I teach at a brick and mortar University one night a week and all the buzz in the break room has been about what everyone is doing for Spring Break next week. I listen enviously, as I know I will be busy grading huge assignments while others are taking in Spring Training baseball. I will be responding to posts on the discussion boards while people are sleeping in. I do not know about anyone else, but the online schools I teach at do not observe any holidays during the year, much less take a week off in the Spring. My schools do give two weeks off at the end of the year, but otherwise it is a straight through push.
Remember your college years? Didn’t it feel like Spring Break was just for you? The wonderful University you were attending knew that you were getting stir crazy and having a week in Daytona Beach would turn you into a better student upon your return. Yes, the world was all about us when we were students. Now that I am a faculty member, I know that Spring Break was really created to give the faculty and a well needed rest between winter break and summer vacation. After all, a burned out faculty member is not a good instructor. The faculty members need time off from teaching to research, prepare, and rest.
It has been 10 weeks of straight teaching for me and I am beginning to feel burn-out coming. I usually teach seven days a week, so that does not help matters. Avoiding burn-out is one of the biggest challenges I face when teaching online. I try to schedule mini-breaks on Saturday and Sunday to spend time with my family, but sometimes that is not enough. I know I am burned out when I start feeling like typing “have you considered applying at McDonald’s” on papers. When that point arrives, I have to walk away for awhile. It is times like that I really envy my counterparts who are exclusively working for brick and mortar institutions. Traditional instructors do not have to adhere to answering questions within 24 hours and other deadlines placed on faculty by most online institutions.
I have at least 30 more weeks straight of teaching scheduled. Many of my schools have a week of between the five, eight or nine week terms, however, they all seem to be on different schedules. A hazard of teaching at multiple schools is finding yourself in perpetual teaching mode. Trying to schedule a week break can result in lost classes and lost income. I just have not figured out how to give myself a break yet. If anyone has any suggestions on how you have done it, please let me know! I would like to hear if you have taken time off and been able to resume a busy schedule upon your return.
Last year, I taught for 49 weeks straight. It was my first year at that pace and I survived. I was very tired by year-end and I told myself I would slow down in 2010. Somehow, I have not kept that promise to myself. I have been nervous about the economy, I have been scared that the teaching will dry up, so I do not hesitate to click “accept” on every teaching solicitation that comes in.
Last year, my husband and I took a short vacation, but online teaching went with me. Every evening, it was a rush to get back to the hotel for an hour or two online to catch up with my classes. I did not like that I did not really get a break, but the change of scenery and time alone with my husband did help recharge me. One of the great things about teaching online is that you can work virtually anywhere. One of the bad things about teaching online is that you can work virtually anywhere. How does one find a good balance?
Yes, teaching from home has many perks! We can set our own times to work during the day, we can avoid commutes, we can wear shirts with holes and duck slippers. I would not give up my online teaching… I just really miss Spring Break.