Tips for Restorative Online Teaching and Leading

Here are some tips to increase engagement and connection, while sustaining your own energy.

by Annie O’Shaughnessy

  1. Prepare your physical space so that your face is easily visible and warmly lit:
    1. Raise your computer with some books or a computer stand and inch it forward so your face fills the screen.
    2. Arrange lighting so that you are not back lit and your face has a warm light on it.
  2. Be ready to offer co-regulation through your online presence. Your calm has a lot more influence than you know.
    1. Take 3-5 minutes before you jump online to ground and calm yourself using specific strategies. I even burn some incense!
    2. Make sure you are well-fed and not too much coffee!
  3. Have everything you need ready. Struggling to find files or links immediately can cause stress levels to rise, which students will “catch.”
    1. Have open all the tabs you need, in the order you need them.
    2. Have water and cough drop handy.
    3. Print out, in larger font, your agenda so you don’t need to find it on your screen.
  4. Have slides to focus their attention, but come back to the main group often. Too much time away from faces will disconnect you all.
  5. Bring something personal into the space. Because online learning is so impersonal you need to intentionally include something to share that is from your own life/experience. i.e. point your camera to your dog, or a painting, etc.
  6. Provide opportunities for engagement often! Ask for thumbs up or thumbs down, one-word answers in chat, sharing and item from home that means something to them.
  7. SLOW DOWN: Pause and smile. Pause and breathe. Pause and ask students to check in with how they are feeling and provide a silent gesture or signal that reflects how they are doing. . Pause for students to offer appreciation.
  8. Break every session down into routine parts by following the restorative Balance in the Process or CASEL’s signature Practices:
    1. Balance in the Process:
      1. Opening pause and message (quote, song, video)
      2. Connection and relationship activitiy/prompt
      3. Thinking time: problem solving, learning something new, etc.
      4. Setting intentions, offering appreciations.
    2. 3 Signature Practices:
      1. Inclusive Welcoming
      2. Engaging Strategies
      3. Optimistic Closure.
  9. Be transparent about your process, just enough to show them you are all in this together. In other words, if you are really stressed, share that, but don’t go on and on about it. They need to know you are human and hear what strategies you are using, but they also need you to be a positive model.
  10. Break up your teaching and their learning with predictable breaks of movement, humor, video, music. Many of us are “ZOOMed Out” — plan in predictable ways to laugh, move, and stretch during your online class or meeting.