One of the most rewarding parts of being a teacher is knowing that you positively influence your students, even when they’re not in your classroom. Unfortunately, it can be easy to get so focused on your students and their needs that you forget your own well-being. Here are 10 ideas for how you may achieve better work-life balance.
Remember Your Worth
The best way to achieve work-life balance is to remember that you deserve to have a life outside of work. Your value doesn’t disappear when you leave the classroom. No one else can do what you do or be who you are, and other people need your positive influence just as much as your students do. When you take time for yourself and your loved ones, you’re able to make a difference wherever you go.
Create a Third Space Outside of Work and Family
While it might seem difficult, finding time for a hobby can help you achieve a better work-life balance. Some people call this their third space — a term that comes from sociologist Ray Oldenburg’s assertion that all humans need three separate areas to live and grow. Examples of a third space include community centers, coffee shops, and libraries. Even if you only have one hour a week to spare, devoting time to an activity you enjoy will be worth it.
Prioritize Your Health
Most people who have achieved work-life balance will say to prioritize your health. It is no coincidence that this tip comes up repeatedly — you can’t help your students if you’re sick or worn out. In the end, staying in shape, eating healthily, and getting enough sleep makes you a better teacher.
If you struggle with mental health problems, don’t be afraid to ask for help. When you break a bone, you can’t expect it to heal just by thinking positively, instead you give it extra support and space to heal. Mental struggles are often the same – it doesn’t mean you are weak; you just need some extra support and a safe space to recover.
There are countless ways to improve your mental health: talk therapy, meditation, exercise … even just spending time with friends. Doctors or another trusted professional can help you move forward.
Take a Break from Electronics
Electronic communication (texting, email, etc.) offers countless opportunities to connect with colleagues, friends, and family. However, be aware that constantly checking your phone or computer can prevent you from living in the moment. If you’re trying to balance work and life, it’s a good idea to focus on being present. This means taking breaks from electronics when you aren’t using them and engaging in face-to-face interactions. For example, during a meeting, try turning off your phone and placing it face down so that you don’t have to look at it. It might seem like common sense, but practicing mindfulness about your technology usage will help you achieve work-life harmony much more quickly than if you spend every waking moment tethered to technology.
As a teacher, it’s easy to act as if everything is a priority. You can keep your physical health in check by delegating tasks to teacher aides, students, or other school staff members. Think about what tasks that others could easily handle and divide them accordingly. That way, you can focus on those things that need your unique training, experience, and skills. As long as everyone is adequately trained for their roles, delegation can reduce stress in your life.
Set Work Hours and Keep Them
One of the most critical steps to creating a healthy work-life balance is actually creating one. Set strict hours for yourself and stick to them, even if your class schedule keeps you busy with last-minute meetings or after-school activities. Time management can help you get all of your work done in a timely manner without compromising on your personal time.
Keeping work hours also means mentally clocking out when you leave school. Because you care about your students, you may catch yourself constantly thinking about what they need, but that keeps you from truly being present for your friends, family, and yourself. To be a long-term teacher and avoid burnout, you must save emotional energy for yourself and your loved ones.
Spend Time with People Outside of Education
As much as your fellow teachers might help you feel fulfilled and supported, they are still part of your work environment. If you want to achieve better work-life balance, it might be time to look outside of education. Join a running club or another activity group. You might be surprised at how well a little healthy competition can ease your stress levels!
Know When to Say No
While work is important, your well-being is too. Healthy work-life balance means learning how to prioritize. That may mean saying no to extra projects at school so you may spend time with family or occasionally saying no to after-school activities. Putting yourself first sometimes helps you to be a better teacher because it rejuvenates and strengthens you.
Remember There is No One Perfect Way to Achieve Work-Life Balance
When teachers think about work-life balance, they often imagine that there is a right way to organize their time and schedule. This may be true for some people, but most will find they have to experiment with different systems to strike that delicate balance between their work and personal lives.
Remember, there isn’t a single, perfect way to have work-life harmony. Consider experimentation as an opportunity to learn about yourself, how you like to spend your time, and what works best for you, instead of worrying about doing it right. You might even find that what works for you today won’t necessarily work next year — and that’s okay. At least you’ll know where your tipping point is so you can make changes before things get out of hand.
Forgive Yourself for Your Mistakes
Everyone makes mistakes — it’s a natural part of life. But instead of beating yourself up over them, why not turn mistakes into learning opportunities? Figure out what caused you to fail and decide what you’ll do differently next time. If nothing else, be proud that you tried something new.
You Can Do It!
Work-life balance is one of those things that seems pretty simple yet is hard to put into practice. Whether you’re just starting as a teacher or have been in it for years, you can do it! And these 10 tips can help you create a better balance between work and home so you can enjoy both.
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