The subject of finding life work balance is a common theme in many professions. But particularly for teachers, it at times seems almost an impossible task.
After all, the job involves meeting the needs of so many diverse and unique developing little human beings. Add being a spouse and parent to that, and the demands are significant. As teacher Cee E. puts it, “Teaching will consume your whole life, if you let it.”
Andrew W. is a fifth year teacher who works in a small school. He laments having to compete with single co-workers who are able to, in his words, “work til the wee morning hours and be rock stars.” Meanwhile, as a family man, he says “I am constantly feeling like in order to do well in one side of my life, I have to seriously short-change the other.” Here is some of the advice our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE members had to offer Andrew.
First of all, don’t buy into the competition.
“Don’t try to compete with those who have no other commitments,” counsels Nichole A. People in different phases of their life will necessarily have different needs. This will be true at every stage of your career.
“Don’t compare yourself,” adds Beth J. “You need to find your own balance or both side suffer.”
And drop the notion of “rock star” altogether.
“Don’t be a rock star,” says Jason B. “With family obligations, sometimes the best you can do is be a good enough teacher.” Bev J. agrees, “Do your job and care about the kids and don’t worry about rock star status.”
After all, who defines what a rock star teacher is anyway?
“Just because your colleagues work longer hours than you doesn’t mean they are working efficiently.” says Cee E. Kerry B. concurs. “Hours of prep, planning and assessment do not guarantee best practice.”
Instead, figure out what part of your job is most important to you.
In other words, set your own priorities instead of aspiring to some vaguely defined notion. Brita L. advises, “Stop stressing about things that ultimately are not important. Decide what is important to you. What will make you feel like that rock star?” Whether you focus is on creating the perfect classroom environment, out of this world lesson plans, or stellar parent communications, pick what matters to you most and create your persona around that.”
Just make sure your heart is still in it.
“Make sure you love your job,” says Kerry B. “Know your content and your students, and the rest will fall into place.” Angela S. adds, “Stay excited about learning, stay enthralled in your pupils. Connect with them and leave marking, planning and paperwork at school—in a tray marked ‘the small stuff’!”
And believe it when people who’ve been there tell you it’ll get easier.
“It gets easier,” promises Lana K, “especially if you stay in the same grade for a few years.” Carole K. agrees. “It does get easier. I found that being extremely organized helps, as does remembering not to sweat the small stuff.”
“There is a way to do this crazy career”, encourages Amy D., “that fills your heart and allows you to enjoy your family life too.”