The bell rings, class is over and school’s out for the day! The teacher turns off the computer, packs up her or his supplies, punches a time-card, and heads home at 3 o’clock! She now has the afternoon free from lesson planning, grading, parent phone calls, preparing materials and everything else school related! Ok…just kidding!!
We all know that although we live our day by a bell, a teacher’s job really never ends. We are a reflective bunch by nature and even when we have created the most amazing lesson plan, if we just give it a little more time, we believe we can make it even better! This ideal belief is what makes us excel at what we do but it also can create an imbalance. We often work late nights, on weekends, over breaks and thus, sacrifice our mental wellbeing for our profession.
So, how do we regain our balance? This answer is with BOUNDARIES!
How to set boundaries?
Be realistic with your time. We all want to help our students and schools and we all wish we could give even more of ourselves. However, we have to be realistic with what we actually can accomplish while still maintaining a work-life balance. Most teacher tasks seem to take a little more time than expected. We like to tweek lessons and constantly strive for improvement. With this in mind, plan accordingly. If you have a lot of grading give yourself a buffer of time before committing to anything else. If you have ten parent phone calls to make, plan a whole week to complete them, rather than just one afternoon. If you finish a task early, wonderful…take that extra time and relax, you earned it!
Permission to say “No”
Be prepared to say, “No.” This is something I have actually had to practice at home in front of the mirror. I think our idealistic educator hearts are not well-equipped to “Just Say No!” We feel like we are letting our students, colleagues, parents, or administrators down if we don’t join one…more….committee! Truth be told, if we are over-extended and exhausted, we are not being the best that we can be. If we are not well rested and living a balanced life beyond the school setting, we are more likely to burn out and turn into the dreaded teachers of childhood lore. Saying “No” does not make you a bad teacher and setting BOUNDARIES for yourself helps to ensure that you will never become one.
Must Do vs. Choose To Do
Every now and then, I find myself exhausted and cranky. The Sunday night stress piles up and the countdown to summer break pervades my daily thoughts. When I feel this way, I know I have disrupted the work-life balance that all teachers need. I take this time to reevaluate my boundaries with a simple activity. I make a T-Chart, with one column reading “Must Do” and the other column, “Choose to do”. I find that if I honestly evaluate the teacher tasks that I currently assume, many time consuming tasks land in the “Choose to do” category. I then, analyze these tasks and after deeming some of them not so important after all, happily cross them out! Trust me, regaining a healthy balance is more important than color-coding my gradebook anyways!
We can’t look at our boundaries and how we spend our time without taking a look at how heavily connected we are to the digital world. The Internet, social media, and blogs just like this can be a blessing and a curse! We can find the most amazing ideas and teacher tips with a single click. By the same token, we can become lost in the endless plethora of such ideas and tips. Stop searching, clicking, retweeting and pinning endlessly! Set a digital boundary for yourself. Make it one hour a week or two perhaps…There will always be great ideas and if you keep clicking, even better ones yet…Avoid this endless search, set your timer and SET YOUR BOUNDARIES!