I’m not a doctor in real life but I play one on this blog. That was my morning smile yesterday as I pondered the reply to my post about “Eyes” from Aviva Dunsiger.

She mentioned that she has encountered headaches since the move to teaching online.

Glasses on or glasses off, I still get a headache.

Over the past few blog posts, I’ve talked about desks, chairs, and eyes which I think largely address many of the physical things that can cause discomfort or real pain. I told Aviva that I’d be doing some research and found this article.

How To Prevent A Headache From Computer Use

It felt somewhat gratifying that the suggestions that I’ve hung my hat on are addressed in this article. It’s what I’ve always believed in. The bottom of the article deals with treatments and I hope that it doesn’t come to this for people who may be experiencing issues at this time. The best recommendation is #9 where you should be getting your eyes checked annually. I’ve always done that and have invested in many sets of glasses and contact lenses as my eyes have matured. My only regret – and I found out this after I had graduated – but I could have received eye examinations for free at the Faculty of Optometry when I was at university.

Anyway, back to Aviva’s question. If headaches have been around before this teaching online, then I think a medical solution might be in your future. But if they’re arrived just recently, it might be something else.

Now, as I mentioned above, I’m not a doctor so this isn’t medical advice but more of a personal piece of my own thoughts. Please keep that in mind.

Wellness and mindfulness aren’t new to me. I still remember distinctly the first Friday as a teacher. Like every day that week, I had my briefcase (gasp!) jammed pack with stuff to work on over the weekend. On the way out, I had to pass the Principal and Vice-Principal offices. My VP stepped out and asked me how I was and what was in the briefcase.

Of course, I was great! I wasn’t going to admit that I’d just gone 10 rounds with people who were better at education than me. And the briefcase had work in it. He told me to leave the briefcase in his office and just go home. It was a move and a gesture that I’ve never forgotten. There were three of us that started that fall and all three of us were treated like that. These were the days long before the concept of NTIP and the job of orientation lay in the hands of the Principal and VP. I can’t tell you the number of times that I was stopped my first couple of years and asked how I was and if there were things that I needed that I didn’t have. The same happened with my Department Head. It took a while before I began to realize that I wasn’t an independent contractor but more of a member of a team.

That didn’t lighten the desire to be the best teacher possible, to refuse to let students not learn, the desire to know every one of my students, and to be constantly immersed in everything. I’m certainly not unique as I know that all teachers are cut from this cloth. That’s why your skills are so appreciated by your students, their parents, your staff, and most importantly yourself.

It’s the “yourself” that may be at the heart of the matter. I know that the “collective you” won’t expect anything less of yourself, even at this time. You’re expecting the same level of success, just under a different set of rules. And that just increases your intensity. You react physically. Muscles tighten, eyes squint, and, well, you know the feeling. I think this reaction is inherent in all teachers.

It’s not business as usual. In fact, it’s like you’re back at that first week of your career. You’ve got a completely new environment, you’re meeting “new” students online, and they’re meeting a “new” teacher online. You’ve got state of the art tools at your disposal and you might have actually used them before this. Many haven’t and, even if you had, not to the mission critical level that you are experiencing now.

It’s not dissimilar to that first week where you’re using all those tools you learned about in Academia from the Faculty of Education or you’ve just returned from a workshop where you have all these new ideas and you’re trying to implement them immediately for success. In the middle of all this, if you’re connected to social media, you’re seeing and reading about people having outrageous success. Why not you? What’s wrong with you?

Do you need to try harder?

It’s always important, but never more important to take care of yourself right now. Trying harder and harder to push yourself seems like a natural solution. After all, that’s what you would do in a regular classroom. But you’re not in a regular classroom. You have a different set of tools. Like that first year you teacher, you will get better and more skillful over time. Nothing breeds success like success.

What to do?

Go all Joel Barker on yourself

There will be a great deal to learn as you go through this. Celebrate the little successes. Open a notebook and keep track of them.

Take breaks

Think of the regular school day. You don’t work for five hours straight being on task. There are scheduled breaks or transition times built in. We understood the importance of them then; we need to realize that they’re even more important now. Nobody goes anywhere on an empty tank of gas.

Don’t be alone

For many, there’s an opportunity to recharge by connecting with family members. Or the family pet (dogs love to walk) One thing that can be replicated easily enough during these times are those hallway discussions with colleagues. In these times, a phone call from a friend is truly a gift. Turn to good friends on social media.

Be aware of the physical

To repeat the advice from yesterday, be aware that staring at a screen for a period of time will stress your eyes and dry them out. Avoid rubbing them but do look away and give them a break from the task at hand. Know that they’re tense from use just like those other muscles that tense up. A friend of mine once gave me the best advice and I used to do it a lot. When in a meeting, stand up and go over to an open door and massage your back against the frame. If you’ve never done it, try it. It’s amazing how well it works.

For Principals

Recognize that your staff is throwing everything into this. We’ve heard so often about teachers making house phone calls to ensure that the kids are all right. What about staff? Are they alright? It’s one thing to have a meeting of staff with everyone in their own little window in a Zoom or other conferencing utility. Everyone will have their best face on. Make the phone calls and talk one to one. Find out how it’s going and ask what people need. Just like a regular school day, drop in on an online class if you can and make an appearance. Kind gestures like this go so very far.

And for those truly small windows on your computer … wouldn’t it be nice to see those smiling faces in other than postage stamp size? How about casting your computer screen to that nice big screen television that you have? Nothing will even replace real face to face but this can get a bit closer.

I don’t know if this will help Aviva or anyone else but I know that it felt great to have the chance to put my thoughts and ideas together.

What did I miss? Are there other ideas that I overlooked? Are there ideas here that need expanded on?


5 thoughts on “Intensity

  1. Thanks for finding this article for me! I got so immersed in the post that I didn’t read the article yet. I need to do so. What if the headaches only happen when I’m on a video call (Google Meet or Microcost Teams)? All other times, I’m fine. I wonder if others have found the same. I appreciate you doing a little doctor work for me. 🙂



  2. You’ve never mentioned that you have a computer at home but that would be my first suggestion. I know you love your iPad but I would suggest that, if you’re using it for the calls, that you cast the image to a television and connect headphones or an external speaker.


  3. When I began my most recent set of online AQ’s a couple of weeks ago, I posted them this message. These candidates vary in teaching experience, but most have online responsibilities right now.
    “I’m posting this just as the course is beginning.

    Its a remarkable moment in education: In a very short timeframe – only months – the global teaching industry has been forced to pivot to an online model. Never have so many been forced to try something so new, with so little time to prepare.

    I wanted to start this thread as a place where those of you in this course can share your trials and tribulations as you embark on your online journey in your own teaching.

    Many wonderful approaches and strategies will come out if it, and there will be epic fails as well. There are few experts out there who can say ‘been there, I know all about it’. One thing for sure – those who reflect, write and share their experiences will be in the best positions to develop their capacity and develop this new toolbox.

    A few initial tips from me come to mind, having taught online AQ courses for about 20 years:

    -until you settle into it, keep expectations of yourself low. That way you can only exceed them.
    -Same of your expectations of the kids
    -The online ‘template’ generally begins with a succinct piece of content, followed by some related task.
    -Track what your students submit
    -Make yourself available by email
    -do not use your personal email or cell #
    -ensure your notifications are set on your phone to be notified of emails received by students
    -Always be empathetic & reassuring.
    Please feel free to contribute to this thread about anything you want to share, get off your chest, questions you are wondering about.


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