It’s not impossible to be a top-notch teacher without sacrificing valuable time with your family. Here are reminders on how.

Jan 18, 2022

Teacher retention is one of the most challenging hurdles facing the American education system, with poor teacher work-life balance being one of the major stressors that can contribute to burnout and eventual turnover. Here we offer reminders for how to help improve your work-life balance as a teacher.

1. Collaborate With Your Colleagues

If you’re lucky enough to have a content team, you should never take on the load of planning every lesson for every day — instead, split the work up. Leveraging the expertise of colleagues may result in higher-quality lessons as well. If you don’t have a content team, consider seeking out content collaborators in other schools.

2. Be Comfortable Saying ‘No’

Teachers are highly altruistic, which is great for seeing to students’ best interests — but bad for seeing to their own interests. A well-balanced teacher can manage both. When you’re asked to take on an additional task, consider a few factors before providing an answer: What’s the pay? What’s the time commitment? Will it require any advance planning on your part? Does the idea of taking this on feel exciting or stressful? If you don’t like one or more of the answers, it’s OK to say “no.”

3. Set Boundaries for Your Workday

Developing routines for the beginning and end of your workday can help you create definition around which time periods are for work, and which are not. For example, once your school day ends, make a list of what absolutely needs to be done before you can teach the next day, then tackle that list. Once the list is complete, put your computer away for the day.

4. Designate Times to Check Email

Limiting the number of times you check your email during the workday reduces stress, according to a 2015 ScienceDirect study. And a reduction in stress can lead to an increase in productivity, thus enabling you to accomplish more within the boundaries of your workday.

Prep time built into the teacher workday is invaluable, yet if you spend that whole time monitoring and checking email, you’ve just pushed all of tomorrow’s lesson planning to this evening — a time you should have to yourself and your family. To help balance teaching and life, set aside two to three times throughout your workday to check email, and don’t give it a second thought outside of those times.

5. Find a Professional Learning Community

There are a ton of professional learning communities hosted on Facebook (and other social platforms) that provide a forum for asking questions, brainstorming ideas, and sourcing lesson plans. One of the best science-based ones, for example, is an Anatomy & Physiology teachers’ Facebook group that provides access to a Google Drive stocked with ready-made lessons/labs, all uploaded by other teachers in the community. The number of hours saved by gaining access to an entire curriculum’s worth of ready-made resources is almost unfathomable.

6. Plan Ahead

If you know what subject area(s) you will be teaching the following school year — and are motivated during your summer break — you can use some of that free time to unit plan. If you’d rather not use those precious summer hours for work, you can still plan ahead, but it just may happen during allotted planning or professional development time. Planning ahead will decrease your stress levels, maximize the quality of your lessons, and increase alignment between lessons and assessments. 

Preventing Burnout is Key

Making sure you don’t get burnt out during the school year is mission critical to your overall well-being — and the success of your students. Learn about several ways you can avoid burnout and help maintain the love you have for your classroom and students.

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