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Seven Tips for Teachers Who like to Feel More in Charge of Their Time, Their Priorities and Their Life

Teachers are generally conscientious people. They are the professionals who always tend to put others’ needs before their own. They find it all too easy to engage themselves in their school duties to the detriment of their personal lives. The unfortunate combination of too many demanding responsibilities and idealistic attitude and dedication that many teachers feel about their work often result in significant stress due to a harmful work-life imbalance.

Teachers are expected by society to have an impact on students. But it’s hard to be at your best, inspiring and motivating if you were busy doing your paperwork until midnight. Being a teacher means that daily responsibilities begin early and seem never to end; it is not always easy to leave the demands of school at school. And because we are in the business of changing lives, we feel the weight of those responsibilities every workday and long after we have left the building. Teachers even take home not only their paperwork but also the emotional stuff about the day’s work. For these reasons, teaching is regarded as one of the most stressful of all career choices. It is truly a compelling and challenging profession, emotionally, mentally, and physically.

A lot of teachers are struggling to find a work/life balance. The bad news is that DepEd officials claim that the department is not the one responsible for providing work balance for their teachers. We have to accept the fact that DepEd, just like any private employers only assists the teachers to seek and maintain their work balance through their decisions, policies, and values that may support teachers in their work-life balance choices. If you feel like you are responsible for being the very best employee, spouse and sole provider for parenting, this is truly challenging, because often teachers are the single parent and sole breadwinner and they are responsible for doing it all. If you are that teacher who wants to be, or feels the need to be, the best of everything, all the time, there is surely a pressing need to learn how to juggle the demands of being in a classroom all day long and still maintain a satisfactory personal life.

While no silver bullet will help you find the perfect formula in achieving work-life balance, successful teachers who want a long-term career in education can find the following tips helpful in assessing and improving their situation overall so that they can feel more in charge of their time, their priorities and their life. Let us try to consider putting some of these suggestions by some famous mentors into practice.

Tip 1. Accept That You Cannot Do Everything All the Time

Balance does not exist when you are a wife, mother, teacher, daughter of a sick parent, etc. There is no such thing as a perfect harmonious balance. Don’t strive for the perfect schedule; aim for a realistic one. Balance is achieved over time, not each day.

“You can’t do it all,” said Heather Monahan, founder of #BossinHeels, a career mentoring group. “You can’t be the best at everything, all the time. No one can, and no one is. We will have days and times where we are killing it at work and times when things are good at home; we will also have times when home, work, love, and family are all awful simultaneously. Just remember it will not stay this way forever. It never does.”

No one can do this alone. Monahan said that if you are trying to take everything on alone, you are setting yourself up for disaster. You need to ask for help. You can ask your family for help, your friends, co-workers, boss, spouse or others. It may surprise you how many people will rise up when you call! You don’t know if you don’t ask, and suffering alone is far worse than suffering with those that care about you. Learn to seek help and delegate some of your responsibilities, but always be grateful.

Tip 2. Set Priorities

What is important to you? Your priorities will change and remain fluid through-out life, but it is important to check in with yourself from time to time. For example, if your child/children are doing well and thriving and you need to work a little extra, your life can afford you that choice at that moment. On the other hand, if your child is having nightmares, not sleeping and struggling at school, your sense to be available to him/her is correct.

Assess your current situation and amend your choices where you can. If you have been single for years because you haven’t had time to date, it is time to make that a priority. Constantly assessing where you are and where you want to go is an important part of life and business. Create goals, make them specific and constantly re-evaluate them. Life is a moving target and so are you. Balance is bullshit, but you can take control of your life when you prioritize what matters most to you at any given point in time, according to Monahan.

“Realize that no one at your company is going to love you or appreciate you the way your loved ones do,” said Monahan. “Also remember that everyone is replaceable at work, and no matter how important you think your job is, the company will not miss a beat tomorrow if you are gone.”

“Prioritizing your health first and foremost will make you a better employee and person,” said Monahan. “You will miss less work, and when you are there, you will be happier and more productive.” Moreover, your students will not thrive if their teacher is exhausted and stressed. Take good care of yourself if you want to be able to focus on caring for your students.

While your job is important, it shouldn’t be your entire life. Prioritize yourself and your health. Don’t ever take your loved ones for granted just because you know they’ll always be there for you.

Tip 3. Set a Clear Definition of Your Success

What does success look like to you? Determining this is going to help you make better decisions for your day-to-day. For some, success means getting that promotion and higher salaries, and for that person, work will always be the priority. For others, having a happy family life is second to none. For that person, it is easy to make decisions and default to your loved ones whenever they need you.

The more challenging decisions seem to lie with those of us who want to excel at work and have a full family life. Try to make sure that you are spending time and putting effort to both and prioritize as needed. It is important to know what success looks like to you so that you can prioritize your life accordingly.

Tip 4. Be the Best Version of You

Monahan suggested that if you have to be at work, be the best at work that you can be. If you find yourself taking a day off to go on a field trip for your child, be there and focus on the day trip not on what you are missing at work. Being present will help instill a feeling of being more in control of your time and your priorities!

