Teacher-life balance - students, social-life and selfcare
Burnout. It is a dirty word in education circles and not often readily acknowledged by management, rather stating that ‘the relevant teacher is taking some time-off for personal reasons’. Being so overworked or stressed out that you can no longer function is a difficult situation to accept, but the reality for many in the teaching profession.
Some may ask why we have this issue when "you get so many days off a year"... Yes, but we need them for recovery… and we don't get to choose those days either. Sadly, they are set in stone to the most expensive times to travel, despite teacher wages often being lower than many other professions, but a very necessary and important part of societal needs.
For me, teaching is hard because it's a job, a profession, where we give so much for our students. You have people you care about in your job and you support them with everything you have and sometimes even more than you thought you could. It's a risky endeavour being a teacher, but often a challenge I think most of us enjoy, but burnout is prevalent and real and we should consider it.
So how can we deal with this from our side of things rather than waiting for management to take charge and press for real change? I would suggest starting with self-care. In the past, before I was a father and during covid, I had time to work 6, maybe 6.5 days a week, with my teaching practice constantly ticking away in the back of my mind.
This was not a healthy method of working, but helped me find my feet in the profession and during my early years. If I had children of my own, I could NOT have done this. Thankfully at the time I did not.
Writing this is a rather personal endeavor, but one I feel many teachers can relate to about time management and the sacrifices we make as teachers. Teaching is a career that provides a great sense of purpose, stability with constant demand and incredible relationships that can sometimes last a lifetime.
One thing I can suggest is that teachers can - and should - leverage other teachers. Whether it is in the form of supporting each other within faculties, in the staffroom or informal mentoring from leadership. Sharing good ideas is great for everyone. Even for those without a good culture of sharing and support, there is always teachers pay teachers or TES or similar teacher marketplaces where for small amounts you can really take the pressure off yourself to prep relevant and useful resources for the year (and beyond). This is particularly good if your school or even school district has a budget for you to buy and support yourself and small teacher businesses with money for resources.
Another that is perhaps controversial is to be a decent teacher… not a great or exemplary teacher, but a good, decent teacher. You do this because you want to also be a decent husband (or wife), father (or mother), son (or daughter) as the case may be. You can't be all things to all people and despite what management might tell you. Teaching IS a job, you are paid to do it, but not paid to do overtime, extra marking, planning, activity development, curriculum building etc. So we do our job and support the kids, but only within the boundaries of also letting our personal life come first.
Some may disagree with me and I appreciate it is not the same for everyone, but for me with a very active toddler and an amazing wife to spend time with and appreciate. I can't be an amazing teacher and an amazing husband and father at the same time. For my personal journey, I'll do my best to improve in all areas, but I know which titles I cherish most and it's not the names I am paid for. The point is pretty clear and hopefully it resonates with some of you. Particularly early teachers or those with young families. Self-care first, so you can for others afterwards.
I hope that this blog post has reminded you of your own priorities and has perhaps given you again the permission to take care of yourself so that you can be a good teacher. As far as I can see, we need all the good, caring and kind professionals that we can get in this career. The best of us are those who care for ourselves first and everyone else second so that we can be there for everyone when they need us.
Thanks for reading.
Cheers and stay curious
Oliver - The Teaching Astrophysicist
(Note: This blog post was NOT generated by AI and is conceived, typed and uploaded by a real person.)