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Achieving Work-Life Balance as a Teacher

Balancing a demanding teaching career and a personal life IS possible—you just have to adopt the right mindset.

work-life balance

Some people think teachers have all the job perks—such as nights, holidays, and summers “off”—but any teacher knows this isn't exactly true. In fact, after 15 years of teaching, I don’t think that I ever had a night or summer “off,” and I have to work hard before any holidays to actually have time to enjoy them. That’s because teachers work more overtime than any other profession. (Don’t believe me? Just read this.) It’s no wonder that 8% of teachers leave the profession every year!

So how can teachers achieve a work-life balance and keep from burning out? How do we find the time to balance the demands of teaching but still maintain a personal life, hobbies, interests, relationships, and a family? It’s not easy, but it can be done—here’s how.

Make an Organized List

Organize the day’s priorities and stick to them. Making a list of unrealistic goals and trying to plan for weeks ahead is overwhelming. Make a list for just that day, and try to complete everything on it. Cross out whatever gets done so you can see progress as it's being made and feel a sense of accomplishment. If something doesn’t get finished, just put at the top of your list for the next day. Celebrate what you did today, and do not bring that list home. It can wait until tomorrow.

Leave Work at Work

Work really needs to stay at work! As all working parents know, when you get home there are too many other things that need your attention in a short amount of time. There's homework, making dinner, after-school activities, sports practice, baths, tidying up, and regular chores.

There is really no good time for planning and grading. Despite this, I've spent countless nights staying up until midnight grading and planning—the perfectionist in me had to read every paper, every response, and every assignment. I would give thoughtful feedback on every assignment, including homework, which put me right back on that road to teacher burnout. Work was invading my home.

There has to be a point where you prioritize that work-life balance. So leave the work at work and focus on your family, yourself, your friends, and your hobbies. Read a good book, go for a family walk, take a vacation, have dinner with a friend, go to the gym, take a yoga class, go shopping, or schedule a date night. Do whatever you need to do to stay connected to yourself and to who matters to you helps you remain balanced and healthy.

By now you're probably thinking, "That's impossible! How will all of my work get done?" Good question. This leads me to…

Prioritize, Prioritize, Prioritize!

Depending on what and who you teach, you must prioritize. For example, only grade and give feedback to the most meaningful assignments, not everything. Some assignments I glance through and check for task commitment, complete work, thought process, and effort. And some things I know I must grade and give my most thoughtful feedback. But again, not on everything. Decide what must get done in your workload immediately, and put aside what can wait. The rule of thumb is to prioritize based on what it best for you and your students.

Teach for the Right Reasons

Remember that you are teaching for your students—not for an audience, not for a pat on the back, not for praise and acknowledgment, and not to get any "Best Teacher" awards. You are there for them, and only them. They can recognize when you're doing your best, and will understand if papers are not graded and returned within 24 hours. Be real with your students. They know that you have family, friends and a life outside of school too.

Work-life balance is possible and will help you become a happier, healthier and effective teacher. Your students will be happy, and so will your family and friends. It’s a win-win.

How do you achieve a work-life balance as a teacher? Share your comments with us on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Google+.

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