Balance. We all want it. Few of us feel as though we have it. For teachers, it feels like a joke or a myth. How can a teacher achieve balance and be successful? While difficult, and an ongoing goal, balance is possible using these strategies.
Just Say No: Not to drugs, though that is a good idea, say no to anything that is more than you can do. It is important as a teacher to know your limits. While you might get some satisfaction by being involved in extra committees or projects it is easy to take on too much and get overwhelmed.
Take Care of Yourself: Teaching can be very demanding. It is tempting to stay up late planning, or grading papers. However, if you don’t get adequate sleep and nutrition you won’t be at your best. You may argue that you don’t have time to get a good night’s sleep on a regular basis, but consider the findings from research conducted by David Dinges at the University of Pennsylvania:
Adults need eight hours of sleep a night – we do not adapt. We just perform at a far lower level than if fully rested. [The] research shows that if you have six hours of sleep a night for just two weeks in a row, you become the equivalent of being cognitively drunk.”
You read that right- drunk- and that’s definitely not how you want to show up to school. In order to be an effective teacher, you must be well rested and healthy, so take care of yourself.
Prioritize: When deciding what to spend your time on, prioritize essential tasks first. It can be tempting to be pulled in several directions or to lose sight of what is most important in the classroom.
Routine: Follow a consistent daily routine. Managing all you have to do is much easier when it’s part of a routine. For example, if you are able to check papers and enter them into your grade book every day, it is much easier to manage than leaving them for a week or more at a time. Set aside a specific time each day or week to complete essential classroom tasks.
Delegate: Delegate what you can to others. Recruit helpers in the form of parents, teaching assistants and even students. Depending on your school’s policy, you can have students help with grading, classroom cleanup, and other simple tasks. Not only does it reduce the burden on you, but it gives students a sense of ownership over their work.
Abandon Perfectionism: Don’t be a perfectionist. In teaching there is always, always more you could do. Teachers never sit back and say ‘Wow I’m all caught up, I really don’t have much to do.’ When you are a teacher there is no such thing as a ‘slow day at work.’ Most teachers could probably find work to fill 24/24 hours in their day. It’s not possible. There is no such thing as ‘perfect’ in education. Settle for doing your best, not being perfect.
Be Kind to Yourself: Because of the never-ending nature of teaching, it can be easy for our inner voice to turn negative. Try not to get caught up in the “shoulds.” Instead of beating yourself up over what you didn’t accomplish focus on the positive. Make sure you treat yourself the way you would treat a good friend, not an enemy.
Take Time Off: It’s important to set aside time for other things in your life. To be an effective teacher, and a happy human being, block out ‘school free’ times. Most teachers bring work home. If you can avoid it, great! If you aren’t ready to get away from bringing work home, try setting aside a certain amount of time to work on it and then put it away and do something else. Block out time in the evenings and weekends to completely focus on your family, friends, and other non-school related things that make you happy.
It is vital that you take care of yourself and have a life outside of teaching. Teachers that don’t are usually the ones that burnout. You’ll be a better teacher if you have balance in your life.
By: Amy Curletto
Amy has been teaching for 12 years in grades K-2. She has a bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Elementary Education and also has endorsements in reading and ESL. Besides education, her other passion is writing and she has always dreamed of being a writer. She lives in Utah with her husband, her 3 daughters, and her miniature schnauzer. She enjoys reading, knitting, and camping.
The child who is ‘left behind’ most is the one who leaves school without transition readiness.