You love your students, and you love your job. You can’t help but want to work on a new lesson plan at night when a creative idea inspires you, and you’re always willing to meet with a concerned parent. On the other hand, there are also the days when you carry home the stress of underperforming students or ongoing discipline issues. All of these compounding and time-consuming situations can quickly start to eat away at your personal time and can begin to make you feel like the scales of work-life balance are tipping too heavily toward your classroom responsibilities.
Teachers are vital to the success of our communities, which is essentially one of the reasons that it’s essential to carve some time out to take care of yourself. Finding time for your interests, hobbies, and health is the key to your overall mental and physical wellness. To help you realign the scales to a more equitable balance between work responsibilities and personal interests, follow the five tips below.
- Make Wellness a Priority. Teachers often start their days early and sometimes stay at school late, especially if they are responsible for supervising extracurricular activities. Practicing exercise, meditation, and healthy eating can go a long way to prepare you to take on the rest of your responsibilities. Start small. Commit to do one thing each day for yourself, whether it be an after work spin class, a walk around the block at lunchtime, or packing a healthy lunch the night before instead of ordering take out. Healthy food and exercise replenish a healthy body and mind, and will give you the energy you need to face whatever the day brings.
- Remember That You Can Say No. The most dedicated educators want to do everything they can to support their students and further their district’s goals. Accept that you cannot say yes to every request or you may be spread too thin. Decide how much cumulative time you can commit to your home, work, and social life on a daily or weekly basis, and say no to any requests that exceed that limit.
- Work Smarter—Not Harder. Identify the practices that are most influential in producing positive academic results for your students and focus 80 percent of your time on those initiatives. Cut out the non-essential yet time-consuming tasks that keep you late in your classroom, like providing lengthy feedback on assignments or decorating.
- Prioritize Your Time During the School Day. By prioritizing your critical responsibilities, such as grading and planning during free periods while you are at school, you can minimize the amount of work you need to bring home. Start your day with a list of items you absolutely have to do and cross them off as you go!
- Give Yourself a Break. Much of what motivates teachers to put in extra hours is the concern that they aren’t doing enough to help their students succeed. Accept that even the best teachers can only push their students so far and that no one has complete control over student progress. By taking the time to think strategically, identify impactful practices, and collaborate with school leaders and parents, you give every student the best opportunity to succeed.
Being the best teacher you can be doesn’t mean sacrificing everything else in your life—including friends, family, and hobbies—to your career. If you give away too much of yourself, the stress can begin to negatively affect your mood, engagement levels, health, and your effectiveness in the classroom. By taking the time for yourself that you need to maintain a balance between work and your personal life, you’ll find yourself more inspired, motivated, and happy to be the best teacher you can be for your students.
Do you have any tips or ideas to help other teachers find work-life balance? If so, please comment below. We’d love to hear from you!