Teacher Leadership Subscribe to RSS

Balancing Work and Life: The On-Going Challenge for Educators

| Elena Aguilar

Edutopia Community, this post is a desperate plea for help! My school year began on August 1 with no easy transition. It's been an exhausting, consuming two weeks of intense, rewarding work coaching leaders.

But I'm back into 11-hour work days, which I'd promised myself I wouldn't do again.

I have to find more balance this year. Especially since I'm also writing a book on instructional coaching (to be published by Jossey-Bass in spring 2013) which is very exciting, but: How am I going to do this? I also have a family and commitments beyond work. Can you hear the panic rising in my voice? I know you have ideas and I'm begging for your input.

I've always struggled with balancing work and life. For many years, I neglected my physical health, then, I neglected my husband. It's gotta stop.

So I can spend more quality time with my family, take care of my physical, mental, and spiritual health, and achieve a beautiful balance, here are a few things I'm intending to do this year:

#1 I'm using Google calendar to manage my time and I'm scheduling everything. I use different colors to indicate different areas of my life ("Work," "Writing," "Exercise," "Family," etc). If I put something into my calendar, I'm way more likely to do it. It's on my calendar; I have to do it. I can also take a quick glance and see how the colors balance out -- does the color orange (which represents work) dominate? Is there any purple (family) this week? It's a quick reminder that if I'm committed to balance, I need to block out time.

#2 I'm budgeting money for a housecleaner. I'll have less money for other luxuries, but I've decided that I want to spend less of my weekend cleaning and more with family. It's a relief just to imagine this.

#3 I'm signing up for yoga classes. If I pay in advance, I'll go to the classes. And yoga is really good for me, good for balance.

#4 I'm also going to say no more often. I really am. Although I love my work, I need to turn down some opportunities and draw some boundaries. This will be hard.

But that's all I have on my list. I want a longer list. I need more ideas. How do you balance work and life? What strategies do you use to manage time?

see more see less

Comments (30)

Comment RSS
College Professor, Early Childhood

I'm about to enter my second

Was this helpful?
0

I'm about to enter my second year as a tenure-track professor, and my husband and I want to start a family. (I'm 31 so there's not a great deal of time to put that off.) I love my job but during the year I'm ALWAYS grading or planning. I'm trying to do some research/writing this summer, get back into an exercise routine, reconnect with my amazing husband, and hopefully, get ahead a bit on planning for the fall, but still, there's so much more I'd like to do this summer than I possibly have time to do.

These suggestions are good ones, though I don't feel like I can say no to much of anything (that tenure-track thing...), and we're trying to save money to buy a house so I don't think we'll hire a house cleaner... But scheduling and pre-paying for exercise of some kind are really good ideas.

Still -- I don't know how to balance work and life when the basic expectations of work consume all of my time and mental energy.

5th Grade Science Teacher

I understand!

Was this helpful?
+1

I went through a lot of what you're talking about, to the point where I almost lost my 7 year relationship with my partner. One thing that REALLY helped me was prioritizing. I had to make my family my priority. I had to make my health my priority. But I didn't really realize any of that until I read this great book called Organizing from the Inside Out by Julie Morgenstern. It helped me in so many ways, and it's very well written. I hope this helps! Best of lucki!

National Board Certified 4th grade GATE teacher

I can totally understand

Was this helpful?
+1

I can totally understand where Elena is coming from. With two young kids at home my time to spend on work related items is becoming increasingly more difficult. Since my teaching career started 11 years ago I have always put it before everything else in my life because I love it so much. With my kids involved in sports, dance classes, and play dates I am definitely going to have to take a step back and restructure my day once the dismissal bell rings and school gets out.

It's July 5th and school doesn't start for me until August 23rd, but I have already been to my classroom putting up bulletin boards, reorganizing my supplies, deciding on the beginning of the year activities, and designing lessons for my first class novel. Not to mention I ran for a position in my union and will now have that on my plate for the next two years, and am considering either working towards an admin. credential, or another national board certification, and I volunteer for my local YMCA. I would definitely classify myself as a work-a-holic and for my own peace of mind and sanity will need to make some changes this year. Thank you edutopia for reposting this article as I plan to take some of the advice from it and apply it to my crazy busy life.

6th Grade Advanced Math Teacher from Central Florida

Your not alone

Was this helpful?
+1

Elena you are not alone. Keep telling yourself this. Stay positive. Also, have a support system. If you haven't already reached out to your family, friends and coworkers, let them know your current responsibilities. If you don't tell them, they won’t know how busy you are. They will understand, support you, and give you the time and space you need to accomplish your daily goals.

Thank you so much for your ideas about the Google calendar and the house keeping idea. I was thinking I should just pay someone to do the simple time consuming chores, but I felt guilty. I guess I am not the only one thinking of this as an option. Your right though, it will allow more time for my family.

