I believe this is an appropriate time to write about the topic of balance as half a school year has just passed and some may be wondering how to get through the rest of the school year with the same enthusiasm and energy they had at the beginning of the school year. Understanding a good work/life balance is helpful in ensuring good mental health, good morale and helps prevent teacher “burnout”. No one should overdo either identity (teacher vs parent/partner), as this can be mentally draining and unhealthy in my opinion. Focusing only on your family or partner, can led to neglecting your duties as a professional, in this case a teacher. Teachers need to continue to learn (life long learning) so they may improve their practice. This would include purposeful professional development such as school led pd, teacher’s convention and unconventional pd (Twitter/edcamp/etc). On the other hand, spending all your free time learning and improving your practice can led to neglecting your love ones and yourself. You are just as important as your job. Here are some tips that help me through a year of teaching that may be of benefit for you. You may also want to check out the article: 14 steps to achieving work-life balance (Dugan, 2014).
1. Plan for both work and life activities
With good planning, it is a little easier to balance work and life commitments. I like to designate a time of day where I will work on planning, reading and marking. These tend to average out to an hour a day and an evening during the weekend. When report cards come around, I will schedule out additional time for writing, but will ensure that my children can attend their extra curricular activities and will plan a special day out/in for them to do to ensure they have quality time with me during the hectic time. I always plan some “me” time when things get tough at work to ensure I can recharge and de-stress. Planning especially helped me manage both family and grad school commitments.
2. Knowing it’s okay to break plans
Sometimes it’s necessary to break plans every now and then. Even though setting up a routine or schedule for teaching duties is very helpful, it can make life a little monotonous. If I receive a last minute invite for coffee or a movie, I am more than happy to postpone my plans for learning that week and take it up again another week. The work will get done, it’s a matter of when it needs to get done and how often you can relax and enjoy life a little. Balance is always key!
3. Be passionate in what you do
Whether it’s a family activity or for work, you should be passionate about it and you’ll enjoy it more. Follow your heart when choosing professional development to focus on a way to improve teaching, but to also enjoy the process of improving and the materials being learned. Same with life commitments, choose an activity to fulfill your heart such as running, dancing, art, etc. This will help make your heart happy, but will also give you the break you need from your work. If you have kids, don’t over schedule activities as they too need downtime as you do. Choose an activity that is fun and does not become the only thing to occur during your free time.
4. Be social
Even if you only have a few good friends or see them once in awhile, it’s important to connect with others. This allows for time to discuss issues that cause stress or provide an opportunity to “forget about work” for that brief moment. It can also be of benefit for work as well. Twitter and Edcamp are great examples of ways teachers can become more social about their learning by learning with others. Choose one way to learn with others.
5. Know your limits*
This would be the most important piece of advice. If you take on too much, regardless of all the planning and all the commitments you will be unable to fulfill all the duties that are asked of you and you may not be able to find anything for yourself. A balance between work, family and yourself is key!
The next time you feel stressed, try determining which facet of life is causing the stress and try to find more balance.
Dugan, D. (2014). 14 steps to achieving work-life balance. Retrieved from http://www.salary.com/14-steps-to-achieving-work-life-balance/.