Finding teacher work-life balance is hard.
Some people choose to teach online. Most of these people absolutely love it.
Right now a lot of people are teaching online, but not by choice.
These people are hit or miss.
Once everyone gets into a grove and the level of uncomfortableness goes away, it will be much better for most teachers.
(If you’re still trying to figure out distance learning, make sure you check out the article here.)
However, there is one issue that many did not consider before beginning to teach from a computer screen. It’s something that has plagued “work-at-home” employees since the beginning.
That’s the idea of teacher work-life balance.
The irony is that work-life balance is something that we have always struggled with as teachers, so if you teach virtually or in the classroom, this is something that you should consider (for your own sanity).
We know that when we are in the classroom, school has certain hours and often we are also available by email in the evenings.
A teacher’s work is never done, right?
The issue is, with “work” being on the computer (especially if you are teaching virtually), there is no definitive “endpoint”.
Work starts when you powerup and ends when you power down.
But when should you do that?
Determining Your Own Work-Life Balance
I am the first to admit I am terrible at this.
I am a to-do list checker offer and multitasker extraordinaire.
If I have 10 minutes, I want to use that 10 minutes to complete something and will scan my list to find a task that fits the mold.
So given that, it is easy to go from working in bed (if you start on your phone like me) to working in bed (if you end on your phone like me). This is especially true if you are teaching from home.
Y’all, not healthy.
Here’s the thing about doing this while teaching. The kids and their parents will pick up on it really quickly.
They’ll figure out fast that no matter what time they contact you…even if it’s for something that they absolutely should have handled hours earlier…you will bail them out.
Literally, that’s the first step. Just stop.
Make it clear. When school is not actively in session, or if you are teaching virtually, you have office hours. You will answer emails from x time – x time each day.
Make them work for you and then be realistic to when your students and parents usually email. If you find that they email at 3 pm, don’t say your email office hours are from 12p-2p.
There will be people that email you outside of these hours, but be clear when you set them that if they do that, you’ll get back to them the next day.
DON’T make an exception because then everyone will want to be the exception. Every. Time.
Also, resist the temptation to even check. Hold yourself to that standard. How else will everyone else respect our boundaries if we don’t respect them ourselves?
Step 2: Figure out what you NEED to do and create a schedule based on that.
I can’t pretend to know what you’re thinking about your online learning experience. I have a lot of ideas to make planning easier (like encouraging inquiry projects or using any of the technological tools we have trainings posted for in our Facebook Mastermind group).
Only you know what your school requires, what you want to achieve, and what your students will complete.
So you need to decide. What do YOU need to learn to be able to CREATE the lessons and then DISTRIBUTE them to your students?
Then, how much time will you need to review the work?
Once you have an idea of that, make a schedule.
Make a Monday-Friday schedule and then make a weekend schedule.
Maybe you’re a person who takes off totally on the weekend.
Perhaps you spend one day of the weekend preparing for the next week to clear your head.
Either is fine. Whatever you do, in this era of distance learning, DON’T work both days of the weekend.
Figure out what balance you want and then create a schedule. This many minutes here, this many hours there.
Step 3: Write it down and hold yourself accountable to follow it.
This is really best practice for any teacher. We all get sucked into the vortex of “just one more thing…”
What a great time to get out of that habit and start worrying about yourself a little more.
Seriously. Create a schedule. In the first week or so, tweak accordingly.
Then. Stick. To. It.
Didn’t finish something? Make it first on the list during that time tomorrow or adjust your expectations of what you actually needed (wanted?) to achieve.
The world will not come crashing down as you figure out this schedule. It’s easy to be overwhelmed with so many new things and so many bugs still being worked out.
You’re good. Promise.
Step 4: Make sure you’re taking care of yourself
Okay, so look at that schedule.
Are you taking time to exercise? Even if it’s just for a walk around your neighborhood (while social distancing, of course).
Are you making sure you have time to make yourself something healthy to eat? And then give yourself time to eat it (you’re not squeezing in a trip to the bathroom and the copier…which is jammed again…if you’re home!)
Once all those checkmarks are clicked, figure out what time at night you plan to unplug.
No seriously, you can.
I’m just as guilty as the next guy…checking your phone just “one last time”. What if they REALLY need something, right?
Whatever needs to be handled tonight, can be handled tomorrow.
And guess what? If it’s important enough, someone will get ahold of someone to call you.
So decide what time works for you, your family, your meal endeavors and say, “That’s it. See you tomorrow.”
Honestly, if you don’t do these things, you’re going to end up sucked into a spinning vortex of non-stop work. Get into a good habit now and then whenever this time passes, you can keep the good habits going as you reenter the classroom and keep up good teacher mental health.