Work-Life Balance Tips for Teachers
Author Annie Dillard once wrote, “How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” We spend a lot of our days at work, and as a former educator, I also remember the sheer number of hours I put in beyond school hours. Through trial and error and great role models, I learned some work-life balance tips for teachers that kept me sane through the years.
I may be a little biased, but teachers are some of the most humble heroes out there. Oftentimes under-resourced, overworked, and underpaid, teachers still put in the hours to provide the best education they can for their students. With that, though, comes the struggle of finding and maintaining a healthy work-life balance, for first-year teachers and veteran teachers alike. I’m lucky enough to work for educators everyday, and a lot of my colleagues are former teachers as well, who have shared their experiences finding this balance. Below are some work-life balance tips for teachers – things we have learned, practiced ourselves, or wish we could help other teachers do – that will hopefully spark motivation to find balance through the school year.
Respect is key
- Respect yourself and all parts of your identity. You aren’t just a teacher – you are a family member/partner/friend/child/parent as well. Find ways to honor all parts of who you are.
- Respect your students. When you’re stressed out, they know. Whether they will admit it or not, students look to you as a model, so make an effort to put your best, most authentic self forward.
- Respect your time and boundaries. There is so much on a teacher’s plate that is not in the job description or in normal classroom hours. Set clear expectations around what “work” time and “life” time should look like, and for what you want that to look like after school and at home.
You can’t pour from an empty cup/vessel
- No matter how many things you have on your plate, everything else can only benefit if you take care of yourself first.
- Being exhausted at work not only affects your job, your happiness at work, and your quality of work, but it also seeps into the other areas of your life. Don’t let too much weight pile on.
- Don’t get bogged down in the glorification of “busy.” Social change-minded people often believe that there is always more work to be done, like we always have to be working on something and contributing. While a full schedule doesn’t automatically have to mean “too busy,” feel confident in stepping away from your work and giving yourself room to breathe before you burn out.
Sometimes the hardest, and most important, piece of the work-life balance puzzle is honesty.
- Be honest with yourself – are you really taking care of yourself/your needs/ your wants? How are you feeling? Have you taken time for yourself lately?
- Be honest with your loved ones – are you honoring boundaries between work and life so that you are maintaining your priorities and relationships?
- Don’t be afraid to share when you are struggling – with the loved ones in your life, with your students, and with yourself. While there is a lot of great movement to normalize mental health and services, there is still a taboo around admitting that you are having a rough time. Know that it is okay to not be okay all the time.
- Don’t apologize for taking time for yourself.
- Don’t apologize for saying “no” to something when you know you don’t have the bandwidth to do it.
- Don’t apologize for not always being “on” – technology provides access to so much at the click of a button, but that doesn’t mean you always need to be available or working at all times.
- Don’t apologize for putting work or life first, when circumstances call for it.
Lean on your community – and build in accountability.
- Share your goals with loved ones who can hold you accountable (and will) because they love you and want to see you happy.
- Find other educators who also want to work on their work-life balance – share ideas with each other (whether they worked or not), vent about the struggles you’re encountering, call each other out when you know they aren’t taking care of themselves. Building a culture that supports self-care can be so beneficial.
- Hold yourself accountable. Give yourself time to retreat and reflect frequently.
- When you’re stressed, sometimes your social life is the first thing to go. Don’t cancel everything.
Continually seek joy.
I think we can all find those sparks of joy in both our work and our personal lives. Sometimes we find these bits of joy in the midst of a really hard week, and sometimes we find them when we are crushing the work-life balance game. Don’t forget to celebrate these moments that make you smile and remind you why you do the work you do, and why finding that balance was so important in the first place.
Kaitlin Boldt is a Schools Manager in Cincinnati, OH. She is a former 3rd grade teacher and is passionate about education, equity in classrooms, and sociology. She can usually be found cooking new recipes, enjoying a good book, or spending time outdoors.