I used to think that being a workaholic was the only way to do a job, and do it right. As my life morphs and changes, I’m realizing that work-life balance is just as important as the effort I put into my 9-5 (or my 7-4:30, as a teacher). By nature, teachers give (and give and give), but it’s important to remember that you can’t pour from an empty cup. Work-life balance as a teacher is something I’m always working to master. Since my guiding word for 2017 is balance, I’m making a concerted effort to focus on it from the get-go.
I thought when I started teaching I would be working shorter hours and have more free time. Ha! I couldn’t have been more wrong. I work more as a teacher than I ever did at my 8-5 desk job, even though my “office hours” are only 7:45-3:20. I am by no means an expert in anything. I figure life out as I go by trial and error. What follows are a few tips that help me balance and keep me living the healthiest life I can.
ONE // Make a list of your Must Do tasks each day
This probably seems like the most simple and obvious tip. Like, duh. But really, I am so much more productive when I have a list to follow and I can mark things off as I go. Everything goes on that list: Grade daily warm-ups, start lesson plans, make copies… The list goes on (literally). Even something as simple as “Update objectives and date before leaving” goes on my list or I may not do it. And if I don’t do it, then I come in stressed the next morning because I already feel behind and that stress affects other areas of my life. Following a list each day has done more for my work-life balance this year than anything else I’ve done.
TWO // Use your planning period for planning
This seems unheard of, am I right? Between staff meetings, 504s, parent conferences, restroom breaks, that 45-minute planning period can fly by faster than Christmas break! Take the first 5-10 minutes of your planning period for yourself. Check –> Facebook <– (shameless plug), eat a quick snack, go to the restroom without asking, “Hey, can you watch my class?” first. Whatever. Take those 10 minutes and then close your door and just bust it out. Grade if you need to grade. Lesson plan if you must. Doing as much as you can while still in the four walls of your classroom will keep you from working more at home.
THREE // Take some time for yourself every day
My “me time” consists of a workout and some Bible study time first thing in the morning. First of all, I’m so much more awake and alive for my students after a morning workout! Second of all, spending time with the Lord does wonders for me in all areas. The sense of calm and balance I feel after prayer and time in the Word changes my entire day. Find something that brings a sense of calm to your life and promotes the person you are all the time, not just in “teacher mode”.
FOUR // Say… NO!
I’m a “yes man” for sure. It’s hard for me to say no to anyone, but I’m beginning to realize there’s nothing wrong with saying no every now and again! I get very overwhelmed very easily, and when that happens, my husband always says, “Nothing is going to change if you don’t do something about it.” I finally had to buck up and gain the courage to stand up for myself and I think I’m respected because of that. All that to say, it’s ok to say no when you’re feeling overwhelmed. You can’t do everything or be on every committee and no one should expect you to!
FIVE // Set a time and shut it off
As I mentioned, I work more as a teacher than I ever have in any job. I work at school, I work at home, I work on the weekends. However, each day I try to set a time that I will no longer work on school things. Usually, that’s when my husband walks in the door from work. If you feel like you are constantly working at home, pick a time after which you’ll shut it down. Or pick an activity that won’t allow you to multitask. That could be cooking dinner with your significant other, fitting in a workout, or reading a book.
SIX // Get it done early
Each school year is different, but this one especially, I feel like I’m constantly behind. I try to complete my lesson planning by Wednesday so I have the end of the week to fine-tune and prep materials. Sometimes working ahead is impossible, but most of the time it will work to your advantage if you can get it done.
SEVEN // Do the work you hate the most at school
I read this tip once and it was like a lightbulb went off. I used to bring home stacks and stacks of grading each night, just to take them back to school the next morning. I don’t like grading at home and I’d rather not do it. I try to grade one assignment per day before I leave school to make it easier on myself by the end of the week. This also gives me more time at home for activities unrelated to school.
Ok, your turn. How do you balance work and life?