The work-life balance for teachers has become even trickier in the past year. With so much at-home and virtual learning, many educators are finding themselves putting in long hours at home by recording, planning, and prepping for school the following day.
It’s not like you’re trying to work long hours or blur the lines of work/home life. But this is the reality for many teachers right now. There’s just a lot more work to do. Plus, it’s easy to sit and do a task for what you think will be 30 minutes, but then it turns into two hours.
For anyone trying to find good work-life balance, some of it definitely has to start with you. Learning how to set boundaries and stick to them takes time and practice. However, there are ways you can ask your school and administration to help . Take a look at these ideas on how to find a healthy balance.
Set your available hours, and let your families know what they are.
It’s easy for families to think they can email or contact you at all hours of the day or night and expect you to get back to them ASAP. If this is happening, or if you feel pressured to do so, take a step back and establish some specific office hours or hours you’re available. Let your families know you’re trying to maintain a better work-life balance. Tell them that most of your availability and times to respond will be during these hours, and then really adhere to those. You might even add your hours in your email signature for classroom communication as a friendly reminder.
Ask your school to send out communication to show their support.
When you have the support of your principal or even superintendent, it can go a long way in establishing a norm with families. If you and other colleagues are finding that work-life balance is a schoolwide issue, join together and ask for district support. Even a friendly reminder, asking families to please respect after-hours communication and giving teachers time to respond, can help.
Establish quiet hours at your own home, and stick to them.
Many studies and research has shown that electronics just before bed can have a negative impact on us overall. This is true for classroom prep and answering parent emails, too. This is why it’s good to establish quiet hours at home, which can benefit the whole family. Try to put away all electronics at least an hour before bedtime. This is a small solution, but it can really help establish some boundaries.
Ask the administration for solutions and ideas.
If you’re truly struggling and even suffering, then it’s time to have a real heart-to-heart chat with your principal or others on the admin team. Yes, it’s a tough year for everyone, and so many are barely hanging on. But there should be limits to what you have to endure. Go to your administration and ask for their support or help. This is part of their job—don’t be afraid to ask. If you’re not comfortable on your own, then gather up a small group of teachers and go in together for support.
Create a classroom environment that means less work for you later on.
Here’s one you can definitely control. Are you creating assignments and tasks that take a lot of energy or time for you later on? If so, then take a moment to rethink your strategy. Perhaps what you’re doing works for an in-person classroom, but it creates a lot more work in a virtual one. No matter the reason, try to come up with a different approach to save yourself time.
Worker smarter, not harder.
This phrase is popular and aspirational, but it really does work. Sometimes we have so much to do that we just don’t know where to begin, and we lose energy and time just thinking, worrying, and planning. Or time management gets away from us, and we spend three times the amount of time that we should on simple tasks. Try giving yourself a task list and sticking to it, one thing at a time. Set a time limit of how long you’re going to work. Then don’t spend too long on any one item, and when you reach your time limit, really stop and come back later.
Utilize helpers, aides, and volunteers.
Do you have resources that you’re not utilizing? Sometimes it can seem like more work to ask for help than to just do it yourself. But don’t write off the possibility of help just yet. It can take a little more prep to get someone up to speed on what you need. However, it can be hugely helpful in the long run. If you don’t really have resources like this available, try asking your school or admin for support. Perhaps if enough teachers ask for it, there will be a case for securing such help.
Refuel in ways that work for you.
This isn’t just another self-care suggestion—though we have a whole article on real self-care for teachers. This is just good advice. Only you know what’s best for you in achieving that work-life balance. So be sure to do whatever that is on a regular basis because there’s already enough teacher burnout. Your students need you, which means the best, balanced version of you as much as possible.