Balancing Teaching & Life

I adore teaching, and I am always trying to become a better teacher. Teaching is not just my job, it’s my passion. Unfortunately, sometimes this passion is not healthy or sustainable long term. There are times – more and more in the last couple of years – when I find that I do not have a healthy balance in my life. Teaching can sometimes take over to the point that I can’t find the time to work out or make healthy eating choices. It can even undermine quality time with my sons and husband. I realize that this is NOT okay.

Last year, for the first time ever, work-related stress started to affect me physically at times – feeling tired or not sleeping well, or even feeling some low-level anxiety that made it more difficult to relax. So I am now making it a priority to ensure that I have a healthier work-life balance. I am starting 2016 with some personal goals:

Of course, I still have my professional goals. My ‘official’ professional goals this year are to:

  • develop and use rich mathematical tasks to engage and motivate students (collaborative math department goal);
  • collaborate with my geometry Professional Learning Community (PLC) to develop clear learning targets and common formative and summative assessments (PLC goal); and
  • have students more deeply engage in the assessment and reporting process in order to develop self-awareness of what they have learned and what they still need to learn.

I know that this year feels stressful and hectic since I am a part of a couple of new initiatives this year. Although both initiatives excite and inspire me, it is still a big learning curve for both! One initiative is our high school’s Innovation Institute, which is an integrated project/problem-based learning program. The first cohort – two classes of 29 students total – is in their second year of the program (grade 10). I am the grade 10 biology teacher, but I get to collaborate with 3 other subject teachers (math, history and English) in order to design learning experiences that are interconnected and require students to inquire and work together. In addition to this, I am the facilitator of the geometry PLC. PLCs at Work – as well as the incorporation of Extended Learning time for students – are new to our high school this year, and it can certainly be challenging at times during this implementation phase. While both of these initiatives are something I believe strongly in, it is a lot of work and it can be hard at times to feel unsure if we are doing the ‘right’ thing.

In light of (or perhaps despite?!) everything going on at school, I think this blog will be excellent for my professional growth. My hope is that this blog will keep me focused on what is most important to me as a teacher. I also hope that it will remind me to prioritize and be more efficient and effective so that I will always have time to put my family and myself first.

Every teacher knows that teaching is not easy. Most teachers are continually trying to improve and learn new things. Like me, many teachers worry about their students and think about work even when they are at home. It can be difficult to “turn off” or forget about a long to-do list. People who are not teachers often think that teaching is an easy job and that we are SO lucky to have so many holidays. The truth is that most teachers are incredibly hard working. Many teachers put in so many hours outside of the regular school day that they eventually burn out, or have the same problems with balance that I have been experiencing. In this situation especially, winter break or summer vacation are crucial for teachers to be able to recharge. (My recent trip to Bali was exactly what I needed  – time with my family and not thinking about work at all!) The last thing I want to do is give so much of myself to teaching that I no longer love it.

I am excited about 2016… Here’s to being the best teacher, wife and mom that I can be, while making sure that I make time to stay mentally, physically and emotional healthy!

Update: The day after I wrote this post, this article from The Guardian (Work-life balance: flexible working can make you ill) popped up in my FB newsfeed. I can only speak for my experience, but of course other professions have similar issues :/

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