Teacher Work-Life Balance

“Teaching is an emotional practice: it activates, colors & expresses people’s feelings.”
-Attributed to Andy Hargreaves

As you read this article, please consider what you believe to be normal or acceptable in regards to the amount of work done at home.

Retrieved from http://www.maverickstella.com.au/#!The-balance-in-worklife/c218b/553029f50cf2784deabf19d3 23/11/15 Originally written by Scott Adams.

Last week was an incredibly topsy-turvy week, professionally, for me. I went from feeling overwhelmed and time-poor, to a day of ups and downs, to finishing off my teaching week with a Eureka moment for a student that brought a genuine smile to my face. I spent quite a significant amount of time thinking about this issue last week. As a young teacher and husband, I need to get the work-life balance issue sorted out in some fashion as I do not want to be struggling with this in the same way that I am currently when the family starts arriving (and no, that is not a pregnancy announcement).

The ever-helpful and patient Corrine Campbell (@corisel) reached out and we arranged to have an actual voice-to-voice conversation over the phone, where we would not be restricted to one hundred forty character thought-bites. I spent nearly an hour and a half speaking with Corinne, getting to know a bit more about each other, learning about each other’s journey through the work-life balance minefield, discussing strategies that Corinne either uses or knows people who use them to help manage work-life balance and find the corners that can be cut and the responsibilities that can be dropped without any adverse impacts, and it was useful, very useful.

Retrieved from https://www.flickr.com/photos/segfault/15752766 on 23/11/15 Originally written by Scott Adams

We worked a few things out. Most of the time spent outside of school hours working on what I place in the school work box is only indirectly related to school insofar as it is part of my personal teaching identity and who I am and want to be as an open-source teacher; these blog articles, the FTPL videos, some research I am in the process of working on, reading for professional development, Twitter chats and TeachMeets are all things that take up a significant amount of time, which I am not required to do, that I am adding onto my plate willingly.

One of the strategies that Corinne mentioned was the setting of hard boundaries vis-a-vis when work stops and personal time begins. I find it very easy to spend a whole weekend in front of the computer as Mrs. C21st works Saturdays and every second Sunday (her weekend is Monday and Tuesday), and I often continue working when she arrives home. My new boundary is now 3 pm on Saturday when I know she finishes. This gives me an hour to switch off from work and to make sure than any housework I have not completed gets done. In addition to this, I am wiping Sunday from the roster and keeping it as a personal day. On those days when Mrs. C21st works, I will use it to get things done around the house, or just to unwind and relax, and on the Sundays that she has off, we will get to spend some time together and visiting friends.

Retrieved from http://wowpersonalconcierge.com/us-women-entrepreneurs-motivated-work-life-balance/work-life-balance/ 23/11/15

It did feel a bit odd putting that into practice this weekend just gone, but I do feel better for it. I spent Sunday cycling between Star Wars: The Old Republic, FIFA16 and Star Wars: Battlefront, as well as getting housework done and dinner ready. Mrs. C21st and I went to a friends for dinner and a swim on Friday night, another no-work timeslot in the future.

I do still need to reduce the load, however. As there is no point reducing the time spent working if the workload is not also reduced. To that end, I will not be continuing the book review series for the time being. As much as it is useful for me professionally (and hopefully for some of my readers as well), I do not have the time to read in depth, make notes and then write an article each week. I do want to come to resent writing these articles, as I do find the process useful for reflection, however in order to prevent that, I need to cut something.

Retrieved from http://www.wrightexecutive.com.au/would-you-pass-the-work-life-balance-test/ on 23/11/15

I will not be replacing it with anything, Tuesday’s will remain an empty slot. I will be maintaining the current schedule of an FTPL video on Monday afternoon, and then other articles Wednesday and Thursday, however that, from what I gather, is still significantly higher workload than some others in my PLN. That said, if there is somethign going on or that has happened then I will use the Tuesday slot.

I do still believe that we (teachers) need to engage in a dialogue about work-life balance and examine why it is considered normal or acceptable to work as much as what I know many teachers do, and I would appreciate your thoughts on this topic in the comments section.

 Read the previous article in this series here.

The moments that remind you why you teach.

