Take Care: How to work and learn from home

Graphic by Lexi Serino / The Tufts Daily

Who thought that our anthem for our current school situation — online classes, working from home — would come from Fifth Harmony? But unlike “Work From Home” (2016) — its biggest song? Regardless, it’s not very good — it’s not as easy as Fifth Harmony makes it sound. Not everyone can work from home, ladies!

There’s so much to consider when we talk about our current situations. As in-person learning shifts to the virtual world, how do we bring ourselves to actually attend — and pay attention to— our classes? It seems almost cruel to have to work and learn while processing the stress of a pandemic. And those of us who came back to welcoming homes are lucky; for some Tufts students, leaving campus meant leaving safety and accessibility. How do those students cope with these changes?

In this “Take Care” article, I wanted to talk about ways to make this strange learning experience a little bit easier. Hopefully, these tips are varied enough to provide some sort of assistance to all students finishing this semester online. It would be ignorant — and incorrect — to assume that any given student has a quiet room to work in, a computer with internet to work from and the time to dedicate to their coursework.

1. Block out time during the day to do your coursework — at whatever time works for you!

Setting a schedule and sticking to it is important to feeling some sort of normalcy during a time that’s far from ordinary. Some of us excel by mimicking the same schedule we had just a few weeks ago on campus. Some students thrive better by replicating the caffeine-induced stress of finishing a paper in the Tisch Library Reading Room at 1:30 a.m. Whatever worked for you at Tufts might work for you now. But it’s important to note that we all most likely need to alter our learning methods to our new surroundings. Some students’ schedules changed the moment they got home — they might suddenly be caretakers, babysitters or having to do jobs to make up for lost on-campus job income. Regardless of your situation, make time for homework when you can. And be honest with yourself about getting that work done — we’re in the middle of a pandemic and no one feels productive.

2. Set a space — even if it’s temporary — that’s yours!

If you have your own room to work in that’s got a desk and is quiet when you need it to be, you lucked out. We have it best; we can work when we want, how we want. But working from your home’s common spaces is a much different process. Dining room tables and kitchen counters are certainly not ideal places to work. But there are ways to make these spaces a little more productive, even if it’s just for a couple of hours. Find time when you can be in these locations relatively undisturbed. If you can’t, headphones can do wonders to block out household noise. Maybe you’re not the type to listen to music while you work — weird flex, but okay — and you need silence. There are plenty of apps and websites with white noise channels. While it’s not silence, white noise is similar to silence in that it helps you cancel any distractions and just focus on the task at hand.

3. Take breaks and get sunlight and fresh air when you can.

At Tufts, we didn’t even have to think about stepping outside to enjoy some nature. It was built into our schedules, happening without us even knowing it. Now, we’re all stuck inside our homes with no agenda and nowhere to go. It can be so easy to stay inside all day, but you need to step outside every so often to enjoy some fresh air and look at a tree. Even if it’s just a walk around the block or a lean against your front door, give your body a break. This could be especially useful while doing coursework, but it could also come with exercising; if you’re feeling stuck inside, go for a run! Or do some jumping jacks! If your family’s driving you crazy, take a walk outside and enjoy some alone time. Or run to the end of the street and scream at the top of your lungs! It’s important to keep some sort of connection to the world around us, even as everything’s closed and the streets look like a ghost town.

4. If you have to Zoom into class, do whatever you need to do.

We can only be expected to do so much now that the internet is our new way of learning. For those of us who have synchronous class meetings, there’s a lot to consider when it comes to being on Zoom. Not everyone owns their own computer or can reserve a quiet room all to themselves for classes. And then there are time zones and internet access. So many issues come into play when we talk about online learning. That’s why you should make your Zoom area as comfortable as possible. Whether it’s a temporary space — a family computer — or your laptop in your room, make the area ready for learning and working. It’s also important to keep in mind that not all of us have video-ready Zoom locations in our houses; there are background noises and images, weird lighting and connection issues. At this point, don’t take those problems too seriously. You didn’t know you’d be finishing the semester online —there’s no need to be concerned right now about how the lighting looks in your Zoom lecture.

5. Celebrate the small victories. We need them now more than ever!

I consider small victories to be everything from getting out of bed and putting on clean clothes to actually attending my Zoom lecture. It’s frankly impossible to focus on schoolwork right now, which means that any time we actually spend studying, doing homework or attending class is commendable. Again, we’re in the middle of a pandemic; our usual school stress is now coupled with plenty of other anxieties about family, the state of the world, health, our futures and when this will all be over. Don’t be too hard on yourself — if you can even think about school during a time like this, then good job. Celebrate with small things: a quick dance party to your favorite song or a snack. Keep yourself connected with your friends as much as you can. Those phone calls and FaceTimes could be really great ways to refresh and reenergize. Most of all, give yourself time and space to adjust to all of this. We’re living in strange times. You’re allowed to feel strange about it.