10 Habits of Teachers Who Nail Work-Life Balance


10 Habits of Teachers Who Nail Work-Life Balance

It’s often easy to identify professionals based on their attire. Doctors have their white coats; nurses, their scrubs. Teachers, on the other hand, are marked not by a uniform but by the many hats they wear. As these figurative hats representing real pressures pile up on top of teachers’ weary heads, it becomes increasingly difficult to shrug them off at the end of the school day and go back to being just a “person.” This makes it very difficult to achieve a work-life balance.

Fortunately, some teachers are finding effective ways to master the juggling act that is teaching and restore a sense of balance to their work and personal lives. Here are ten habits of teachers who have finally solved the equation between school and home. 

1. They delegate tasks.

There’s a reason university teacher preparation programs don’t include classes like Attendance 101 and Seminar in Paper Passing: almost anyone can do them. Teachers with work-life balance recognize the potential of the 20-30 little workers in the classroom and give them partial ownership of the classroom with varied classroom jobs. Freed from the minutiae of the typical classroom, these teachers can use those degrees as they were intended: for teaching.

2. They’ve upgraded their grading.

All teachers recognize the importance of providing timely feedback on students’ assignments. What many can’t figure out, however, is how to give each assignment the attention it merits without spending the entire evening marking papers. Teachers in the know make use of time-saving apps that do everything from automating grading to checking for plagiarism to recording audio feedback. You may also want to check these tips on how to stop taking grading home.

3. They don’t give themselves homework.

There is so much more to “teaching” than teaching, and many of the teachers’ responsibilities cannot be completed while students are in the classroom. While the default solution has been to bring all that extra work home, more and more teachers are discovering that they can set boundaries on the time they spend on work and still be effective educators. Deciding to no longer take work home is a great way to find work-life balance.

4. They call in sick.

Not daily, obviously, but teachers who have achieved work-life balance know that they can serve their students best when they are well-rested and healthy. While most teachers view planning for a sub that may or may not have subject-matter expertise and grading the resulting “busy work” as more grueling than reporting for work, these teachers have perfected their sub plans and have a full arsenal of emergency plans ready to go at a moment’s notice.

5. They’ve stocked their teacher toolbox.

With so many blogs, apps, and sharing sites at their fingertips, teachers with work-life balance have reviewed and vetted a stockpile of plans and resources to simplify their lesson planning. These teachers are the technology gurus who have a website or program handy to meet any needs in their content areas.

6. They’ve streamlined their routine.

With so much to accomplish in so little planning time, teachers with work-life balance have scheduled their days down to the minute. They know the best times to go into the teachers’ lounge without being pulled into a lengthy gab session and when to dash to the copy room to avoid waiting in line. Making these tweaks might mean tacking an extra ten minutes on to the beginning or end of the school day, but it pays dividends in what teachers can accomplish during regular teaching hours.

7. They don’t go it alone. 

Although it may seem isolating to spend the entire day in a classroom with no one but students, time-effective teachers realize that no teacher is an island. These teachers have cultivated a support system of teacher friends who are always ready with a kind word or a lesson plan to share.

8. They value extracurricular relationships.

Teacher friends are great, but when a group of teachers gets together outside of school, the conversation tends to focus on teaching. While it can be fun sometimes to commiserate with colleagues over drinks and appetizers, teachers with work-life balance take time to cultivate friendships with people who have different world experiences and life outlooks because they haven’t set foot in a school since their graduation day.     

9. They commit not to over-commit.

The needs of a school far outnumber the people available to take them on. In a profession whose cornerstone is compassion, teachers feel compelled to take on every committee, club sponsorship, or coaching position that comes their way. The happiest teachers, however, avoid the devastating effects of over-commitment and give their best to their students by saying no to responsibilities that do not match their interests or availability.

10. They accept that school responsibilities will sometimes bleed over into their personal time.

While maintaining the boundaries between school and home is ideal, the most resilient teachers accept the fact that school responsibilities will sometimes bleed over into their personal time. Life as a teacher is messy and can’t always be scheduled into neat little blocks of time. The best teachers accept this fact and forgive themselves when they cannot live up to the myth of the perfectly-balanced professional.

Work-life balance may be an equation, but there is no one formula for arriving at its solution. Instead, achieving a balance between school and home is a personal experience that has as many approaches as there are teachers. If you want to experience better equilibrium in your teaching career, pick and choose the adjustments that work best for you and add more as you acclimate your newly-defined, streamlined role in the classroom.

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10 Habits of Teachers Who Nail Work-Life Balance

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Melisa Ferguson
Melisa is a mom, world language teacher, and self-care enthusiast.
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