6 Ways To Achieve Work-Life Balance As a Teacher
This article was written by Ben Kissam — a middle school teacher and high-performance coach. He helps professionals achieve goals, perform better, and find work-life balance. Check him out on his website.
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*This article was written by a guest author. It has not been vetted or endorsed by Bored Teachers' editorial staff.*
1. Stay on summer vacation the whole year.
“I don’t want to hear them complain about how hard teaching is, I don’t get my summers off!”
People in other fields like to knock teachers because we get our summers off. Why not take it a step further? Work-life balance is all about staying present and finding the little moments in your day to take a vacation.
Bring your vacation to school. Teach your morning lessons from a beach chair. Make fancy coffee drinks and let out a notable “aaaaah” while your kids popcorn read. Use a fan just strong enough to blow the students in the first row’s papers off the desk when it circulates.
Slow things down. Oh, and teach outside whenever possible. Get that tan game strong.
2. Hydrate excessively.
“Man, Mr. K must really have a small bladder.”
Staying hydrated is a great way to increase your energy, elevate your mood, and keep your body feeling healthy.
It’s also the perfect excuse to get a little personal life time in during your school day. Make it a goal each day to drink a gallon of water right before lunch, and then go to the bathroom 6 times between noon and last bell.
In fact, your ultimate goal should be to become hydration buddies with the teacher next door. The bathroom can become a little sanctuary for you both, and no one else ever has to be the wiser. She’ll watch your kids while you scroll through Pinterest pretending to wash your hands for the second time, and you’ll return the favor.
3. Stop caring so much
“Why is she still doing this if she doesn’t care anymore?”
As a young teacher, I was always quick to judge the 30-year veteran teacher that looks like she, well, quite frankly, had packed it in and was counting the days until retirement.
But after year three, I realized something. At one point, she was me. She was the young, energetic teacher committed to changing the world one student at a time. Then she woke up one day and realized, as important as teaching is, it’s a job like anything else. Knowing when to care enough to step in and when to let things play out on their own is the key to longevity in this career.
Become a steward of the energy you expend. Really pick your battles. Dylan licked Michael again? Well Michael, that kind of sounds like a ‘you’ problem to me. One of your middle school girls freaked out because another girl looked at her funny? If that gets you riled up sweetheart, high school’s going to be pretty tough for you.
Justify your lack of action as your approach for teaching kids to be more ‘street smart’. Say things like “I’m just preparing them for the real world.”
4. Craft masterful lesson plans in anticipation of your “sick” days.
“You have the flu, huh? Didn’t you post a picture at a Super Bowl party on Instagram at midnight?
No one can get mad if your kids are learning. Who cares if you’re in the school when it’s happening? Before the year starts, identify 3 days this year where you will be struck down with the worst illness of your life. Look over your unit plans and figure out what you’ll roughly be teaching at that point in the year, and spend a few hours crafting the greatest sub plans ever written.
Those sub plans will feel like a warm blanket on the particularly difficult days of school. They’re ready and waiting, whenever you need them.
If you like drinking green beer on St. Patrick’s day, or taking long weekends during testing season, this is your moment. Let Ms. Peters deal with those animals tomorrow. This is about you and your dreams, even if you have a massive headache and end up watching season 2-6 of It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia on your couch all day.
Oh, and a pro tip: you’ll probably want to limit this to only 3 days, because in all likelihood, your school could double as a giant petri dish, and you’ll probably need to save the other sick days for when you’re actually sick.
5. Act incompetent or weird at all school extracurricular school functions.
“I want to come to the school play that doesn’t end until 10pm on Friday night, but you know I’m never good at that kind of thing.”
Remember that old scheme? Be so bad at what you’re being asked to do that people stop asking you to do it. Dad’s not going to ask you to mow the lawn anymore if you carve a mullet into the backyard. It’s one of the oldest tricks in the book.
Apply this to any activity that exists outside of your teacher contract. Be so incompetent and uncomfortable in the presence of others that people stop asking you to do any more than you’re obligated to. Let all the other “all-stars” on staff duke it out for the positions offering stipends that average out to roughly $8.25/hour before taxes. Sit back and revel in the fact that you’re the only teacher that’s home sitting by the pool at 4pm everyday.
And if being incompetent doesn’t work, play dirty. Be weird instead.
The athletic director asked you to coach a sports team? Wear basketball shorts from the 80’s and excessively blow your whistle on team bus rides. Spend 90% of practice doing team-building and trust exercises that involve a lot of personal reflection. Grow a playoff beard during the regular season and refuse to shave it even after you’ve lost a few games.
The principal needs volunteers to tutor after school? Make it known that you have a ferret named Beans at home that gets cranky if you’re late for his 5pm walk. Tell her you can’t make tutoring work right now with your schedule because you’re the acting president for your hotly debated alternative lifestyle group.
Whatever you choose to go with, make sure it’s something odd enough that the next time they need someone to stay after school, your name is one of the first to be removed from the list of potential candidates. What you do with your free time is your time, and they’ll want to keep it that way.
6. Establish absurd “progressive” teaching methods, and use them the week leading up to all school breaks.
“I learned this teaching method during undergrad at my private liberal arts college.”
Let’s be honest- kids don’t learn anything the week leading up to break anyway. You might as well cut bait and hit this one head on. You can effectively double your vacation time each year by treating the weeks before school break as a week where you won’t be doing any of the teaching.
Instead of preparing lessons for the kids, run a series of social experiments throughout the week. If anyone asks, tell your colleagues it’s a “progressive teaching” method you learned in college. On day 1, declare one of your most trustworthy students as classroom president. Tell them you are merely there to observe, and that you’ll be behind your desk if the president can’t handle the task at hand.
Proceed to assign individual roles to your kids and give them an assignment that requires them to work together and function as a microcosm of society. Be sure to pick their roles based on their strengths and weaknesses. Don’t be afraid of hurt feelings. This is a good opportunity for your students to learn that not everyone can be president. Enough ditch digging, and your D+ students might show up after winter break with a little more intrinsic motivation to get their work done.
Done correctly, your classroom will resemble a scene from Lord of the Flies by Wednesday afternoon. Put out teasers the entire week that at the end of the week you’ll reveal what they’ve done all of this for, only to run out of time right as final bell rings on Friday afternoon.
No one will remember what happened by the time they get back from break, and you’ll have some extra time to get last minute Christmas shopping while chaos ensues around you. It’s a win-win for all parties involved.
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