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Finding Balance

IMG_1997We’ve been at the in-law’s house for the past few days.  It is a beautiful place and they are lovely people.  Finding a place to work has proved easy since my in-laws ran a company from their home for years and they still have their massive office set up.  But when it comes time for my live meetings with video and audio I have been retreating to our bedroom upstairs where I can close the door.

I’ve been trying to keep a balance and not work all of the time.  It can be hard when there is a lot to do, when the work is fun, and when you don’t have to go “into the office” to do your work.  Finding a way to turn off at home was slightly easier since I have been using different physical spaces to do different work.  It is more difficult here because I’m still working on setting up those spaces.  And perhaps I’m feeling a bit guilty being in such a great place while my counterparts are working in an office.  Well maybe not that guilty.

The answer of course is to find groove and build a routine, I’ve only been working from home in this new job for a week and a day so I’m sure the groove and routine will come.  Building a work from home routine is probably going to be easier once the kids go back to school themselves next week and I’ve had a couple of weeks on the job to figure out what needs to be done when.

Finally getting started.

IMG_2473Off on a plane with a connecting flight and I’m reminded how much better direct flights are.  My second leg was delayed by a few hours so I was stuck for a while in Chicago.  Not a bad place to be but there are better places to get some work done then an airport terminal.  SO in my quest to get some work done I decided to go exploring a bit, hopefully somewhere with WiFi.  I was surprised to see that there was a significant lack of WiFi in the airport when I went to sit down.

Luckily though I had my trusty iPhone and it’s personal hotspot capabilities.  So I still was able to work and get things done.  Mostly last minute postings for my last three classes (ending in just a few days).

In the end there was an hour long layover that turned into a three hour layover.  Tired I did what I could but without the iPhone I would have been sunk.  I was surprised there wasn’t free WiFi at a major US Airport.

I was picked up at the airport by my new boss and made it to the hotel where I’m staying for a few weeks.  I was able to get my homework for the weekend posted before the midnight deadline and even managed to visit the 24 hour Walmart next door to pick up some Tea and other essentials such as Prosciutto Panino.

After my day of traveling, shopping, writing, and rushing I was quite happy to have my “Relax Melodies” app on my laptop to block out the sounds of the city a cup of green tea and a bed.

Today is my second day of a two week training stretch and I’m learning so very much about the team and the way they organize themselves.  At first I was reluctant to come and spend two weeks so far from my children and family but I’m not sure I would have been integrated as well with the team as a whole without the trip.  It will be interesting to see the difference when I head back home to New England to see the difference in the way I organize my day and my routine.  If anyone has any suggestions let me know.  I’m teaching a full load, several on-screen meetings each week (mostly Monday’s and Tuesdays mid day) so there will be a lot to do.

It’s a great group of people in a great program.  I honestly think I will learn as much if not more from my counterparts then I will teach to my students they are that great.  And the more I immerse myself in what I’m going to be teaching the more I’m positive this was the perfect move for me.

So again, if anyone has any telecommuting and working from home organizational ideas let me know.  I’m going to need to hit the road running when I return and I’ll share what I find works.

Persistence Pays Off

20140729-132120-48080985.jpgHere is a rare photo of my home office setup.  Since I like to work early and I try to get as much work done here before anyone else in the family wakes up I start my mornings here after a pot of tea is ready and the day’s priorities are set.  But the space is not all mine Note the three “homework chairs” for the three boys to use each afternoon.  The whiteboards (yes four is probably overkill) I have for brainstorming, strategic planning, and motivational goals/reference.

Over the past several months I’ve been approaching the end of my doctoral coursework and had started to look for work in ernest.  Sending sometimes as many as a dozen CV packets a day.  Like the whiteboards it was probably a bit of overkill.  I also joined the “Teach Online Bootcamp” offered by The Babb Group.  The end result is that I’ve been hired as a full time online instructor at a school out west.

Persistence pays off.  Sometimes you just have to keep pushing and keep trying.  I fly out this coming Sunday for two weeks of training and immersion.  So the Nomadic part of my teaching is starting in full force as well.  After the two weeks I’m going to return home and have my routine set here where I will start each day in my home office, then roam needed to keep focus and productivity up.

The new job has made me think of what I want to do with the Blog as I move forward.  Since I don’t want to talk much about my specific position, my students, and hunting for an online teaching job is less interesting to me now then it was a few weeks ago that does help limit my topics.  Moving forward I want to write about how I teach online, how I work from home.. specifically how do I handle the work-life balance, the isolation of being at home, and keep my productivity up so that I can adapt as needed to life as it comes.