Make the most of where you are today. Be the best version of you—wherever you are. You can’t do that if you are terrorizing yourself about being a bad mother or wife while you are at work. Then you end up distracted, and you fall down the self-loathing rabbit hole, according to Monahan. Instead, make the most of where you are right now and don’t make excuses. Once you commit to being your best self at this moment, you’ll feel more in control and more confident.

Work efficiently while you are at school. Prioritize the tasks that you must accomplish and work steadily at them. Use your planning time and any spare moment to their fullest advantage. The more you accomplish at school, the less you will have to do at home, leaving you with the time you need to enjoy life away from school.

However, we need not over exert ourselves. Julia Thompson, the author of The First-Year Teacher’s Survival Guide (4th Edition), suggested that we need to learn to pace our instruction to allow for some less intense teaching periods. We should not be “on” day after day. Instead, we need to allow our students time for independent work, small-group work, or even such activities as viewing films related to the subject under study.

Have an opening routine that your students can do independently. This will free you to make the mental, emotional, and physical switch from one group of students or from one content area to another.

Planning our responses to unpleasant situations will prevent many problems. Situations that you should think about before you act include dealing with incomplete homework assignments, angry parents, defiant students, cheating incidents, tardy students, and other frequent classroom disruptions.

Reflect on the positive things that happen at school. When it comes time for that important self-reflection, be sure to think about the positive things that happen each day. Focusing on your strengths and your successes are just as important as improving weaknesses and correcting mistakes.

Tip 5. Get Clear on Your Passion and Pursue It

Figure out your passion, and chase it. If you incorporate what is important to you in your life, it will make your challenges more pleasant. Spend time thinking about what you love to do if money wasn’t an issue. Passions could be writing, painting or spending time with children. When you make it a part of your life, you’ll feel more fulfilled and whole as a person, and this will make everything else in your life better.

You may also join riders club or walking buddies, hobby, or something else that starts one to two hours after the school day ends, at least two days a week. It will help you prioritize what needs to get done. Staying at school too long can lead to poor time management because you feel like you have forever to accomplish things. It can also lead to burnout. — Margaret R. Scheirer

While your job is important, it shouldn’t be your entire life. You were an individual before taking this position, and you should prioritize the activities or hobbies that made you happy.

Tip 6. Join Personal Learning Network

Thompson suggested that teachers need to put together a network of supportive and positive people who can help them. Being connected to others is an important way to avoid the stress that can make every day miserable. Supportive colleagues can help you figure out the solutions you need.

Even though you will probably be assigned an official mentor, you can learn a great deal from other colleagues as well. If you look around your school, you’ll find an organized teacher or two who can serve as role models when it comes to productivity. You will find someone who is masterful at dealing with upset parents or who can make even the most disruptive student remain focused and on task. Soon you will see that role models for just about every aspect of your school life are all around you if you take the time to look and learn.

Many teachers also use social media to create a personal learning network. It is simply a way for individuals to use social media like the TeacherPH community to connect with other educators to collaborate, share ideas and explore common professional interests. The whole community members here are also willing to offer personal and educational advice about the challenges encountered by the Filipino classroom teachers.

Tip 7. Take Vacations! You Deserve It

According to Monahan, the people that are out vacationing and detaching from work are the smart ones; they come back ready to engage, feeling invigorated and creative. Those that do not make vacation too often feel burnt out and resentful. Taking that time to unwind is critical to success and will help you feel more energized when you’re on the clock.

Make time to be with your loved ones away from work. Completely detach. Make memories you will never forget. Vacation also helps your state of mind by giving you and your family something to look forward to. It doesn’t have to be an elaborate trip; it just has to be time with the people that mean the most to you. Vacation is not something that’s ‘given’ to you. You take it because you deserve it. And you should never feel guilty about it.

Always have something to look forward to. Make a point of planning a weekend excursion or an outing with family and friends or even setting aside time to work on a hobby. Looking forward to something pleasant in the future will help you maintain your composure in the present.

Final Words

Don’t forget that your profession is only one part of a rewarding and busy life. If you find that you are spending too much time at school or worrying about school after you have left for the day, then it’s time to take steps to manage that school-induced stress, if a transfer or grievance machinery has not changed anything.

While we chose a very demanding profession, it should never become a priority over our total well-being. We need time and energy for our family and loved ones, for our hobbies and interests. Each of us needs to find our path to work-life balance. The key is to maintain a combination of flexibility and determination. And of course, teachers need to learn when to say “No” to unreasonable demands.

Featured Photo by Simon Migaj on Unsplash

Margarita Lucero Galias

Margarita L. Galias began her career in education as a high school math and physics teacher in Immanuel Lutheran High School in Malabon City and Manila Central University, Caloocan City before serving as a public school teacher in Sorsogon City in 1995. She was a university scholar and graduated cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in Education, major in Math-Physics from De La Salle Araneta University. She also holds a master’s degree in Management, major in Administration and Supervision from Sorsogon State College. She is now currently employed in Mercedes B. Peralta Senior High School as a classroom teacher and a guidance counselor designate.

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