I know it’s hard.
Being a teacher is probably one of the most demanding jobs that exists in terms of the commitment, passion, and dedication that it requires. In some jobs, you put your time in, go home and relax, and forget about the challenges of the day, that customer that complained, that client who was unhappy, or possibly that project you’re working on in the office.
Teaching is different. As a teacher, you invest so much in your students emotionally, financially, and professionally, that its hard to let go just because a bell rings at the end of the day. Whether its a student who told you about their troubled home life, didn’t grasp a concept, or got embarrassed in front of their friends…those moments stick with you.
There is absolutely NOTHING that is going to change this aspect of our job. If you aren’t invested in your students, you’re probably doing it wrong.
However, if you are constantly focused on your job as an educator it can start to wear on you. It can even start to negatively impact your personal life, your relationships, and yes…as weird as it sounds…your performance as a teacher. Being too consumed by your job can actually hurt your ability to perform that job to the best of your ability.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry! There are some things you can control to make it easier on yourself. Many teachers I talk with are always worried about planning, grading, that meeting they have the next day, or that observation they have coming up (which by the way you shouldn’t stress out about…seriously)
My biggest question is always: What can you change to make your life easier?
Changes you can make.
My wife will tell you, she hates when I bring work home. Getting home, eating dinner with my family, and then being mentally consumed with the planning, grading, or preparation for the next day or week is a cycle I was stuck in for quite some time. Eventually I realized that this model wasn’t working. I couldn’t keep doing the “day to day” grind.
To help myself (and my wife’s sanity) I started planning ahead (minimum of 1 week ahead) and changed my instruction so that it was more student-centered. I changed the way my classroom operated. My students started controlling the pace and my lessons were planned far enough ahead so instead of trying to plan every aspect of each day, I was now just facilitating learning.
I stopped worrying about planning for tomorrow and started focusing on my students learning every day. I’ve also embedded grading and assessments into my class, and I no longer bring stacks of papers home to grade. I also do things like make copies and prep materials at the beginning (or very end) of every week.
I then created a rule for emails and paperwork: If I can complete a task in 5 minutes or less, I do it as soon as I receive it. If it’s going to take longer than 5 minutes, I schedule a time to complete the task later.
When you make these types of changes, you reduce stress. When you reduce stress on yourself, others around you will enjoy… well, being around you! This is how I balanced my life.
Two more things…
First off, make sure you keep a day of the week to yourself / your family. I always used Saturdays as my mental break / family day, but you may find that Friday nights or Sunday’s work better for you. The important thing is to reflect and make some changes to create more time for yourself and your loved ones.
Lastly, plan smarter instead of harder. Believe it or not, when you are more efficient and relaxed, your students will benefit. You will be prepared every day and you will be more relaxed as you lead and manage your classroom.
All of these things will not only lessen your stress and improve your personal life, they’ll improve your instruction, too!
Relax and take a moment to reflect on some changes you can make to help the equation of your life and work balance out a bit more. I know you work hard, and I know you care about you students, but that doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice your own (or your family’s) happiness.
What are some things that help you balance your teaching and home life? tell me about them here! Until next time…happy teaching.