Although I will be specifically approaching these questions from the point of view of someone teaching full time and that will by my primary audience, I am hopeful and confidant that my insights and the things that I learn will be helpful to anyone who works from home.  Especially with noisy children in the house.  As I continue to make this transition I may end up with more questions than answers.

Finding Overseas Higher Ed Teaching Jobs

20140613-094657-35217041.jpgMy wife has traveled significantly more than I have.  Her father ran an international design firm and as such there was a bit of travel for her when she was younger.  My longer term goal is to explore the world.  And I’ve developed a small obsession.  A certain Wikipedia page. The “Lists of Universities and Colleges by Country” it is addicting to look through the list of countries and to daydream..  Clicking through to the “employment opportunities” for the different universities in exotic and not so exotic locations and see what foreign professor jobs are posted.

Although teaching online is a great way to gain some ability to travel and break ties to a specific part of the world, another way is to find a position in one of those exotic locations where you could be the foreigner for a year or three and really immerse yourself in the culture.

For our situation it’s a bit unrealistic now since we are both have young children from previous marriages with the custody orders that come with such a situation so our focus is to find online teaching opportunities and gain some more local nomadic abilities.  But the children are getting older.   They certainly share our unrequited wanderlust.  Maybe they’ll end up deciding to look for an overseas university themselves when the time comes.

Still the Wikipedia page for “Lists of Universities and Colleges by Country” is a great resource for those looking to find a job as a university professor in another country or state.

If you could teach anywhere..  Where would you choose and why?

 

Where to Apply for Online Teaching Jobs?

20140217-153643.jpgAs I wrap up my doctoral program I realize that I have a few options.  With the underlying goal of being a Nomadic Teacher I know I want those options to focus if possible on working remotely.

Part of my efforts will of course be in continuing to do Instructional Design work both for others and on a few projects of my own.  As well as working toward finding full time work as an online professor.  I know that these positions are rare so I have begun my efforts in focusing on most of the remote positions available.  I have subscribed to the Job Lead service from “The Babb Group” which I highly recommend, and I have a job alert set up with Higher Ed Jobs which has been helpful.  But as I visited the websites for different universities I realized that many of them had an Adjunct Pool and didn’t advertise adjunct positions.  I decided to take a systematic approach to my search.

I’ve logged onto the website for the National Center for Educational Statistics and generated a list of all of the US Colleges and Universities with at least 1 student taking all of their classes exclusively via distance education.  My thought of course being if there are students taking courses via distance education then there clearly must be professors teaching via distance education.

After a bit of fun in the spreadsheet app I have I sorted the list by the total number of distance education students.   Then thinking that the most likely schools to have a need for online teachers would be the ones with the highest populations of distance education students I sorted the list by the number of distance learners and then went by hand to find the website address for the top 150, and the Human Resources website for the top 150.. I found all but two.

Now I have a list I have something to work with.  To both check the job boards, and also to check the HR websites for each of the schools, identify where to send “unsolicited” CV’s if they don’t advertise adjunct positions, and to gather the information on the schools that would be most compatible with me.

Below is a video I made that will walk you though how to generate the same list for yourself in your quest to find an online teaching job.

However if that looks like too much work you can click here to purchase the very lists you saw created in the video so that you can start to systematically approach colleges and universities in your own quest to become a nomadic teacher.  Best of luck !

Getting out of the office

IMG_2201I work in several different locations.  I have my home office which I rarely use.  I have my back deck which I love to use and where I’m working today.  But mostly I love to roam and do my work out of the house.  Coffee shops, public parks, libraries, places with people.

The irony is that once there I put in my headphones and turn on “Relax Melodies”  to dull out the noise.  But the feeling of people around me, life, the energy that comes from being around others helps to fuel me.

There are also some quick mind tricks that can be used to keep the day flowing productively.  I have a location for doing email, a location for writing, a location for reading, a location for conference calls, etc.  by moving myself from location to location I not only get the small break I need to refresh but I also am able to build location based habits to stay focused on what needs done.

When I need to do something out of the ordinary or hit a stumbling block I’ll move on to a new spot and look at the world from that however small of a different perspective.  It seems to work for me.

There are a few co-working spaces near by but instead I keep a list of working spaces in Evernote where I break down my list of places to crack open my laptop and get some good work done usually while enjoying a pot of tea.

