The first semester of this year has been particularly challenging for me in terms of balancing school and home responsibilities. Shortly after a tragic family situation that threw my August into utter chaos, I received the wonderful (yet very surprising) news that I am expecting baby number 2 this summer. For me, this news means that I’ve spent the majority of the first semester exhausted and trying not to lose my lunch in front of my students. Don’t get me wrong, these particular circumstances have been absolutely insane, but one thing I’ve realized recently is that the teacher-life balance is always hard for myself and almost every teacher I know.
I know teachers who are struggling with finding time for new relationships, wedding planning, children, caring for aging parents, second jobs, church obligations, fitness goals, and a million other situations. Regardless of personal circumstances or gender, it is hard to pour your heart in teaching and find the time and emotional energy to also live the non-teacher parts of your life. Since we are all teachers here, I don’t think I need to preach to the choir about the sheer number of hours we spend at school or working on school related tasks deep into the night, but there is also a drain on our emotional and social capital that comes with such an intense career choice. So what is a teacher supposed to do? Today I want to start the discussion about how to manage the teacher-life balance, but I would love to hear more from you in the comment section as I am in dire need of support in this area too!
1. Set boundaries. almost every year this is my new year’s resolution. I say that I am not going to do school work after 10pm or on Sundays. I almost never make it a full month (and sometimes not even a week) without breaking my boundaries, but I still think it is good to have goals. Boundaries also let me off the hook when I think about working for just a few more paper stacks….
2. Look into flexible work options. So many amazing teachers leave the classroom in part due to the demanding number of hours required. It is not a financial possibility for many teachers, but for some there are opportunities for more flexible hours doing job share, part time, or alternative/virtual teaching. I love classroom teaching, but I was wearing down, so this year I teach part time (periods 1-3) and then do a little blogging and teaching online courses to supplement. It has made a world of difference to me, especially since I am able to be in school similar hours to my preschooler.
3. Maintain a routine. The only way I can get myself to the gym on top of school and family obligations is to make it a habit and set the alarm while I still have will power. This year I would love to add social things to my routine like a set monthly mom’s night out or something.
4. Seek support. A few years ago I moved into a classroom next to a woman who has become a close friend. She has helped me to dial back my teacher crazy with kind reminders to, “do something fun this weekend” or “leave the papers at school”. Supportive teacher friends are the best because they understand the paper piles and the love of students, but they also see that we all need a break sometimes.
5. Don’t beat yourself up. It is easy to be hard on yourself for not getting your school tasks done or not spending enough quality time with your outside of school life, but in the end we all just have to do the best we can and try not to beat ourselves up. We are teachers. Hear us roar.
Happy New Year! I would love to hear your strategies or struggles below!