A teacher’s work is never done. Seriously, it’s amazing how much responsibility educators manage to shoulder throughout the week. From planning and delivering lessons, to grading, to attending professional development and networking with concerned parents, it’s no surprise a lot of teachers are feeling stretched thin.
It also doesn’t help that our culture pressures people to sacrifice well-being in the name of success. The message we frequently hear is, “If you’re not seeing the results, you’re not working hard enough!”
In reality, teachers who don’t take time to rest and reenergize are usually less productive than ones who do. Think of it like the woodcutter who always takes an hour to sharpen his axe. Without that time of rest and preparation, he’d be trying to split wood with a dulled, useless blade. The same holds true for teachers.
If we want to make more time for ourselves in the day, we need to first make time for ourselves. So, where do we begin?
Meet Your Own Needs
The term “work–life balance” exists for a reason. If teachers want to cultivate more time and energy, they must first cultivate a healthy lifestyle. Here are a few strategies to get started:
- Be Curious and Creative: Our world is wonderfully interesting if you just look hard enough! Keep your eye out for fun facts that blow your mind and record them in a journal. Whenever you need a jolt of wonder, open it back up and revisit the facts that fascinate you most. Another possibility is to spend 15 minutes every day creating something. It could be anything you want: a bowl, a poem, a song, or a wooden spoon. It doesn’t matter if it’s great or awful — the act of enjoyable creation will energize the rest of your day!
- Stay Healthy: An active lifestyle really does contribute to overall wellness. Start small. Schedule 15 minutes in your day where you’ll hike, bike, stretch–anything that gets your blood flowing. Remember to eat right as well. It doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Start by replacing one processed grain with a whole grain, adding one salad a day, or cutting out caffeine after 4 p.m. By keeping it manageable and scheduling it regularly, you’ll make every day more energetic!
- Have Some Fun: Play, connect, and laugh! Whether it’s board games or ball sports, chess, or table tennis, filling your life with play will make it richer and more rewarding, and will fuel your fire to embrace all the rest of life’s challenges.
Saving Time at School
Lastly, there are things we can do at school as teachers to make our work less stressful. For example:
- Don’t Mix Feedback and Grading: When students receive a grade, they don’t attend to feedback. So don’t waste your time doing both. If you’re providing feedback, don’t grade it. If you’re grading it, don’t provide feedback — instead, invite students to ASK for feedback if they are interested. This ensures that the feedback you do give is well-received.
- Rank the Rubric: Using a rubric to help students know what to improve? Instead of filling the entire thing out yourself, have students look at the categories to rank them from best to worst. Then, you can focus your time and energy on the areas where students are interested in — and receptive to — feedback.
If you found these strategies helpful, be sure to check out VAI’s free webinar recording where we discuss these ideas and more in detail. These additional resources can also support teachers who are feeling frayed and give them space to pause, rest, and restore themselves. Remember, one way to find more time and energy when you’re hanging by a thread is to make your rope stronger! So, don’t let yourself be overwhelmed, you deserve some time to simply be.
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