Balancing Teaching and Personal Life
As a young college student, I was brainwashed. Professors, professionals, and even students told me a repeated lie. A lie I believed at the time. I have since learned there just is not more than 100% of me to give.
I only have 24 hours a day and a given amount of energy. With that time and energy, I need to sleep, eat, take care of my family, work, study, and renew. The trick is prioritizing and finding a good balance.
Being a teacher is a rewarding career. But if you are out of balance, being a teacher can suck out your very soul. How can you best engage and inspire students while also balancing your family life and personal needs?
4 Ways to Improve Your Work-Life Balance
None of us are superhuman. There is only 100% of you, too. Practicing the following principles will help you be your best.
#1 -Invest in the 80/20 Pareto Principal
Economist Vilfredo Pareto noticed 80% of his garden peas came from 20% of his plants. Over time this 80/20 rule has been applied to businesses, personalities, economics, etc. Think about your social media feed. Does 80% of the argumentative comments come from 20% of your friends?
The 80/20 rule is not scientifically proven, but it has general application to help prioritize your life. To put it in a school setting, approximately 80% of student success throughout the school year comes from 20% teaching effort.
What are the lessons you have learned from working from home this past year? What are the top three things you did that had the most impact on student success? Prioritize and focus on those things. Don’t feel guilty about dropping the things that don’t produce as much student success.
#2 -Use Reflective Writing
As a young mother of six, I felt like I churned in circles and never accomplished much. Then I started writing down everything I did that day. Suddenly, I realized I accomplished a lot of amazing things. Reflective writing helps:
- Clarify priorities,
- Alleviate Stress,
- Express and process emotions,
- Have self-compassion,
- Discover and express gratitude,
- Plan your next step to meet big goals, and
- See your progress.
#3 -Differentiate Between Work and Home
When you feel like you need to respond or be on call 24/7, you don’t recharge.
I sent an email to a high school teacher one Sunday night, thinking I would get a response Monday morning. The response came within fifteen minutes. Out of respect, I will never send another school email on the weekend. But teachers have a responsibility to themselves and their families to leave work for working hours.
School days are packed. Teachers may have to sometimes bring work home. However, you can give yourself a break by:
- Setting specific times to check email.
- Predetermining places and times for lesson plan development and grading.
- Taking one day, a week off from all teaching duties. Consider setting aside one night during the week when you will not work on school work.
- Scheduling time to do nothing. You could meditate, take a warm bath, joke around with your family, or read a book.
When you do work at home, try hard to eliminate distractions. Take short breaks to reduce fatigue and improve focus. Doing so will help you work more efficiently.
#4 -Prioritize Your Emotional/Physical/Mental Health
“Self-care is about setting boundaries. You can’t perform your job if you’re running on empty.” - Courtney Jones, Truth for Teachers
I had a teacher who rejuvenated in the great outdoors. Instead of spending her time inside a classroom during education week, she went camping, hiking, canoeing, etc.
That might not be the right choice for you, but she was a better teacher for knowing and prioritizing what improved her emotional, physical, and mental health. And it showed in her teaching capability and care for students.
Be a leader at your school by modeling and freely discussing what you do to balance your life.
Life is a journey: not a destination. There will be good and bad days. Making adjustments are necessary. But...life is good when you prioritize.
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Thank you for being a teacher!
Article by: Jae O. Haroldsen
For additional life balance ideas, see Angela Watson’s podcast series, Truth for Teachers. Watson is a mindset specialist with eleven years of classroom teaching experience.
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Tardi, Carla. “80/20 Rule.” Investopia. 2020. https://www.investopedia.com/terms/1/80-20-rule.asp
“Better Work-Life Balance Tips for Teachers.” Resilient Educator. 2020. https://resilienteducator.com/classroom-resources/five-tips-for-teacher-work-life-balance/