Over the past week I had two very dear friends reach out to me informing me they are leaving their profession.  Any ideas what their career was?  You got it….they are both teachers!

Upon counseling both of them, I discovered a common theme, neither of them had balance in their life!

My best friend from college stated that she knew she had to leave the field when a week ago her whole family (husband, 2 kids and baby number 3 on the way) all had the flu and she was off to work to administer the NWEA MAP assessment to her second grade class. She said she realized at that point something was off in her life.

My other friend currently job shares and discovered her job share would not be granted again next year.  She stated that she would rather work a job that was 12 months and loose her summers off than kill herself over the course of 10 months.  She states that within the 10 months of teaching she is so exhausted at the end of the day she feels like she can’t enjoy her family, plus she commutes an hour each way to work so she leaves her house at 6:15 each day and doesn’t get home till 5-5:30.  

As they were talking to me my heart broke, here are two amazing educators leaving the field due to, in my opinion, avoidable circumstances.  Yet here I am at 4:30 in the morning typing away because I didn’t want to take time away from my family to write.  I would rather get up 2 and a half hours early (which if you know me is a HUGE deal because I am NOT a morning person) than take time away from my family to write.  I will sacrifice my own personal well being so my students and family don’t have to be impacted by my career….sound familiar?  

There are thousands of us out here, we want to be everything for everyone.  As I continued to research and think about teacher burnout in Kane County I started to reflect on the breakout sessions for institute day that filled up the fastest….guess what….a grand majority of them focused on teachers’ well-being and taking time for oneself: Yoga for teachers, Monkey Mind, & Compassion Fatigue were some of the most sought after sessions that teachers wanted to attend this year for institute day.  I am also reminded of a conversation I recently had with many of our districts leaders about what do we do first: Check our email or get out of bed?

“We have a very high attrition rate in the United States: 8 percent of teachers leave every year. That’s a couple-hundred-thousand teachers. Less than a third of them are leaving for retirement.”(Westervelt, Eric. “Frustration. Burnout. Attrition. It’s Time To Address The National Teacher Shortage.” NPR. NPR, 15 Sept. 2016. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.)

A couple-hundred-thousand teachers??  We, as educators, are burnt out!  Especially with assessment season approaching it is imperative that we take time for ourselves and our families so that we don’t fall into the 8 percent that leave our amazing profession!  

Here are 6 Tips for a Better Work-Life Balance

  1. Let go of perfectionism: Strive for excellence not perfection.
  2. Unplug: Technology often creates the expectation of constant accessibility with the work day never ending.  Make quality time true quality time by unplugging, even if it is only for a hour of family time a day.  
  3. Exercise and meditate: Exercise is an effective stress reducer, yet it is often the first thing to go when the calendar fills up.
  4. Limit time-wasting activities and people: Identify what is important in your life, draw firm boundaries so that you can devote time and attention to that of which you list as important.  Are there people or activities that distract you from being productive which results in you staying late at work?  Do you find yourself mindlessly scrolling Facebook?  What can you eliminate that will make you more productive with your time?
  5. Change the structure of your life: Are you stuck in a rut or a routine?  Again prioritize what makes you happy and outsource other tasks/activities that occupy time you can spend doing a more favorable activity.  In today’s society it is becoming more and more easy delegate tasks so that you have more time, after all your time is often more valuable than money.  Try Peapod or a pick-up grocery system, could you get a cleaning service for your house?  You can even arrange for your laundry to be picked up for cleaning (not just dry cleaning)!
  6. Start small & build from there: Don’t set unrealistic goals to change your work-life balance situation or you are doomed for failure!  Pick one of the six things listed above as a starting point to add more R&R to your life!

(Lee, Deborah Jian. “6 Tips For Better Work-Life Balance.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 27 Oct. 2014. Web. 20 Feb. 2018.)

I hope that these tips to a balanced life help.  I can personally speak to the majority of them as I have implemented them in my personal life, and while at times more successful than others, they have drastically improved my ability to be mindful and enjoy my time both professionally and personally to a greater extent!

Katie Algrim – Director of Innovative Professional Learning

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