One of the hardest things about teaching is maintaining a healthy work-life balance. It’s so easy to get so consumed with grading, lesson planning, acquiring materials, making phone calls, updating documents, and so much more than you forget to take care of yourself and spend time with those you care about. I struggled so much my first year trying to maintain this sort of balance that it felt overwhelming. To be honest, it still is sometimes.
When we don’t spend time for ourselves or taking care of ourselves, it begins to trickle into other areas of our life. Our health begins to suffer, we become more irritable than usual, and more overwhelmed because it seems that all we do is work, work, work, work, work.
As I continue to grow in this area myself, I figured I’d share some helpful tricks I’ve learned for maintaining a healthy work-life balance as a teacher.
How to Maintain a Healthy Work-Life Balance as a Teacher Click To Tweet
SCHEDULE OUT YOUR PREP PERIODS
If you have a prep period, schedule it out ahead of time to work on things that need to be done. For example, your prep time is a great time to get grading done.
GRADE EVERY ASSIGNMENT THE DAY OF
One of the biggest mistakes that I made during my first year as a teacher was I didn’t do this. There were some days that I didn’t grade anything at all and instead just planned lessons for the next day. However, what ended up happening was that when I finally did sit down and grade, I felt overwhelmed with the amount of papers and essays I had to grade, return, and enter into the grade book.
Not only does waiting to grade leave you feeling overwhelmed when you finally do because you’ll have to do it during your off-hours, but your students get their paperwork later than they should. If you’re an English teacher, it’s really important that you have somewhat of a quick turnaround for essays because students need to revise them. I embarrassingly enough would often not return their papers for weeks because I was still catching up on grading. No bueno.
Instead, for every assignment you receive back, try to grade it as soon as you can, preferably on the day of. You’ll save yourself from feeling overwhelmed at the end of the week when you have piles upon piles of papers to grade.
ENTER YOUR GRADES INTO YOUR GRADE BOOK AS SOON AS YOU GRADE THEM
In addition to the previous sentiment, I found that I was the most overwhelmed when I waited not only to grade assignments, but to enter them into the grade book. There were assignments I graded and nearly tore my classroom up looking for because they ended up getting grabbed by someone by accident or stuffed in a different pocketbook.
GET A TEACHER BINDER
Invest in a teacher planner that you can download, save to your computer, and print out to place into your own Teacher Binder. In this binder, use dividers to set tabs to organize your lesson plans, important forms, school calendar, personal calendar, and to-do list. Doing so will help you stay organized and also give you a place to keep all of the things you’ve previously worked on.
This helps with your work-life balance because it keeps you on track and focused on doing what needs to be done. I find that when I’m organized, I’m better able to schedule things out so that I have some time for myself, my loved ones, and still time for teacher-related activities.
INVEST IN A PERSONAL PLANNER AND KEEP IT SEPARATE FROM YOUR TEACHER BINDER
I know this sounds like extra work, but believe me – the more you can physically separate your work life from your personal life, the easier developing a healthy work life balance will be. For example, I technically have three planners – one for my blog, one for personal and one for teaching. Sometimes there’s overlap in the sense that I might put in my personal planner “lesson plan” for a Saturday. However, it’s rare that in my teacher planner that I would put, “blog about what you love about your cat” because it wouldn’t be relevant.
Doing so also allows me to separate my work life from my personal life in that I don’t really check my teacher planner unless I’m working on teacher-related things, ya dig?
SCHEDULE YOUR “ME” TIME
While it’s important to do what you can for your students and your classroom, make sure to schedule some time for yourself, too. Whether it’s going biking or exercising after work, schedule time for you within your week that allows you to continue to maintain a healthy work-life balance. After all, you can’t properly take care of the students, if you aren’t also taking care of yourself.
SPEND A FEW MOMENTS BEFORE CLASS EACH DAY ON YOUR OWN
Get to school a few minutes early and spend a few moments by yourself, each day. Take that time to mentally prepare for the day ahead and/or get some last minute things done before your students arrive for that day.
