Need a resolution for the new year? Guest blogger Stacey Cabral-Levesque offers three tips to maintain work-life balance as you begin teaching in 2015.
By: Stacey Cabral-Levesque, guest blogger
Walking a tightrope is a balancing act for funambulists, but walking the tightrope of maintaining a reasonable workload is a balancing act for the rest of humanity, especially 21st century educators.
After all, the demands don’t ever seem to shrink for us educators. From grading papers and providing meaningful feedback, to data collection, to meetings, to evaluations and more meetings…you probably can commiserate.
According to the National Commission on Teaching and America’s Future, teacher attrition rate has grown by 50 percent over the past 15 years. The reasons vary, but it is often due to high stress, burnout, and a lack of reciprocated respect.
What needs to happen to retain quality educators? Clearly, quite a bit. Here’s what has worked for me as I continue to strive to seek out the elusive state of work-life balance:
Time must be made for family and friends. They are the ties that bind, and we need to maintain our personal connections.
Everyone is aware of the need to order things and have a “must do this first” stamped by date and deadline. But doing it is another story.
Earlier this fall, I experienced the challenge of prioritizing first hand. I started taking a class (something I’ve never done during the school year) and struggled to complete my homework and not have it hanging over my head. I decided to try and complete coursework immediately after class, and if that wasn’t possible, chunk the homework it into doable amounts of time.
The only way to find that balance in life is to get it done. Make the list. Tackle major tasks first. Do the tasks that are least likely to get done by deadline because you don’t enjoy doing them as much as something else. This has really worked for me.
Learn to limit and say no. You can’t do it all, nor should you want to.
Determine one to two areas of passion and focus there. For me, it’s mentoring new teachers and providing curriculum support. Don’t say “yes” because you think it will help your career. Being on every committee and volunteering at every concert may just add to the stress and fatigue, and too many “yes” answers can lead to stretching yourself too thin.
Showing students I support their extracurricular activities outside of the classroom is important to me, but it could consume several weeknights and every Saturday every week. If a student invites me to a game or concert outside of school, I make it a point to go to at least one event in a month. If I am unable to go, I make it a point to ask them how it went, and I’m fine with this compromise.
Let some things go. Train and teach others to do (control freaks, unite!). Some things may never get done the way you want, and that will have to be okay.
I remember when I first started teaching and I thought every assignment needed to be checked, marked up and graded. I finally learned that homework could be out on desks, and as students completed the opener, I could walk around and check that it was completed.
And for longer assignments, rubrics with detailed feedback already embedded makes it easy enough to circle areas that need some work. I also learned to pick one area of English conventions to stress rather than mark up an entire essay in red.
When it comes to assignments, score only what is most beneficial for students. Other work you assign can be for practice. When it comes to tests, I use “scored by” and allow peer grading. When it comes to homework, students place it on their desks and I check it as they work. The onus is on them and they take their responsibilities seriously.
Burnout happens and great teachers leave the profession because they miss out on living their lives. The work will always be there, so take some time to breath. Let the funambulists do their job and you do yours. Our jobs shouldn’t feel as if we’re teetering on the edge of falling, but it’s up to us to set boundaries in order to thrive.
What are your strategies for maintaining health, happiness, and energy in the face of so many demands?