Ask anyone “do teachers have a good work-life balance?” and they’ll probably say no. A teacher’s day does not end when the final bell rings. Apart from after-school hours teachers spend on lesson plans and grading, they often also have to attend a myriad of meetings, lead clubs and extracurriculars, or offer extra tutoring or support to students who are struggling. There’s no denying that teachers have a lot on their plates, which makes finding work-life balance all the more important.
While students and their education are the priority for teachers, it can sometimes feel like there are not enough hours in the day, especially for new teachers. However, one of the best ways teachers can help support their students is by having a strong work-life balance themselves. By having a good teaching work-life balance, educators will be able to show up as their best selves, both inside and outside the classroom. Finding that balance will not only allow teachers to perform well professionally but also enjoy all aspects of their lives and avoid burnout.
Wondering how to achieve work-life balance as a teacher? It can feel impossible, but here are the top 3 teaching tips to help you get started!
First-Year Teacher? Don’t Reinvent the Wheel
Are you a first-year teacher struggling with your responsibilities and work-life balance? Remember: you don’t have to do this alone! Numerous other educators have been where you are, and have walked this path before you. It’s likely that whatever you’re struggling with, they can help! Talking with your colleagues is a great way to get some extra help – especially with those who have a few years under their belt.
Use your coworkers as resources, and tap into their years of experience teaching. Seek out other teachers with similar classes or who have taught your classes before and ask them for help. Which lesson plans and activities have worked for them? What are their classroom management strategies? What systems do they use to ease their workload? Asking other teachers for their suggestions is an excellent place to start finding creative ways to ease your workload.
Don’t shy away from referring to professional resources either. State and federal teachers’ unions and associations often offer teaching resources to help ease teachers’ workloads. There are also a variety of free resources available online that first-year teachers can tap into as they get their footing. By drawing on existing resources, you can reduce some of your own workload and find more work-life integration; it is not necessary to reinvent the wheel!
Teaching Tip #1: Streamline Assessments
One of the biggest time investments for teachers is creating dynamic lesson plans and grading assignments. While writing lesson plans can’t quite be avoided, streamlining assessments can help reduce the amount of time spent on grading.
Using a formative assessment technique that utilizes both formal and informal methods can help ease the burden of grading. Formative assessments keep things simple as they offer an overview of progress as opposed to taking the time to grade each aspect individually. Edutopia has a great starting point for teachers new to formative assessments, summarizing seven different techniques and nearly 40 tools for discovering what your pupils know while they’re in the process of learning.
Different learning objectives require different assessment tools. Having a variety of formative assessment techniques at your fingertips allows you to quickly select the best method for a particular situation and seamlessly assess students’ understanding without creating an overwhelming workload for themselves.
P.S. There’s no rule that says you need to grade every single formative assessment, so be intentional about what you choose to grade! With grading taking a huge chunk of a teacher’s time outside the classroom, streamlining assessments is extremely useful in achieving work-life balance as a teacher.
Teaching Tip #2: Establish and Enforce Boundaries
A key aspect of work-life balance is understanding and enforcing your personal boundaries. New teachers are often asked to participate in extracurricular activities as a way to welcome them into the community, but between juggling the demands of a new role and personal commitments, it is easy to overcommit and exceed your capacity.
While joining school clubs and events is a great way to feel connected to your school as a first-year teacher, don’t simply say yes to every opportunity that comes your way. Before making a commitment, reflect on what it entails. Consider how many hours the task or commitment requires and how often, as well as whether you have enough time, energy, and mental capacity to commit it.
It’s also a good idea to ask yourself if you are truly excited about the opportunity, or are you simply unsure of how to say no? Remember that it is okay to say no – you are the only one who can look out for your own best interests. New teachers must keep in mind that boundaries are there for a reason; establishing boundaries and ensuring you don’t take on too much and become overwhelmed allows you to better fulfill your primary duty to your students.
Teaching Tip #3: Manage Your Time
Teachers tend to have a seemingly never-ending to-do list, with new tasks added daily – and it can make you wonder how to get it all done. Timeboxing is a time management method that is gaining traction in the corporate world and can be quite an effective tool for teachers as well.
Essentially consisting of transferring your to-do list to your calendar, timeboxing requires careful consideration of how long each task will take. While teachers tend to have structured prep blocks to complete tasks, having your to-do list in your calendar creates a visual representation of just how much time you have. Try organizing your to-do list on a weekly basis in your calendar. The next time you have to decide if you can take on an extracurricular activity, serve as the teacher coordinator for a club, or attend an IEP/504 meeting, you’ll be able to quickly see if you can fit it in, or what tasks you might have to deprioritize to fit it in. It is also handy for colleagues to understand how busy your schedule may be at a glance.
Additionally, timeboxing can help you stay on top of your to-do list and remove all distractions. Having dedicated time allotted to each task means you can stop worrying about when and how you are going to complete your tasks, and also block out any distractions and hyper-focus on it within that time frame. What’s more, giving yourself a time constraint prevents a one-hour task from stretching out and consuming additional hours of your limited time.
Having a solid work-life balance is essential for educators to avoid feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and burned out. It allows you to be your best self both professionally and personally. Between teaching, preparing for classes, grading, administrative work, and other school responsibilities, it is easy for teachers to quickly become overloaded – and that isn’t even taking your personal pursuits into account! The four strategies above have proven to be effective in creating work-life harmony.