“I am indebted to my father for living, but to my teacher for living well.”
– Attributed to Alexander the Great

Recently I wrote an article talking about the issue of teacher work-life balance, and my current lack thereof. It has generated some interesting discussions and I have had some helpful conversations with members of my PLN who have reached out, for which I am grateful. It seems that the conversations I have had face-to-face where it has been indicated that the hours I keep currently are somewhat normal have been somewhat supported by conversations on Twitter.

A conversation with one Tweacher indicated they kept similarish hours to myself vis-a-vis time spent at school but allowed a longer break between the end of the school day and resuming work at home, and with more frequent breaks over the weekend when working at home. Another Tweacher noted that for them, involvement with professional associations and Twitter allowed them to blend their social life with their educational life, acknowledging that  they were unsure if this constituted having a work-life balance.

When I first began this blog, I wrote about why I teach and why I joined the teaching profession in a time when there is intense scrutiny of men professing a desire to work with children and men are seemingly avoiding the teaching profession. In my own Initial Teacher Education (ITE) cohort, there were perhaps only ten of us out of around one hundred and fifty.

Despite how I was feeling in general, I was still excited to be in the classroom. I have some great things going on with my students, particularly my Stage Three classes and this morning reinforced that. I had one of my Stage Three classes, and we have been learning about the Cornell note-taking strategy. To be able to take good quality notes is a very handy skill and something that I wish I had had in high school, or even in my first two years at university.


I was open about that, as well. I showed them some of my notes from a first-year course and we talked about what was wrong with them and why those notes were not as helpful as they could be. We then talked about the projects that they had completed that year with their classroom teacher and the research they did as part of that and how having useful notes would have made things easier.

I have been really proud of the way they have engaged with the learning process for this topic. We have spent a considerable amount of time practicing using the strategy and are now at the point where it is time to wrap the unit up with a summative assessment task.

Part of my professional development recently has included conversations about student choice, prompted, I think, by a comment that Jon Bergmann made during one of his keynotes at FlipConAus recently when he asked the audience “Why do we make our students demonstrate what they learned by making them take a test?”

I had heard something similar previously, though I cannot recall where, and I decided to try it out. So I had a conversation with each of my Stage Three classes and asked them “what do you want to do to demonstrate to me that you know how to use and can use the Cornell note-taking strategy on your own?” We discussed that, and then I asked them “what does success look like in your chosen strategy?” which prompted a conversation about what would be expected in each method that demonstrates understanding. The students loved it and were genuinely engaged with the process of developing their assignments.

It was a “so this is why I teach” moment for me. The students were genuinely engaged, poring through the notes they had taken as we learned about Cornell note-taking together to help them put together their own demonstration. Some of my students were filming a video where they explained it and then demonstrated how it was used, some of my students chose to take some notes on a self-chosen topic and submit those with annotations, and some have chosen to put together a powerpoint presentation. There was creation, there was analysing, there was collaboration, group work, individual work, peer support as one of a more advanced students worked closely with a student who required some additional support, going through the same steps that I would have to support the students. I was cheering inside.

I told the students this during the session-end reflections. I also asked them how they felt about being able to direct their own learning in this way and as a whole group, they felt empowered to own their learning and show off what they actually knew in different ways, rather than in the same way as everyone else.

It was a great morning.

Then things returned to Earth and I ended up wandering down to our Deputy Principal’s office and asking her for some advice on an incident, which in and of itself, was very minor, but which in the larger picture of the students involved could merely be a stepping stone to something larger.

The afternoon was much better, I had another Stage Three class, who are one session away from finishing the current unit of work, after which I have said we will explore green screen technology using VeeScope Live.

Oh, the roller coaster of teaching! I wonder if students are truly aware of their impact on us, as teachers.

Some Thoughts and Reflections on Teacher Well-being and Work-Life Balance

“Taking care of your mental and physical health is just as important as any career move or responsibility.”
– Attributed to Mireille Guiliano

Work-life balance is an issue that we have been hearing more and more about over the last decade (see here and here), particularly with the now ubiquitous nature of smart phones and the resultant implications on the ability for you to check your work e-mail, do that report, respond to that request etc, anywhere. you can It is rather telling that there are now websites dedicated to providing tips about managing your work-life balance. It is a topic that often comes up amongst the education chats on Twitter (for example #teacherlife or #teacherwellbeing). Given the apparent teacher crisis, the media seems to change its mind every other day as to whether there is one or not, teacher work-life balance needs to be addressed as part of the larger discussion about the education sector.

