Updated: Apr 27, 2021
Even before COVID-19 upended the teaching world, many of us were already spending too much time sitting in front of our computers. For many educators, this past year has made it even worse.
In our regular teaching, we often stand up and sit down at our desks or bustle around the classroom, checking in on students. Now we are slumped in front of our monitors at home for even longer periods, staring into the lights and camera. The screen time required for planning, meeting with students online, and grading seems never-ending and out of control.
Below are some suggestions to help you improve your screen situation and reduce aches, pains, and fatigue.
Sit up straight!
While we cannot avoid all sitting, we can improve our posture without buying an expensive, new chair. Try these ideas to easily change your setup:
Sitting on the edge of your seat or placing a small pillow behind your lower back helps realign the spine and stop slouching or slumping.
Elevating your monitor by placing it on a cardboard box, a stack of books, or a small shelf forces you to keep your head up and your neck straighter.
Using a yoga ball as a chair designed for exercise and balance requires the use of core muscles to stay balanced. A side benefit is that it can be used as part of your exercise routine after teaching!
Standing can bring some relief as it changes your body’s position and takes the pressure off the backs of your legs. However, be careful because standing too much can create its own problems with posture, pain, and fatigue. As with most things in life, moderation is key.
You may be able to create a standing desk from furniture and materials you already have. There are endless ideas on the Internet for creating a standing desk setup that works for you. Be careful not to create a system that interferes with your normal sitting setup or that is difficult to use as this can decrease your motivation to use it.
Perhaps the best of both worlds, a treadmill desk allows you to work at your computer while walking at lower speeds of usually 1 to 2 miles per hour. While many commercial treadmill desk setups are expensive and take up limited floor space and may not be appropriate for home use, there are other options to consider.
One is an under-desk treadmill that slides in and out from under a desk and can be used with a variety of standing desk setups.
Another is a folding treadmill and standing desk combination. Personally, I have been using this setup in the two photos below for ten years on a regular basis as both a standing desk with a very small footprint and a treadmill desk. It allows me to walk on the treadmill while taking care of emails, class planning, and other administrative responsibilities, and when I am working at home, I usually use it for one to two hours in 30-minute sessions.
Unfortunately, at the time of writing this article, it looks like the COVID-19 pandemic will continue to affect our personal and professional lives. While it has been a challenge to adapt to this new teaching reality, it is equally important to take care of our own health and well-being. Hopefully, the ideas above will inspire you to make proactive changes and regain control of your life. Photo Credits: Photo by Raj Rana, Unsplash
After graduating from university in 1991 with a degree in physics, Rich taught physics and math at the high-school level in Fiji with the United States Peace Corps. He then obtained his MA in TESOL at Wright State University, Ohio, USA in 1995 and has taught for over 20 years, including in the United States and Kazakhstan. He has been teaching English in Japan for the last 12 years at Tokai University, Kanagawa, and Asia University, Tokyo. His main interest is MALL (mobile-assisted language learning) both in terms of teaching English and his own Japanese language study. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org