Educators are some of the most dedicated professionals I know. They spend time and money improving their skills; devote countless hours outside their required work hours preparing lessons and the classroom environment; and attend trainings and take college classes to improve their craft. Many use money from their family budget to supply their classrooms or send snacks home with hungry children. Because of educators’ devotion to service, they often find themselves overworked, tired, and missing the time and energy to enjoy their families.
If an educator desires a long-term profession rather than a temporary job, one must find ways to sustain the energy and finances over time. Trying to do too much at once to the detriment of one’s health, personal fulfillment, finances, or family life leads to burn out. See Self-care for Teachers: A Lesson from my Peach Tree. Busy teachers find themselves helping beyond the school day to sponsor student organizations; attend professional development; coach sports, music, or fine arts activities; serve on committees; sponsor a class; help with the prom; sell tickets or work in concession stands at sporting events; and/or help students raise funds for various events. Because educators have skills and experience, communities and organizations often ask for help with teaching faith-based classes, hosting events, and organizing service projects. All of these activities are worthy of an educator’s time and effort, but it is impossible to do everything at once without burning up and burning out. In order to have an enduring career in the education profession, it’s important to consider request for time carefully and consider the following.
- Evaluate your time. Keep a log of your time for several days during a typical week and weekend. Mark each day in 15-minute increments and keep track of how you spent your time. Include planning, teaching, answering emails, grading student work, meeting with colleagues, serving on committees, communicating with parents. Include sleep, showering and dressing, answering emails, preparing meals, eating, exercise, rest, play, and family time.
- Evaluate your mission. For teachers: Is it to provide the best possible instruction? For principals and other school leaders: Is your mission to provide services to improve instruction? For all: Do you have a mission or goals for your personal life? If not, consider what you want for yourself and your family and write a personal and family mission statement.
- Compare your time log and your mission. Does your time log mirror your mission and goals? If your mission is to help teachers with instruction, yet you more time dealing with angry parents or on management task rather than improving instruction, your actions are misaligned. Which activities need reevaluation? Are there some activities in your personal life that do not add value to your life? Might you eliminate or minimize these?
- Consider improvement over time. Which activities will help you improve your professional practice? Consider how you might complete those activities over time rather than doing too much at once. For example, you might spend 15 minutes a few times a week learning a new skill or connecting with teachers on social media sites to glean new teaching techniques. Alternatively, would an uninterrupted block of time help you improve? An example is attending professional development over a long weekend rather than learning skills in short segments?
- Assign teamwork – In order to improve schools, everyone must do some extra duties, such as participating in professional learning communities or providing students with extra help or enrichment activities. How might schools or teams divide the work fairly?
- Ask for help. Look for ways for others to help you at home and at school. Is it possible for your older children to help with laundry and meals? Does your school have parent group that can help you with classroom duties? Are some of the teachers doing most of the work? Are there community groups that can send snacks home with hungry students on days when school meal programs are unavailable?
- Finally, find joy in your work. Which activities do you enjoy? When we are living our life’s purpose, there is joy in our work and life. While we all have some duties that simply have to be done, how might you minimize the time on those task to do the work you enjoy most? Are there others on your home or school team who would love doing the activities you detest? Could you do some of their tasks in return?
It can be scary to look at your schedule in a new way. But having the resources including time and energy for a balanced life is worth the effort. Next: The Art of Saying NO