My list is broken down by city, with notes on each location.  Local coffee shops (not the franchises) are my favorites since they usually offer the best local flavor.  Where do you get the most work done?  Have you ever tried setting location based habits?

Remembering Yourself

20140514-093620.jpgSometimes, believe it or not, I have trouble staying motivated.  And there are times when I procrastinate.

At first I used to fight it and tell myself that I was a horrible person if I wasn’t 100% focused and in the game.   As time goes on I have been trying to be more mindful of my thoughts and forgiving of myself and letting go of the guilt of not being 100% on and focused all of the time was an important step.

One of the things that I have been finding these days is that these days most of my motivation and focus issues revolve around being physically or emotionally exhausted.  The worst is when it is a combination of the two.

This past weekend was certainly a doozie, knocked off my rocker by a conflict that was something I should have been able to let go of and not worry but my anxiety ran high, my worry overflowed, and everyone in the house was affected.  Emotionally frayed I had trouble sleeping and today I face the combination of emotional and physical exhaustion.

Today I have been mildly productive.  I have taken the syllabus for each of the summer classes and broken down all of the information in them to create a project in Asana.com for each class complete with due dates, priorities, and reminders.

20140514-093640.jpgBut there are a few things I am not motivated to do today, procrastinating.  Someone once told me that procrastination sometimes is there to tell you something is wrong, a stop gap, to force you to stop and look closely at what it is you are supposed to do and fix whatever is wrong before you move forward.

Today I was supposed to record several head shot videos for a few classes.  Today rather than find myself further exhausting myself to put out a sub-standard video I’m choosing to stop and look closely at what it is I’m supposed to do and fix what’s wrong before I move forward. I’m going to rest so that I can record quality videos later this evening or tomorrow.

Finding the balance between being 100% on and focused versus making sure that you are well rested, healthy, and properly taken care of isn’t exactly a balance.

Unless I am well rested, healthy, and properly taken care of I am unable to effectively focus and be productive.

This is one of the things I struggle with teaching online.  It is so easy to push and push and push until there is nothing left.  It is so easy to push yourself into exhaustion and crash.  But I can’t.

As hard as it is when there is work, housework, kids, and their homework.  Amid all of this that needs to be pushed through it is so easy to start with the work and forget the fuel.

In much of the Winter/Spring term I struggled and failed to keep my energy, motivation, efficiency, and focus up.  I didn’t take enough time for myself, to ensure I was rested well enough, and I allowed myself to get exhausted and ragged.  As the summer term begins I am trying to put an effort into “Remembering Myself”.

Through this effort I am hoping to see an increase in both my productivity as well as my enjoyment.  I plan on focusing on water, walking, and sleep.  Increasing the amount of all three.

What do you do to help remember yourself, to put your rest, health, and personal care are remembered so that you can have the energy to stay motivated, stay productive, be there for your family, and enjoy life?

Applying for Adjunct Positions

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I’m getting ready to apply for online adjunct teaching positions.

Given the choice I’d love to find a full time position but with my doctorate not quite earned and my educational experience limited to K12 I’m certainly going to be applying for some adjunct teaching positions.  And the bonus of course is that an online adjunct position (or 5) is perfect for the Nomadic Teacher since as long as I have my laptop, Internet access, and the ability to serve my students then I have all that I need without needing a desk in a specific location.

A surprising amount of online teaching jobs do not require a doctorate.  This is helpful since as I mentioned I won’t have my full doctorate until Christmas at the earliest.  And my wife, having two masters degrees and a graduate certificate, has made it perfectly clear that she does not want to go for her doctorate any time soon.

In addition to applying for positions myself she has asked me to help her apply for online adjunct teaching positions herself this spring.  The first step is of course ditching your resume.  Academic positions expect to see the much more detailed Academic CV.  Converting your resume into a CV is less than pleasant.  I decided to get some help.  A teach online bootcamp with CV templates and advice.  For those motivated it can be worth it to spend the money and get some professional help.  I recommend http://www.TheBabbGroup.com for the initial help with your CV if you don’t have one yet.

I’m even dreading helping my wife with her own CV so finding someone as friendly and helpful as Dr. Babb to help you with yours is well worth the money.  Out of all of her services, I recommend the bootcamp the most.  You get the most value for your money, the CV template and personalized CV review, together with the social media buildout is invaluable for someone just starting.

With my CV in hand though there is the question of WHERE to apply for online teaching jobs?  How do you find the schools?

