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Adapt and Thrive

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One of the most interesting heroes in Marvel's Universe is Doctor Strange, a hero who can manipulate time and use it to his own benefit seeing the present, past and future at the same time, an ability that most, if not all teachers, would like to possess during the Covid- 19 times.

The recent pandemic has fundamentally redefined the way we perceive the world, the way we live and the way we work. Suddenly, most people on the planet found themselves locked in their homes, trying to protect themselves from an invisible enemy. At the same time, abruptly and almost violently teachers got separated from their students, classes fell silent and everything moved to a virtual environment. The educational process was transformed and teachers found themselves forced to teach using online platforms and tools they were not familiar with in almost an instant. In a lot of cases the educational institutions were not ready for this transition and they could not offer support of any kind to their staff members, leading teachers to feel stressed and overwhelmed by the surge in the amount of workload they suddenly had to face. This situation has made self- care a necessity and something teachers should make part of their new routine in order to stay healthy and able to support their students. So here are some ideas I found very helpful during this very challenging period.

1. Rest if you must. Teaching online is very demanding as teachers cannot see their students and the main means of communication, i.e body language communication, is lost. Also, the number of emails exchanged and "e- chores" increases immensely, having as a result teachers working around the clock to be able to stay up-to-date. This puts extra pressure on the teacher and leads to exhaustion. So rest is more than necessary for teachers to recharge and to be able to keep their good spirits. So whenever you feel tired take the necessary rest, even if it is a powernap, without feeling guilty.

2. Stay hydrated. One thing I discovered to be essential during online teaching is to stay hydrated. Water is essential, since we are mostly made of water. It rejuvenates us and it gives us energy. Also, it helps in protecting vocal health as staying hydrated helps our bodies produce thin, watery mucus. The vocal cords vibrate more than 100 times a second when you speak, and they need that mucus to help them stay lubricated. So keep close to you a bottle of water and a reminder to drink a glass often.

3. Be proactive. The amount of work has increased as lessons are conducted online and everything is done via emails or online platforms so organizing your tasks for the week from the weekend is going to allow you to juggle all these different tasks with greater ease and less anxiety. Preparing is always better than reacting to the situations that arise.

4. Get fit. From time to time or in- between classes, it is always a good idea to move a little. Maybe this means standing up and walking or doing some push- ups, burpees or something physical which will allow the brain to relax and re- focus easier to the task at hand.

5. Pray or meditate. Before the start of each day it is always good to spend some time praying or meditating (I found that I need 20 minutes) to clean your mind from worries and all toxic or dark thoughts. This technique sets a more positive tone for the day in front of you and all the challenges that may arise.

6. Journal. Writing down whatever hurts you, troubles you, scares you or confuses you is a liberating act that sets you free from the depressive or negative thoughts that might visit you during these demanding times. Putting everything on paper, I found, is like you leave them on the paper and you are liberated. Also, every day, no matter how challenging or sad the day might have been, always write down at least three things you are grateful for. This helps you reframe it, focus on the good and the positive and trains the brain to see the good in every situation, no matter how hard it may seem. 

7. Read. Reading is a really powerful habit. Read books that inspire you, that fill you with hope or that take you on a journey to imaginary places and offer you a way out of this darkness. Read the biographies of important people and study their tactics and their approach whenever they faced difficulties and you will find strength.

8. Remember your why, or discover it. It is always important to remind yourself why you became a teacher (or if you have not found it yet or you forgot it to rediscover it), what is it that every single day motivates you to get into class and transform the lives of so many people who trust you. This why can motivate you do your best and use all these amazing new tools in more creative ways to offer the best possible experience to your students.

9. Find the lesson in the chaos. Every single challenging situation can be seen as a curse that comes our way to torture us or get us down or it can be viewed as an invaluable lesson. The important thing is to ask ourselves "what is the lesson here?" and try to answer it. All great characters, all the important people in the history of humanity, all the great characters have been forged by the heat of difficulties and challenges. This way teachers can understand the importance of their job especially in these times and understand how valuable their contribution is. Just trust that there is a reason for everything and trust the process.

Winston Churchill once said that "you should never let a good crisis go to waste" and I could not agree more with him than in our dark times. Teachers oftentimes feel isolated, unsupported or not appreciated and these times have only intensified these feelings. But if we see this crisis as a great opportunity to create something new, to build a new brave world and a more hopeful future then all this physical but not social distancing, all these challenges we go through wil not be in vain. Teachers can really touch the future through their students and now more than ever it is part of their mission to instill hope and love to their students and even though we are physically apart to be mentally closer more than ever. To achieve that each teacher should make physical and mental wellbeing part og their new daily routine because nobody can offer anything if they feel empty. So fill your pot and inspire your students.

Emmanuel Kontovas