With the new school year fast approaching, I can already feel the jarring shift from attentive husband and doting dad to harried English teacher. I know I’ll soon be lost in trying to grade a set of essays, plan a new lesson on subject/verb agreement, prep for club meetings, and cheer on my students in their extracurricular endeavors. Every year I lose track of aspects of family life that have been so wonderful all summer. This year I am trying to make some changes to my teacher work-life balance.
These are the promises I am making to my family this year.
1. I will use my prep periods to grade and plan, rather than bitch and socialize.
My colleagues who complain the most about having too much work to do at home, are my colleagues who complain the most. The faculty room can be a dangerous place capable of stealing both inspiration and countless hours. My deliberate choice to stick to my room more often during prep periods will hopefully mean a lighter load when I head home for the day. One prep period a week is enough to catch up on the latest gossip.
2. I will not practice my chaperone moves in front of you.
We all know that teacher. You know the one who tries to steal the spotlight in a powder-blue suit or bust some moves. I don’t want my two boys to have to hear a grimace and whisper from their friends, “Isn’t that your dad?” I promise not to shame my family by having dance moves I just HAVE to show off.
3. I will bike to work more often.
During the school year, it is my running and cycling that keeps me sane and gives me the stamina to get through the school day with enough energy for every student. The more I cycle to work, the less I have to ride after my wife and kids are both home. I also arrive home feeling refreshed and energized rather than filled with road rage and the frustrations of a long day.
4. I will not grade essays on the sideline of my kids’ flag football games.
It started only at practices, a good way to multi-task. Then it creeped into games. After that, I was sitting a bit removed from the other parents so I could concentrate on sentence structure and syntax. Then I was asking my kids how the game went having missed my son’s first interception. Not cool.
5. I will not foster the belief that I am available for questions 24 hours a day.
I love using the app Remind, but I am not interested in receiving texted questions from my students during dinner or pick-up whiffle ball. Before I had kids, I was happy to answer any question at any time. I enjoyed that role. But now, when it means telling my own kids to hold on, I am going to lean more toward office hours. Here is the time you can ask me questions, after that you will just need to figure it out or wait until tomorrow.
6. I will not be flattered into joining more committees, running more clubs, coaching more sports.
Let’s be honest, we are teachers and we love to help. Still, the time we commit to our schools can be time taken away from our spouses and children. Before family, I was all over the extracurriculars, and I think I will be when I have sent my boys off to college as well. For now, I am choosing family first.
7. I will be just as patient and kind when helping my kids with their homework, as when helping my students.
I do less leisure reading during the school year because as an English teacher I spend my whole day immersed in books. When my own kids need homework explained, I often feel all explained out. They don’t always get the best teacher I can be, but this year that will be a central goal. I will try to look at it like an after school tutoring gig.
8. I will use the same level of creativity I put into planning lessons to plan a few dates with my wife.
Teaching well takes a whole lot of time. Parenting well takes infinitely more time. Somewhere in there, I want to maintain the relationship that is the foundation for it all. If I can make up new ways to get kids excited about iambic pentameter I can surely find a new restaurant for a Friday night date.
What promises will you be making this year? How do you achieve teacher work-life balance? Please share in the comments.