For example, for me, I like to spend that time praying. It’s my quiet time before the hustle and bustle of the day, but maybe for you it’s playing loud music and dancing around in your room. Whatever it is, I highly recommend spending time alone before your day starts.Spend a few moments in the morning before class by yourself. Click To Tweet
LET YOUR LUNCHES BE YOUR LUNCHES AND YOUR PREP BE YOUR PREP
I love my students and one thing I’d often do is let them come upstairs to eat lunch with me during my prep and lunch periods. While there’s nothing wrong with that, I noticed that on those days that I did it, I didn’t accomplish what I wanted to during that period because I was too busy monitoring them to make sure they didn’t do anything silly or dangerous.
Every once in a while is fine, but try not to make a habit of allowing students in your classroom when you’re on your lunch or prep break. It’s important that you take some time away for yourself to rest, prep, and mentally prepare for the rest of the day.
It’s very easy as an educator to become so classroom and student-focused that you forget about yourself. Within reason, if you see something you’d really like for yourself, go for it. It doesn’t hurt to treat yourself every now and then to something new!
STAY ORGANIZED AND PUT THINGS WHERE THEY BELONG
As tedious as it might seem throughout the day, organization is super important as a teacher – especially if you don’t want to end up with loads of things to do later on. I was recently inspired by a teacher I saw who has a cart in her classroom where she organizes what she needs to grade, what she needs to file, and what she needs to laminate by placing labels on the front of the drawers of the cart. It’s such a clever and simple organizational idea and all she has to do is place the respective items in their drawers throughout the day.
Doing this is a huge time saver, because rather than having to organize everything after the fact, it’s already organized and ready to go. Additionally, it limits the potential of things getting lost because instead of stuffing things in my teacher bag (I’ve done this before), I place it where I’m more likely to reach for it later.
DON’T BE AFRAID TO SAY NO
It’s not always about what we say “yes” to, but what we say “no” to that determines our ability to continue to maintain a healthy work life balance. Personally, this is an area that I struggle with because I typically try not to inconvenience others. However, at what point does my health and my time take precedence over temporarily inconveniencing others by saying no?
Say “no” to things you feel wouldn’t be an adequate use of your time, things that go against your beliefs or things you aren’t feeling led to do.
SPEND TIME WITH GOD
If you’re a Christian, I think this is one of the best things that you can do. This is not only an act of self care, but I find that the more prayerful I am and the more time I spend with God, the more focused I am. I find that the more time I spend with Him, the more clear decisions are for me and the better I am at being able to decide what needs to be done when.
ORGANIZE FILES BY CLASS AND BY NAME
Previously, when I had 3 classes of 31 11th graders, organizing by class was a must. Can you imagine trying to look for a student’s paper in a folder with nearly 100 students?
This is why I recommend organizing your students’ work not only by class but by name. It saves time when you’re looking to bring out different items during parent-teacher conferences and keeps you from losing items. Even as you’re preparing for instruction, I’d even have an instructional folder where you have an extra copy of handouts, attendance sheets, and your lesson plan for that particular class. Once you’re done, you can add those to your teacher binder in your respective sections.
SET A DEADLINE AND STICK TO IT
I was such a push-over when it came to accepting late assignments. I’d mark it late, but then I’d often give students way too many opportunities to make up work that they missed in class. While I did this to show grace as I understand that sometimes it’s hard to get things done, I realized that I was basically saying that it’s okay for them to slack off because they can make it up later. I was always setting myself up for having extra grading to do that I wouldn’t have had to do if I was firm in my assignment boundaries.
If you set a deadline for an assignment and have firm boundaries, stick to them. If a student turns in an assignment on March 10th that was due on January 5th, it’s an F. They had plenty of time to ask about the assignment and to do it when it was originally assigned.Set a deadline and stick to it. This will save you time and energy later on. Click To Tweet
HAVE A CUT-OFF TIME
I would say to not take any work home, but as an educator, it’s really difficult not to – unless you’re allowed to stay at the school longer than a certain time of the day. I know at some of my previous schools, I had to be out of the school building some days by 4:30pm, which meant that I was most definitely finishing up grading and lesson planning at home.
Set a time of the day where you refuse to do any work.
I’m honestly still learning and growing in this area, myself, but I’ve found that these tips have proven to be helpful in maintaining a healthy work-life balance in this new season of life.
What are your favorite ways to maintain a healthy work-life balance?
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