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Maintaining a Healthy Work-Life Balance as an Educator

ISTA member and Early Career Educator Ambassador, Gianna Mirowski, submitted this piece for the ISTA blog.

The biggest myth I had to burst during my first year of teaching was: the more time you spend in the classroom, the better teacher you become. I took this myth by the horns and thought I was going to be the best educator out there.

I arrived to school when the sun came up and by the time I left to go home, it was way past sundown. I also spent every weekend in my classroom. I thought I was the most prepared, the most dedicated and the most ambitious teacher. Turns out, I was the most burnt out. While I was giving my all to my school and my students, I wasn’t leaving anything for myself. My entire life revolved around work.

I missed birthday parties, family movie nights, date nights, and most importantly, I missed myself. The biggest lesson I learned was, the classroom will always be there waiting for you, but memories and time spent with loved ones will not. While I know you are dedicated to being the best educator for your students, do not lose yourself along the way. Just like the saying says, “you cannot pour from an empty cup”.

Here are some ways that I refilled my cup after a full year of drought:

First, I started every single day with a to do list and I gave myself a “curfew” for work. No matter what I was doing, I left by 4 p.m. This gave me one hour after school to complete my list. If I finished my list before 4 p.m., I left at the completion of the list. If I was not finished by 4 p.m., the remaining items rolled over into the to do list on the following day. By mapping out what I wanted to accomplish, I was able to be more intentional with my time, and I knew I would not spend more hours than necessary to get it done.

Next, I removed work emails off my personal phone. With emails being connected to my phone, I was always accessible. Occasionally, I will check emails from the browser of my phone, but I am no longer notified of incoming emails when I am “off the clock”.

Lastly, I set time perimeters on my ClassDojo account. Before, I would respond to a parent whenever I got a message or concern, whether in the middle of dinner with my husband, or while running errands. I was always available. Now, my ClassDojo is on silent between the hours of 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. The messages will come through, but parents are notified that I may not respond until school begins the following day.

All in all, I’ve learned that to be the best educator for your school and your students, you need to be the best you.