Teachers, help yourself stay ship-shape during a storm: Four tips to balance life changes while teaching full time

Have you ever gone through a period of your teaching career where the home/work balance was way off-kilter? Maybe you were trying to enter the teaching profession after welcoming a new baby or were trying to teach while planning a move. Like so many other teachers, I’ve been through this too. Finding the joy in teaching while your personal life is in chaos or upheaval can be a struggle, but there are ways to make it more tolerable and maintain your high expectations for teaching and learning in your classroom. 

Here are a few tips to help you stay afloat:

  1. Lean on your crew family, friends, and colleagues. My family is moving to a town with a naval base this summer, so I couldn’t resist a sailing theme. So many teachers suffer from a similar malady: we hate to ask for help. When you are anticipating changes in your life, that is the perfect time to ask your peers for support. Share some of the stress of supporting a student in crisis with another classmate by offering the student a “chillax pass: to a teammate’s classroom. Take a lunchtime walk and talk about a soapy t.v. series you’re streaming. Find a way to share the load with a peer to bring your stress level down.
  2. Row with the flow & surrender to what you can’t control. This is just a truth about life: It goes on. Recently a friend said to me, “Do you think you will find a teaching position in your new town?” In an unusually introspective moment I replied, “I either will or I won’t. I’m just rolling with it!” While we can always do things to prepare ourselves, such as making sure to write a strong cover letter or soliciting those letters of recommendation early, there is only so much of our future that is in our hands. This can also apply to helping students. Some days their needs seem to reach a fever pitch. Take a deep breath, support that student in having a safe space, and know that this moment will pass.
  3. Stay shipshape: Get organized, keep up your routines, and reinforce your best habits. When I’m stressed, I’m more likely to allow certain healthy habits to slack off in the name of balance. In reality, I generally move too far toward the unhealthy, forgoing a workout for some extra time scrolling through Instagram. Check in with your fave accountability partner and set goals for the number of workouts or walks you will do this week. Spend Sunday afternoon prepping some healthy lunches.
  4. Take shore leave: Take your days off when needed. For the first third of my teaching career, I was convinced that I didn’t deserve to take a day off, and was amazing by my colleagues who would plan a “mental health” day monthly. During the last several months, I have consciously fit in some days off and created engaging sub plans for my favorite, reliable substitute teachers. Taking time for yourself will make a positive impact on your students, particularly if you come back to school refreshed and ready to engage with teaching and learning.

Teaching is a caring profession. This means that you, the educator, deserve support and love when life is stressful. Use these tips to navigate the storm while teaching full-time.

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