Author: Elena Xeni, firstname.lastname@example.org
From the early lines of this mini-article, I need to admit that I am not at all of a ‘break’ type of person. I am not in the habit of taking a break from screen tasks and other responsibilities and duties on very or less busy days! So it is without hurt feelings that from time to time I receive comments for being ‘workaholic’. Yes, I know I am wrong for not taking breaks, and throughout my working years I have been reading a lot about the importance of taking long or short breaths/ breaks from screen in particular and from work in general. But it has been a good practice only in theory to me and not in practice…
It wasn’t until the lockdown days, thus recently, that this ‘take a break’ idea came into practice as a good habit in my everydayness, and as a good teaching and learning practice in the context of online education, and to be more specific, webinars/ online classes.
From the early lockdown days, family and friends’ children as well as parents and grandparents would constantly complain about their children or themselves sitting long hours in front of a computer, attending webinars in the context of online/ distance education and working remotely. It was then, that I started paying attention on the structure of the webinars I attended myself and listening to others’ experiences… At times, there was indeed no break, no consideration of a pause and when someone would make a request about a break, on the most, the organizer would reassure everyone that the webinar would not take that long… On other occasions, organisers/ instructors would plan for breaks and encourage participants to take breaks, and at times, even structured breaks (e.g. follow the instructions, listen to my voice and relax, etc.). There were times that even an hour no-break-webinar would get me tired… However, in all the cases of webinars with breaks, I would feel less tired and more engaged, not only during the webinar but also until the end, and beyond, looking forward to the next one! For the first time, I could see the added value of taking a break! And it was then that I decided to keep on a diary listing good practices in taking breaks when in webinars and online classes. I noted down any break, giving it a title and describing it as well as expressing how it made me feel. I placed a star in those break ideas that made me feel relaxed, less stressed and tired, engaged and well- motivated. Good practices that emerged from my diary are shared below:
1. Take 5 min break from the screen and stand up following the instructor’s/ webinar organiser’s instructions for stretching.
2. Take a 5 mindfulness break with eyes open and deep breathing either accompanied by music or without it.
3. Take a 5-10 minutes reflection break in groups. Get together in groups in escape rooms of the hosting platform, discuss or brainstorm with the set group an issue/ task or reflect on the session’s topic.
4. Take a 5-10 minutes break for water, tea, coffee or toilet.
5. Take a 5 minutes break looking out of a window.
6. Take a 15-20 minutes grap-some-lunch/ dinner-break.
7. Take a 10 minutes do-whatever-you-want-break and use this time as you wish.
With respect to attendees and participants sitting long hours in front of a screen, these ‘take a break ideas’ benefited myself (and others, I bet) in many ways. Overall, it felt that:
- they respected my human needs (e.g. drinks, food and visiting the WC)
- they payed attention to my health (e.g. standing up and stretching, take some minutes off-screen)
- they focused on my mental health (getting less tired, relaxation, stress-less moments, mindfulness, etc.)
- they respected my concentration spam as adult (webinar with breaks)
- they motivated by to keep on attending webinars
- they convinced me to spread the word and share good practices.
The ‘taking a break experience’ shared on this mini-article was an important practice in the days of my lockdown experience (and beyond). It was a lesson learned, in this sense. Taking breaks during a webinar/ online class may foster organizing and delivering successful webinars, making this educational and professional context further acknowledged and attended in ways that will be beneficial to participants and learners.]
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