Our Education Blogger is a public school teacher with over a decade of experience. She’s an active NEA member and enjoys writing about her experiences in the classroom.
Your personal life is yours, and it is precious. It is also necessary. There is no need to feel guilty about leaving work behind each day when you exit your classroom door. Enjoying your time outside of school makes you a better teacher. Relationships with students, parents, and colleagues may also improve when you maintain a balance between work and home. Over the years, I have learned, but not yet quite mastered, several ways to create a balance between my work life and home life.
Don’t Give Out Your Personal Information To Parent or Students
If you must communicate with students and parents outside of the school day, sign up for a social media account you can use for your classroom. Don’t give parents and students your personal phone number, email address, or home address. Many parents and students are able to set respectful boundaries. However, there may be parents or students who will abuse this communication privilege. This can sour your relationship with a parent or student if they continue to overuse your attempt to be “available.” You don’t want to find yourself in a sticky situation that could get you into trouble.
Keep Work At Work
Leave all of your grading and planning at school. Home should be your sanctuary, not a second office. Your family, pets, and brain will thank you for it.
Maintain Consistent Work/Office Hours
Try to arrive and leave at the same time each day. Make sure parents, students, and colleagues are aware of your daily “office hours.” Each day, I make a point to arrive no later than 7:15am and leave no later than 4:30pm. My “office hours” are 7:30-7:50am and 3:15-4:00pm. If a parent or student needs to meet with me, they know when I will be available.
Enjoy Family Time
Savor each moment you have with your own family. I love my job, and I adore my students, but I refuse to sacrifice precious time with my own family. I can never get that special time back. Grading papers, planning lessons, and returning emails can wait until the next day. So, file away those tender memories with your family without the guilt.
Protect Your Personal Social Media Accounts
Being “friends” on your personal social media with students and parents is not required. I am protective of myself and my family, so I stick to a few of my own rules for my personal social media account:
1) never be friends with a current student
2) students must be at least 13 years old (most social media services and apps require users to be 13 years old to join)
3) never be friends with a current student’s parent(s) or other family members
4) keep profile set to private
Social media can bring with it negative talk, upset feelings, and online bullying. I have no desire to get myself, or my family, involved in anything of the sort.
Don’t Check Work Email At Home
I review my work email on my school computer throughout the day, and in the moments before I shut the computer down to leave for the day. Then, I don’t check it until I arrive at school the following day. I used to have my work email synced to my personal cell phone. Big mistake. I found myself getting emotionally worked up at home about the occasional negative email from a parent or colleague. When there were “security” threats to our district email system (mostly viruses), my personal phone, along with all of my personal accounts, were at risk. Forget about sleeping when all I can think about is how I’m going to respond to the angry parent, or wondering if my phone would be affected because of a naive colleague who opened an email attachment from an unknown sender! Ditching my access to work email from home has significantly lowered my stress level (and I’ve even gotten a few more zzzz’s)!
It’s okay to ask for help. Get a neighbor, a friend, a babysitter, or a grandparent to help you out at home if you need it. You aren’t superhuman! We all need a little extra support from time to time.
Be realistic about what you can and can’t do. There may be nights that you won’t be able to cook dinner. That’s what delivery and take-out are for! It’s okay to bring a frozen, microwave meal for lunch (although that 5-minute cook time really eats into my lunch time). I promise, no one will judge you! Yes, it’s okay for dirty laundry to sit around in the hamper for a few days. You’ll get to it when you can.
Stick to it and mean it. If you crave more personal time, then be picky about your work hours, how you spend your time outside of school, and choosing to leave work at work. If you don’t think you can be disciplined, ask someone to help you by holding you accountable. Your partner or spouse can make sure you’re not checking work email, or bringing home papers to grade. Your best friend can check in on you to see if you’re keeping the right company on social media.
We’d love to hear from you! How do you create a balance between work and home?