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Is Work-Life Balance Possible for Educators?

Whether we're talking about elementary school teachers or professors at the university level, many educators are struggling to find work-life balance. There are some specific ways in which these jobs lend themselves to a kind of all-in approach that leaves one's personal life in the dust. Let's take a look at a few of the reasons why so many educators aren't finding their way to better work-life balance and think about potential solutions.

Whether we’re talking about elementary school teachers or professors at the university level, many educators are struggling to find work-life balance. There are some specific ways in which these jobs lend themselves to a kind of all-in approach that leaves one’s personal life in the dust. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons why so many educators aren’t finding their way to better work-life balance and think about potential solutions.

teachers

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1. There is just so much to do.

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Teaching, any subject at any level, is a lot of work. During regular business hours, teachers are busy implementing the plans they laid out after-hours. Then, once that day is done, they have to plan for the next – and don’t forget the grading work, parent contacts, professional development, etc. Regular school-day hours aren’t nearly sufficient to accomplish all the tasks an educator has to attend to, so a lot of work has to happen in the evenings and on weekends.

“If a businessman or woman is presenting to a client in any given week, how long do they spend preparing, even rehearsing the number? Hours of time is the answer, potentially even days,” wrote Sean Reid, a tutor for the University of Buckingham, in an article he wrote for The Guardian. “Yet as teachers we present like this every single day of term, with limited preparation time, with many of these presentations within one day, often consecutively. Add in the difficulty of managing an audience who are often sprightly, and sometimes uninterested, and you have a burdensome task in not just delivering your material but also in stimulating your audience. Easy work it is not.”

Dedicated teachers put a ton of effort into their plans and lessons in order to do the best they can for their students. Getting educators to pull back on the time and energy they invest in this preparation might be downright impossible given the depth of teachers’ dedication (see No. 3 on this list). Instead, schools should work to allow teachers more planning time. If teachers are to have proper work-life balance, the system should shift to support the hiring of more faculty members to lighten teachers’ time with students so that the bulk of planning and prep can be done during regular workday hours.

2. The demands versus the money.

Generally, professions that require the amount of schooling, dedication, excellence, and investment that teaching demands, also receive better compensation. When PayScale took a look at graduate degrees by salary potential, jobs in the field of education came in toward the bottom, across the board. Other myths about teachers’ pay continue to exist in our culture such as the idea that teachers don’t work many hours (actually, teachers put in an average of 53 hours a week) and that they get summers off, which isn’t exactly true. The compensation, even for veteran teachers, is subpar and it’s causing teachers to be stretched far too thin; many even take on second or third jobs to make ends meet.

If teachers earned more, it would be so much easier for them to do their jobs and find work-life balance. They could afford to get repairs done, buy what they needed at the store, turn the heat up as high as they want in the evenings, maybe even buy a house at some point – life would feel pretty different. The system needs to adjust in order for teachers to be afforded the same luxuries other professionals with their level of education and dedication enjoy.

3. Work-life balance isn’t enough of a priority within the culture of teaching.

There is one other very important reason that teachers struggle with work-life balance. In their field, it often doesn’t feel acceptable to make it a priority. Scott Warnock, associate professor of English at Drexel University, wrote a piece for The Chronicle of Higher Education about how the culture he’s observed around this issue impacts educators.

“Unlike many professions, academic life is indeed a life. It’s a calling, an essential part of you. You’ll live it for much of your waking (and, sometimes, sleeping) hours. That’s the good and bad of it. It’s not drudgery and meaninglessness. But it can eat you up. And academics are often not the kind of people who would admit that,” writes Warnock. “So talking about work-life balance? We don’t have time for that.”

Great teachers love what they do, but it’s still important that they find their way toward better work-life balance, for the sake of the longevity of their careers if nothing else. Teachers should encourage one another toward this goal more reliably and remind each other that there’s no such thing as work-life balance when all of life is about work, no matter how much they love their job.

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