Created by @Mr_J_Alexander Retrieved from http://edutweetoz.org/2013/06/09/you-teachers-must-love-having-an-easy-9-3-job/ 16/11/15

The above drawing by Joel Alexander is very accurate and a now expected part of teaching. I arrive at school, most days, at around 7:15 each morning, and I am not the first one to arrive. I leave between 4:00 and 4:30 each afternoon, and am not the last to leave. During a conversation in the staffroom today I heard someone relate that when they were a Teaching-Principal, they were only allotted two hours a day to run the school. As a consequence this person indicated they arrived at school at 6:00 am and left at 8:00 pm Monday to Friday and then went in and worked from 11:00 am until 6:00 pm on Sundays to get ready for the week. That was the most extreme, but far from the only story relating similar horrid hours. This is not healthy. This is not good for the mental, physical, social or family life of the teacher, and this kind of overwork would certainly have a deleterious impact on the students.

How do we address this? How do we change this culture where it is expected that you are at school for around nine hours each day, and then spend another two to three hours at home working in the evening, as well as work on the weekends? I know that now that the football (soccer) season is over, I spend the weekend working on marking, lesson preparation, recording FTPL videos for colleagues, researching and planning for next year while Mrs C21st is at work (her weekend is Monday and Tuesday).

This weekend just gone Mrs C21st and I had some family and social events planned. A cousins twenty-first birthday (nineties themed, it was fantastic!) in Sydney on Saturday night, and then catching up with some friends on Sunday for brunch and then lunch. I was really excited about the cousins birthday as his parents are my Godparents, and I have always been close to them, and it was a good chance to catch up with them and some family at the same time. It was a great night, and I was not the only Woody from Toy Story, but I was definitely the best Woody. It was also the first time that Mrs C21st and I have done a couples-costume, with her going as Jesse. We left home at around 5.30 pm to get there on time and it was well after midnight when we got home.

Just a casual Saturday night 90s themed party. Awesome music. Can't wait for singstar later in. #fun #family #

A photo posted by Brendan Mitchell (@mremsclass) on

Sunday morning we had arranged to catch up with friend for brunch and spent a few hours there chatting with her and her husband and laughing at their daughters  antics (she is right into magic at the moment). Now it was great catching up, but the friends is also a teacher and we all know what happens when two or more teachers get together. Lunch was with another couple and it was late afternoon before we left there, though it was fantastic to spend some time with them, especially as it was pouring rain all afternoon.

I enjoyed the weekend with friends and family, and felt tired but relaxed….and guilty. I spent Saturday before going to my cousin’s house working on a job application, before which I spent an hour involved in the #satchatoc Twitter chat, and so got nothing done for this week. When we got home on Sunday evening, I jumped straight back into working on the application. I failed to get an FTPL video done for this week, to get the next chapter of Invent to Learn read and a review article written, and I have a Stage Meeting tomorrow and I have not done the assigned reading for that.

I have noticed in the last few weeks with the bad weather that I have not been exercising as much as normal, and I know that has had a negative impact on my general health and motivation levels. I decided today, that even though I had things I needed to do, that it was more important for me to go and exercise, so I did. I feel better for it, I know I will sleep better tonight, but I still feel guilty for not getting things done for school.

I have essentially been told by many that it is the norm to put in the hours that I am, especially given that I am in the early stage of my career. This is not sustainable. Something will give. I cannot maintain sixty hours a week for another forty years…I do not think I can maintain it for another five years. I miss spending time with my friends and family. I miss just sitting on the couch with Mrs C21st and chatting about our day. I do not enjoy being folded up in my office chair for so long, but feel that I must in order to keep up with everything that needs doing.

Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/paula-davislaack/job-burnout_b_3530660.html?ir=Australia 16/11/15

All of that said, I will wake up tomorrow, and will be excited to be in the classroom, will be giving my classes the best learning that I am able to do, and will be happy to be doing it. I would very much love to hear from other teachers about how they deal with this issue. I am not sure if I am just too busy, if my time management skills are not up to par, if I am focusing on the wrong things or where my problem lies. But I need help paring things back to a manageable level.