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Being a teacher is hard. Being a teacher who has a social life outside of school is even harder! Finding work life balance as a teacher takes a bit of trial and error. Today, however, I want to share a few ways you may find helpful.
1. Find a way to plan that works for you.
Some people like to plan one week at a time. Yet others I know do better when they plan each unit out. Still others have their entire year pretty well planned before students return in the fall. Decide what works best for you. But do know that just because you’ve planned one way doesn’t mean those lesson plans won’t change or that you can’t change to another method of planning in the future. Do what saves you the most time and makes the most sense for your students!
2. Decide what does and does not need to be graded.
If you feel assigning math facts each day is mandatory, do you really need to grade them? Or is it a better use of time to have a parent volunteer do this? Or perhaps the students can even grade their own. I don’t suggest simply throwing papers away, but do consider if papers truly need to get your full attention and be put in the gradebook every single time.
Another example: I used to grade the rough draft of every student writing and then also grade the final draft. What I realized is that my students were making very few changes based on feedback from the rough draft. Instead I started conferencing with students on their rough drafts. I was able to help them make a few notes and changes, and they actually understood what they should be doing to improve. Win-win!!
3. Plan with your team.
Unfortunately I never got this luxury when I was in the classroom (because I was the entire team!), but I’ve heard many people say that it’s great to share the workload among a team. Let each person plan one/two subject areas and share with everyone else. Yes, you’ll need to tweak things to ensure you meet the needs of your unique students, but it might save you time in the long run.
If you don’t have a team to work with (like me), there are still ways to work with other educators without having to recreate everything yourself. Turn to websites like Teachers Pay Teachers or Educents. And please don’t use money as an excuse. There are literally thousands of free downloads on both sites, so you’re sure to find something worthwhile.
4. Shut the door.
During your planning and/or lunch, shut the door and work. Yes, sometimes it’s nice to talk to adults and unwind a little bit during the school day. However, decide if you’d rather spend your time at school working or if you want to take the work home with you.
5. Have a schedule.
If you say you’re going to leave by 4:30 each day, do it. Or perhaps one night a week you’ll stay for 2-3 hours to get all caught up. Find a schedule that works for you and stick to it!
6. Stay on task.
Yes, I know it can be challenging to not pick up your phone, jump on Facebook or Instagram, or call to make that appointment during your prep. But you’re going to get a lot more done if you stay on task. Plus then you’ll get the evenings and weekends to be able to spend more time with family and friends.
7. Feel free to say no.
There are times when it’s important to sign up for a committee or volunteer to be on another group. But there are times when you can simply say no. Keep your resume up-to-date by signing up for a committee every few years, but do not feel obligated to take on everything all at once! It’s ok to say no.
Yes, work life balance as a teacher can be hard to achieve – but it is possible! Your priorities, habits, and processes may change over time and that’s totally ok! You don’t want to be someone who burns out and ends up leaving the field because you became so consumed with teaching that you lost your identity.
What else would you add to this list? How to you find work life balance as a teacher? Shout it out in the comments below!