Creating a Life-Work Balance as a New Teacher
by Amanda L. Smith
Sometimes we’re asked the question, “How hard can teaching really be?” which is often followed with comments like, “I mean, you only have a seven-hour day, and part of that is lunch, recess, and a prep period…and you get tons of holiday breaks, and summers!” These sorts of questions and statements demonstrate that the public doesn’t truly understand the extensive workload that we take home with us each night. Teachers know that we often spend long hours of our weekends with lesson planning, grading papers, and making phone calls and emails to parents, etc. We also have workshops and meetings to attend, committees to serve on, after-school tutoring for our struggling students, detentions to monitor at lunch, grants to write for new technology, and discipline issues to document. With all of these responsibilities, it’s too easy to forget to take care of ourselves.
I was (and still am) guilty of not spending enough quality time with my family and friends, but it is getting easier the longer that I am in the teaching profession. I often find myself sitting at home on a Friday night, thinking that if I went out to dinner or to see a movie that I would feel guilty for not being at home and grading papers, or writing lesson plans. But, on the other hand, I also know I should be taking myself out or spending time with my friends and family. Even though I know that it is not unprofessional to have a life outside of school, and be kind to myself, in general, that feeling of guilt still sits firmly within me. As I thought about what advice I could give to new teachers to help them reconcile the two, several things came to mind.
First and perhaps foremost, I also know that I need to make sure to look after my health. No matter how many years we have been in the classroom, teachers still get illnesses and injuries just like everyone else. With all the long hours on our feet, climbing staircases, sitting under air-conditioned vents, staying up late grading papers, and being around children with illnesses, it is very easy for our immune system to become run-down. I have to continually remind myself to get plenty of sleep, which may include winding down sooner in the evening and doing less work at home. Even though many of us feel compelled go into the classroom even while ill, we are much more effective when we are feeling our best.
Another great idea is to try to create designated time for your hobbies, even if it is something simple like reading a book. Not everyone is an adrenaline “junky” like me, but without my occasional SCUBA dive in the local ocean, an afternoon kayak, or a trip to the amusement park, I wouldn’t feel like “me.” Whether or not you knit, Sudoku, play chess, take road trips, go dancing, or bake, making time for the things that we love to do makes us healthier and happy in both our personal and professional lives.
In order to help you develop your “me time”, there are many things you can do for yourself and with your workload. Here are some specific ideas:
- Say “no” and mean it. Saying “yes” too often can impact our ability to get everything done that we need to, for our classroom, and for ourselves.
- Help out a colleague, so they can help you in return. The “you scratch my back and I will scratch yours” philosophy can be helpful in reducing tasks, such as photocopying.
- Learn to delegate. Students in your classroom can be useful at helping with simple tasks, such as collecting papers, feeding classroom pets, and organizing books.
- Don’t procrastinate. Sometimes just getting something out of the way now is better than letting it pile up to do later.
- Only take as much work home as you know you can handle. Often I find myself staring at large piles of papers to grade, and it becomes so daunting and unappealing that I end up doing less than I might have if I took it home in smaller stacks.
- Social time with colleagues. Going out to dinner or to grab an after work cup of coffee can really help you “blow off steam”, decompress, and talk through your problems.
- And lastly, smile. I know that we all have our good days and bad days, but smiling even when you are sad, or angry, can actually help reprogram your brain to feel better.
by Michelle French
Since the public reviews of the Next Generation Science Standards have come to a close, like many primary teachers, I’ve been wondering what science will look like in kindergarten, first, and second grade classrooms. Learn More…
“SOL Grotto, 2012. 1368 glass tubes, paint. Fabrication: Matarozzi Pelsinger, Rael San Fratello Architects. SOL Grotto is a contemporary take on a grotto or Throeau’s cabin – a spartan retreat that is a space of solitude and close to nature – where one is presented with a mediated experience of water, coolness and light. The SOL Grotto also explores Solyndra’s role as a company S#@t Out of Luck. 1,368 of the 24 million high tech glass tubes destined to be destroyed as a casualty of their bankruptcy, are used in the installation. The tube’s original role as a light concentrating element is extended to transmit cool air into the space via the Venturi effect, to amplify sounds from the adjacent waterfall via the vibrations of the tubes cantilevering over the creek, and to create distorted views of the garden. The form of the electric blue array evokes Plato’s Allegory of the Cave where shadows, light and sounds can call reality into question.”
Responses from Readers:
Peter A’Hearn: Rush hour in little blue circle land.
by Valerie Joyner
Congratulations to CSTA member and STEM Educator, Katherine Schenkelberg, of West High School, in Torrance, CA! Katherine was recently awarded one of the 2013 Vernier/NSTA Technology Awards. An appointed panel of experts selected her for her innovative use of data-collection technology. “The use of data-collection technology in the classroom helps foster students’ interest in STEM education and provides them with engaging, hands-on opportunities for scientific investigation,” said David Vernier, co-founder of Vernier and a former physics teacher. “For ten years Vernier and NSTA have recognized innovative STEM educators through this award and this year’s winners are no exception – their projects and programs truly utilize the power of data-collection technology as part of the teaching and learning process.” Learn More…
by Tim Williamson
Members of the California Science Teachers Association are now in the process of voting for qualified CSTA members to fill the seven openings on the CSTA Board of Directors for the 2013-2015 term.
The election is being conducted electronically and opened for voting on April 16, 2013. Voting will close on May 16, 2013. All CSTA members were sent links to the online ballot. Members for whom we do not have current email addresses or who request a paper ballot have been mailed a ballot and candidate statements. Learn More…