6th-8th grade Reading Interventionist from Longmont, Colorado

Thank You!

Was this helpful?
+1

Thank you for sharing your tips for finding balance in life! I am struggling to find a balance between work, grad school, and home. When I get overwhelmed, I have a tendency to shut down...just like my students! I like your idea of using Google calendar and color coding the various areas of your life. My school already uses Google calendar, so the transition of moving my home and grad school events over will be quick and easy. Having the calendar will save me time, since it will be my go to place. Your other tip that hit home for me was saying no. For a New Year's resolution six years ago, my roommate at the time made me promise that I would start saying no. I am still working on it, but saying no is difficult as I am a people pleaser! I am slowly starting to realize that I cannot do everything and that it is OK to say no. Balancing my life will not only make me a better person, but it will make me a better teacher for my students.

Ninth grade Spanish teacher from Garland, TX

So Thankful!

Was this helpful?
+1

Thank you all for all of the great tips. By nature, I am a procrastinator, so time management has never been my strength, and after last school year, I vowed to put my spirituality and health above anything else.

This school year I am a fiance, a teacher, a team leader, a mentor, and a grad student - more hats than ever! I've gotten to the point where NOTHING is receiving my full effort, and I am not pleased.

The idea of 1)writing EVERYTHING in my planner and 2)color-coding it is simply fabulous. I can already see how I will be able to enjoy all of the wonderful tasks that I have!

I also like the idea of realistic deadlines.

k teacher

This blog definitely hit

Was this helpful?
+1

This blog definitely hit close to home. I am in the same boat as you. I am trying to balance being a new mother, teacher, grad student, wife....the list could go on and on. Just getting through the usual things in a day is had enough. I'm stuggling with ways to deal with all the things that are on my overflowing plate! I've decided on some things---- I don't have to be over the top organized at school. I used to plan weeks at a time and now I am planning days at a time. I've learned to be okay with that. I've also learned to make time for myself. If I put cleaning aside or grad school work aside for one night just to have some Me Time, it's okay. I've also decided to only do schoolwork when my new baby goes to bed. I am a teacher but my new joy is being a mother and I put that first!

Thanks for sharing your stess as I understand completely how you feel!!

Middle school teacher for students with multiple disabilities from Ohio

Balance to Avoid Burnout

Was this helpful?
+1

Your post struck a chord with me... especially after these first few weeks of school. I am constantly struggling to balance my life between work, home, and grad school. There are literally not enough hours in the day! Being a teacher for students with significant cognitive, physical, and medical disabilities can also take a toll on my emotional well-being. Two weeks ago, the topic of discussion in my Teacher as Professional grad course was avoiding burnout. My class shared with one another some of the causes of their stress and anxiety, along with what they do to avoid burnout. Sometimes it is just nice to know you are not alone. I'm a constant worrier, frantic list-maker, and completely anxiety-stricken when it comes to finding balance in my life. And I don't even have kids yet! I am also a people-pleaser - so I appreciated your comment about learning when it's ok to say "no". By reading the posts in this blog, along with discussions with my classmates and colleagues, I have come to a much better place... definitely on the right track to finding balance. I have started yoga, budgeted time in the week for literally everything (I love you iPhone and Google Calendar!), and have made a conscious decision to take time each day just to slow down and appreciate life. My dogs are another source of happiness and stress-relief (having a boyfriend who is also a teacher/professor helps too!). For some other great insight into avoiding teacher burnout, check out the book On Being a Teacher: The Human Dimension by Kottler, Zehm, and Kottler.

International Educator, Certified by the NBPTS | Educational Leader, Licens

Reasons we work so many hours

Was this helpful?
+1

I've been struggling with the same thing. I tracked all the things I do for students outside of the direct instructional time: http://expateducator.com/2011/08/27/t-2-preparing-for-the-extra-duties/ .

I'm not sure I'll ever get home before 6:00 pm. That said, the housekeeper allows me to sleep in on Saturday, go on hikes, and read. Enjoy!

Educator, Entrepreneur, Author, Game-Designer

@ Elena

Was this helpful?
0
Quote:

I'm really intrigued by your comments on the "Someday/Maybe" as a way of dealing with saying no. What a useful way to think about that list and manage the emotions. Thank you so much for making your way over from Twitter and commenting!

Yeah, saying, "I'm full on right now but I'll add it to my docket of tasks I might be able to get to in the near-to-medium future," is soooo much easier than saying no. And killing the tasks is so easy, especially when like 80% of the "almost commitments" to people were never actively followed-up on by those same people who wanted us (a few weeks/months back) to be involved in them (i.e. spearhead for them) in the first place.

I think I heard this on a Brian Tracey podcast, and I love it, "When in doubt, throw it out."

see more see less