You’ve heard it before. You need a balance…you need to make time for you and or your family…you need to prioritize your tasks at work…if you just gave yourself 20 minutes…
This all sounds fabulous and very realistic…when you are not teaching. During the year, we tend to put our needs and our families needs on the back burner. Our students needs should always be on the forefront, but we also need to give time to what matters most to us.
Before I begin explaining how I maintain a balance in my life, I would like to go over a list of excuses I hear on a frequent basis.
“Why would I take a sick day? It’s easier to come to work!”
“I am a perfectionist, so if the work isn’t done right, I won’t be happy”
“Oh, we have a last minute staff meeting? I will call to let (daycare, husband, family) know.”
“I want to get a perfect score on my evaluation.”
“This is more important than what I have going on, so I will just wait”
“I can’t drink enough water, I will have to go to the restroom.”
“I can’t afford to go to the restroom, it will waste instructional time.”
“This has to get done now, so we are ordering take-out tonight.”
“I don’t have time to help my kids with their homework right now.”
“I’m too tired to do anything around the house.”
“I’m too tired for my own family.”
If this is you, I dare you to make a list your priorities, and discover what is important. If evaluation scores, test scores, staff meetings, etc. is on the top of your list, stop reading. There is no reason to read further. I understand all these things may be important for your career, and I am not trying to say they are not. But, if your outside life is equally important, you need to start budgeting time and really being there for the things you care about.
So, if you want balance, start taking the steps to make it happen. There are a few tips and strategies that I do that might help with achieving this balance.
Allow yourself a certain time to get what you need done. Usually, I have papers to grade, lessons to plan, errands to run, etc. If I set a timer, and it goes off in one hour, whatever I am doing needs to wait. I know it is hard to just stop what you are doing when you are on a roll. Just stop. It can wait. Life will not.
If you are sick, take a day. You could run the risk of getting your kids/colleagues sick. You could get really sick and hurt yourself. Now you really would have a problem. Yes, your class may have to be split. But it’s not like you have never had a few extra kiddos in your class before. If it is about making plans, gather some unfinished activities from the year, make a stack and let the kids review their skills with the guest teacher. Things do not always have to be planned just like you teach. I found that the guest teacher is never going to be you. They are never going to have things exactly how you would do them. So let the kids have the day to catch up on their reading, or review skills you have been introducing throughout the year. It won’t hurt them. They will all survive, and you can take care of yourself.
Work during your preps. I always have a bin that I can put prep work in so that I am not figuring out what I need to do on my prep. Working strategically on your preps is key. You can get so much work done because there are less lines for the copier, nobody is poking their head in to ask you a question or make small talk, parents are not ringing you off the hook, etc. This is your sacred time to get stuff done. Take advantage of it. I know it is so tempting to turn all your lights off in your room, and just relax, or hang out with a colleague and talk. There is nothing wrong with that either…once in a while. But, if you want to work smart and not hard, you have to work your preps.
Put your kids to work. If there is time, let them grade their own papers when they can. Have a student be in charge of stacking the papers in order so that all you have to do is put them into the grade book. Think about all the task jobs you have each day. If there is a task that a student can do, give them the responsibility of doing it. They will love this important job, and it is great for classroom community.
Drink water and use the restroom. You have to take care of yourself. If you have to call someone into your room, do it. Ask another teacher that is close to you and take breaks together. I don’t care how you do it, just do it! This way, you are not spending precious time at the Dr.’s office!
Spend time doing things that you like on the weekends. School stuff can wait until you are ready for it. Do what you need to do to feel like you have a balance. If you have a ton of work to do and it is Saturday, it can wait. Prioritize what you need to do for Monday, and tackle the rest later.
Although I do not have kids, I remember a colleague saying to me, “When my kids are all grown up, I don’t want them to tell me I was a really great teacher. I want them to tell me I was a really good mom.” Funny thing is, she is a really great teacher, and she is an even better mom!”
Just food for thought…