By Laurel Schumacher, First Grade Teacher at Thomas Metcalf Laboratory School
I recently read on my facebook page, a post from a friend who is a second year teacher “It feels great to finally have a full week of lesson plans ready to go ahead of time. It only took 3 weeks of school for me to catch up.”
Not too much later, a status update from that same teacher~ “well that only lasted until about 10 am on Monday!”.
We’ve all had that feeling- especially at the beginning of a new school year. There are so many start-up details to focus on, meetings to attend, relationships to foster, rooms to clean, binders to organize, routines to establish…the list could go on and on. And the on and on can leave the best and most experienced of teachers feeling overwhelmed and exhausted.
Then you head home to face all that those long days at school have left behind~ your family, home and the day-to-day details of life.
Your school life suffers because you spent too much time at home, your home life suffers because you spent too much time at school…and you may start to feel like you are not doing anything well, or that you just can’t cope…sound familiar?
When my kids were young, these feelings of being out of balance at home and school were especially prevalent. It was during that time that I came across this cartoon and it’s been hanging in my office ever since as a reminder of how important a work-life balance is, especially for we teachers who customarily are perfectionists, people pleasers and over- achievers. We want to do it all… and do it better than good.
With some simple steps, teachers can do it all and love what they do…but it does take some mindful decisions and thoughtful promises to yourself. What I can promise you is that if you try even a few of these “eggscellent” tips, you’ll feel better and be better at all you do.
Tips for teachers to improve balance of life and juggle all the eggs:
- Set your priorities. Make a list of the things that are most important at school and at home, and then prioritize. Be sure to include the things you are interested in, not just the things you view as necessities. Then sort them out and take some eggs out of your basket.
- Put aside time every week that you can be yourself. Go for a run, read a book, spend time with a friend, cook, bake, garden. Do what makes you happy and you’ll be in a better place to do everything. Be good to your eggs!
- Tell people firmly and politely that you won’t have time or be able to do something at work. Choose carefully those things you say yes to and be mindful of too many eggs in your basket. Saying no to something can be hard, especially the first time but you will be respected for your honesty. You can always offer to help another time but think about your eggs…too many in the basket and they may crack!
- Don’t reinvent the wheel. Use resources available to you. Work collaboratively with colleagues, share planning and preparation. Use the scheme of your curriculum, supplement when necessary but don’t feel as though you have to rewrite the entire thing. Don’t overcook your eggs!
- Don’t sweat the small stuff (and it’s almost all small). If the border on your bulletin board is a bit crooked or the page you went to copy didn’t align perfectly- well so what? If it won’t actually stop children from learning then work to let those things go. An imperfect egg is still an egg!
- Release responsibility. Work for a gradual release of responsibility from teacher to student. What are you doing for your students that they could do for themselves? Create routines that allow for students to ‘tend to themselves and take responsibility’. Allow and expect your students to file papers, fill folders, record keep and tidy up. Not only will it take eggs out of your basket, it will teach responsibility and create self-reliant habits. Teach your kids to be good eggs
Remember, your basket is like a bank ~ if you withdraw too much without putting anything back in, you will feel consumed. Your body will tell you that you are overloaded and you will feel a shortage. Keep your eggs in balance and your basket will flourish!
Credits~ my colleagues at Thomas Metcalf Laboratory School and my students and family who make all the eggs in the air worth juggling!