Sunday, 28 December 2014

New Year's Resolutions for Teachers: Maintaining a healthy work/life balance

It's that time of the year again. Christmas is over and 2015 is fast approaching. Of course so many people are thinking about losing weight, going to the gym more often, quitting an unhealthy habit, etc. I wonder how many people are thinking about being LESS committed to work. 

A common complaint from teachers is that during the academic year, they have too much to do and they work long hours. Most of my teachers friends do a several hours of school work once the children go home and then dedicate either one whole morning/afternoon/evening at the weekends catching up on planning, marking or making resources. 

Any non-teacher reading this who wishes to complain, we've all heard your argument. "Teachers should just suck it up. They have two month's holidays in the summer and many, many weeks off throughout the year." Does that mean it's right that teachers spend half of the year completely chilled out, doing nothing but spending their earnings and going on holidays to Thailand and then suffer from stress due to the long hours they work during term-time? Personally, I don't think so.

I'm not sure why it is that teachers feel OBLIGED to spend hours upon hours of overtime. I am one of those teachers who will work far too hard and burn myself out when I allow myself to do so. I can't fully explain my reasoning. I'm a very hard worker, passionate about my job and (maybe, unfortunately) enjoy blogging, which is also school-related. I sometimes find it hard to prioritise all of the things I need/want to do and don't manage my time as efficiently as I can.

I know in theory that working so much and not giving ample time to my personal life is detrimental to my well-being. Judging by the complaints I hear/read about from teachers, I am not alone in falling into this trap. So, this post is to encourage all you teachers to put "Maintain a healthy work/life balance" as the top priority on your list of resolutions! It will benefit you personally and you'll probably have more energy and a better attitude with your students if you start the day refreshed and not worn out!

In October, I decided that I needed to make some changes so it seems I've started my resolution a little early. I must say, it has worked wonders. Here are the little things I did to restore some balance. Obviously every teacher faces different demands due to their specific school/class/curriculum/timetable so these won't all necessarily by applicable to everybody. 
1. Take a morning break. In my school, we have a 20 minute break time. For some reason, we don't all go down to the staff room at the same time in my school. I found it very easy just to continue working through that break time. I decided to make myself take at least 10 or 15 minutes of that time to have a snack and browse through Facebook/Twitter.
2. Leave school work at school. This was a tough one. I was notorious for leaving school after an hour, bringing my planner home and working on the couch. I convinced myself that I worked better when I was more comfortable. Having decided to finish work in the school building, I managed to procrastinate less and work harder. It also created great closure mentally. Once I left the building, I stopped thinking about what I needed to do.
3. Bring a snack for after school. One of the reasons I used to leave school early was because I was drained of energy at the end of the school day. Bringing a piece of fruit to eat once the children left solved this problem. I take a quick break to have a chat and eat something and then get back to my planning, refreshed.
4. Try not to be such a perfectionist. This is a tough one for me. I'm quite indecisive and can spend a lot of time humming and hawing over things. I've forced myself to make decisions more quickly. I'm sure that my quality of teaching has not suffered due to this. It's just saved me a lot of thinking time that I had previously been wasting.
5. Free up weekends as much as possible. This goes well with no. 3. I have tried my best to bring NO school work home for the weekend. Though I might do one or two little jobs; when I don't have something urgent to do, I don't feel stressed to do it and it's not on my mind until Sunday evening when I stop procrastinating!

As you can see, some of these changes are very simple. If you have any other tips on how teachers could save time and be more productive, please comment below!

Wishing everybody a healthy and happy new year!

*Background, frame and clipart in image all from MyCuteGraphics

1 comment:

  1. Great post, just what I needed to see this time of year! Go n-éirí go geal leat sa bhliain nua!