resume is, because we won’t be calling you back.

10. DO follow up the interview with an email.
Employers appreciate a short email after the interview, thanking them for taking the time to interview you, expressing your continued interest in the position, and even asking a question or two you might not have had the chance to ask during the interview.

Anyone else have any interviewing tips to share?