My imperfect method was to visit the National Center for Educational Statistics and generate a list of schools that have a distance ed program and offer degrees in Education (my particular specialty being Instructional Technology and Distance Education hers is Elementary Education, Reading Instruction, and English in general).  Then prioritizing the list first by schools that are geographically close (or ones in dream locations), then I prioritized by the total number of distance education students attending the schools.

Once that was done I did a quick google search on the name of the school and the state to find their website address, then dug deeper to find the URL for their HR department or Job Board.

Now I have my list of schools to apply to.  It may seem like a hard process, but really it is just a long process.

The biggest thing is about knowing what the process is like and what you will need for materials so that you can have your application packets ready to go.

Academic CV, Transcripts, Letters of Recommendation, and Teaching Philosophy at the minimum.

Hitting the Gym

20140425-111326.jpgHitting the gym in the morning has been a goal of mine for a while.  One of my problems over the years was my long commute.  It caused a bit of weight gain, and by a little weight gain I mean 60 Lbs of weight gain over the four years of driving an hour and a half each way.  I have been doing my best to take care of my health and to correct those mistakes.  But when you are working from home and don’t have a set schedule how do you make sure you get to the gym each day, or even just exercise each day?

The key is to build your own schedule.  Decide and commit.

My personal commitment is to wake up earlier then the rest of the house and get started on my day.  The acceptance of how children awake and in the house means I’m unable to do my work makes this an important consideration.  It means I can either work late at night or early in the morning.  Unfortunately for me I work better in the morning, I wish I was a night owl.  Unfortunately because if you’re going to wake up earlier then anyone else in the house you need to commit the night before, and each night before.  There in lies the challenge.

How to consistently get to bed early enough to wake up early enough to get meaningful work done before anyone else wakes up?

Me I’ve scheduled a reminder for myself to go to bed, it doesn’t always work but that’s the joy of working from home.  The Flexibility to adapt.

How do you deal with your work at home flexibility?  How do you adapt to the needs for physical fitness?

The 7 ways I deal with teaching online when the kids are home for Vacation Week

collage of a mid day breakThis is school vacation week for the boys.  My two are with us full time and my step son is with his father this week.  Also this week my wife is doing some contract work for a local educational consulting firm.  Dealing with the challenges of children while working form home has been well a challenge.  But these are the steps that I have taken to handle maintaining my productivity as well as being a father at the same time.

The biggest challenge is to remember that you’re only human and not to feel bad about needing to do work and not to feel bad about needing to be a parent.

  1. Getting up early:  Getting up early is my usual strategy for teaching and designing from home with a family.  Lets face it family is exhausting and demanding.  A big part of my strategy has been to avoid the whole conflict and just get up a few hours earlier then everyone else when I have things I need to do.  It works wonders.  When people start calling for your attention at 9 or 10 am it’s much easier to meet the needs of your family with grace when you’ve already put in four or five hours of solid uninterrupted work down.
  2. Segregate yourself:  When it’s just my wife and I working form home one of the things we like to do is to roam from coffee shop to coffee shop.  With the warmer weather I also like to roam from park to park.  With kids though having the challenge of entertaining them when you are out is difficult.  So I’ve been putting myself on the back deck on nice days and in my office on the not so nice days.  This of course works better when you have older children.
  3. Break up the day with kid focused time:  This week seems to be all about going to the pool at the health club and riding bikes for my boys.  So each day in the morning I try to get out and go for a 4-5 mile bike ride with them, then after lunch I try to get them to the pool.  This way I can work in the points in between and when they try to interrupt I can point at the clock and remind them.. “I need to get as much done as possible before 9am so we can go for our ride.”
  4. Let go of TV guilt:  I’m the first one to say I hate television and we cut the cord a long time ago, but there are times that I do allow the TV to “babysit” my kids.  Now I am on the other side of a sliding glass door so I can see them, and we’ve cut the cord so they are only able to watch pre-approved video but when it comes down to it sometimes you need to let them be.  Just remember the more efficient you are and the less interrupted you are the faster you can get outside with them.
  5. Put them to work:  Even jobs as simple as running to the printer to collect what you’ve printed, getting you a glass of water, these little things when accompanied with  genuine gratitude and acknowledgment can help them feel useful and feel more in control with how quickly you can finish your work and focus on them.
  6. Have a mandatory stop time:  Especially older kids can benefit from knowing what your “stop time” is.  I strive for noon and the boys know that if they help me focus on my work come noon they will have me to themselves.
  7. Communicate:  Even small children realize that work needs to be done.  Let them know what you are doing, why it is important, and when your next break is.