Surprise, Surprise… Teachers Have Personal Lives, Too – We’ll Get Back to You During School Hours


Surprise, Surprise... Teachers Have Personal Lives, Too - We'll Get Back to You During School Hours

The field of teaching is in crisis with more and more teachers burning out and leaving the profession each year. A 2019 teacher wellbeing index reveals 84% of teachers surveyed consider themselves “stressed,” a third have had a mental health issue in the past two years and half consider their workplace to be negatively impacting their life. A common complaint for many of those surveyed was the extreme workload. In particular, the inability to clock out at the end of the school day is a huge stress factor.

Advances in technology make teaching easier in many ways. We can research any topic, find material, crowdsource solutions and ideas, get lesson ideas and more by simply typing a few keywords into our phone, tablet or computer. Electronic grade books and lesson plans are much easier than lugging around handwritten logs. Google docs, slides, sheets and classrooms make sharing notes, presentations, and assignments a breeze. There’s no argument that technology is a crucial component of education that isn’t going away.

But there’s also a downside. All of the websites, apps, and devices mean teachers are always connected. There’s no clocking out at the end of the day and going on to enjoy the rest of life outside of the classroom. Our phones are constant reminders of all the responsibilities associated with our jobs.

Some of the downsides to accessibility through technology:

1. The work is always just a few clicks away

When our email, grade book, lesson plans and more are all accessible within seconds it’s easy to say, “I’ll just check this one thing…” and then fall into a rabbit hole that has us working for hours. It’s easy to say “leave work at work,” but that’s hard to do when so much of our work is accessible electronically and with us all the time.

2. There’s no sense of emotional safety. 

When parents, administrators and even students can reach us 24/7 there’s no safe place to rest. Many teachers report complaints coming in from administrators late in the evening and irate calls from parents at all hours. 

3. There’s pressure to always be available and to always be the best. 

Sometimes it seems teachers are expected to be in competition for a cape with “Super Teacher” printed in glittery gold letters on the back. There’s constant pressure to answer every message immediately and to scour Pinterest for the perfect templates for all projects big and small. 

4. There’s no balance between work and your personal life. 

This often causes a strain with romantic partners, friendships and family members. Our kids see us working from our phones instead of watching them at soccer practice. Our dates, friends, and family get frustrated when we take work calls during dinner. Being in constant teacher mode isn’t fair to us or the people who care about us.

Check out these 8 clever tips to learn how to finish your grading while at school.

5. It contributes to chronic stress. 

Going in and out of work mode means you’re never really relaxing. There’s no chance to rest and recharge. 

All of this means teachers become even more burned out. This isn’t good for anyone – the teachers, their families, administrators or students. 

Teachers need to set boundaries when it comes to technology devices. Here’s how:

Teachers have the right to set boundaries about how and when they work outside of the school day. Here are some ways to do that:

1. Only answer parent calls and emails during school hours. 

Nothing with a student is so crucial that we need to handle it in our personal time. If there is an emergency with the student, they need medical or mental health professionals, not a teacher. Caring about our students shouldn’t take away from caring about ourselves and our own families. 

2. Don’t open school email after hours. 

The first step to achieving this is to not even have it installed on your phone. It can wait. 

3. Tell administration to only call or text in case of emergency. 

Anything else can wait until the school day. Setting boundaries with supervisors is terrifying for many people, but it gets easier with practice. 

4. Don’t give parents or students personal contact information. 

Parents and students shouldn’t be able to call or text our personal phones! That’s a violation of our personal space. Just say no to giving out that info. 

5. Do not accept friend or follow requests from parents or students on social media. 

Many teachers use a different name or email address to limit the chances they can even be found on social media.

6. Make sure your social media settings are private. 

We don’t need parents, admins, colleagues, and students knowing the details of our weekend before we get to school Monday morning. Use the privacy settings to lock down social media accounts.

7. Don’t engage in school conversations outside of school. 

Ami, who provides occupational therapy in schools, frequently runs into teachers and parents who want to chat about student processes outside of school. Running into people who want to talk at restaurants, grocery stores, etc. is inevitable. It’s okay to say, “It was great to see you! I’ll be in touch during school hours.” and move on.

8. Have separate devices for personal and work use. 

If you can afford it, use separate devices designated for work and personal use. Refrain from installing work-related apps and programs on your personal devices. 

9. Turn off all work-related notifications. 

If separate devices isn’t an option, turn all work-related notifications off. 

10. Commit to not working outside of school. 

The best course of action is to simply commit to not working outside of school as often as possible. (And it’s usually possible way more often than we think.) Ron, a Florida teacher, says,

I refuse to work outside of contract hours. Grades and lesson plans can wait. I enjoy teaching, but it will not be my identity.” 

Check out how this teacher mom decided to leave work at work and how it’s made her a better parent AND teacher.

It’s important to protect ourselves from burnout. The best way to do that is to be proactive in reducing our workloads and our accessibility after hours. Setting boundaries is hard but so important and beneficial to our quality of life. If we all take steps towards changing what is expected for teachers, we can slowly create a field that is healthier for all of us. 

Also Read: Teaching is My Calling, But Being a Teacher Has Become Almost Unbearable

Surprise, Surprise... Teachers Have Personal Lives, Too - We'll Get Back to You During School Hours

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed. is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She’s been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga.
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