Every week, ClassDojo have a chat on Twitter under the hashtag #dojochateu. The chat is on every Wednesday evening from 8:30pm for an hour and is usually led by a ClassDojo leader. This week it was led by Irish teacher, Ciara Brennan, who goes under the Twitter name @PrimedTeacher and the topic was work life balance. Below are my own thoughts on the questions.
Q1. Why do you think so many teachers struggle to balance their working and personal lives?
A very philosophical question to begin with! For me, I guess, my job could be a 24-hour one if I let it. There’s always something to do or plan or try out. Teaching is such an all-encompassing job that everywhere I look, I can see teaching opportunities. For example, even opening the supplements in a newspaper gets me thinking of problem solving in maths! I’m not sure if all jobs are like this.
Q2. Do you have any suggestions for better handling the burden of paperwork? Paperwork demands never seem to let up!
Yes. I think getting into a routine helps with paperwork. For example, I always did more or less the same activities (where it was possible) on particular days so that each week was sort of a template. Monday was always some sort of introduction, Tuesday was a games, etc. I really found it kept paperwork down a lot. I got down to 4 hours planning a week from about 12-13 hours per week.
Q3. How can we manage teacher meetings to make them more effective? Too often they drain time and energy of teachers!
My philosophy on this is that if it can be said in an email, it doesn’t need to be in a meeting. Last year we had 2 staff meetings all year and one of them I didn’t attend as my baby was being born that day! In between all that, meetings consisted of one focused agenda, e.g. planning for a particular subject and only those involved needed to be there. After these meetings, they would report back to me and information would be shared with staff via email or our shared virtual space. We used to have monthly staff meetings but I found that more often than not, it was simply me telling people stuff and they weren’t very interactive.
Q4. In trying to strike a teacher work-life balance, how much of an issue is procrastination?
I think I’ll answer this one later! Procrastination is probably not limited to teachers. There are some jobs that one really doesn’t want to do in all aspects of life. Mine often relate to housework. However, in school, there’s those small annoying jobs that are really easy to put off for another time and often they are left until they can be left no more.
Q5. Is the use of ICT/electronics in education sometimes more of a hindrance to teacher work-life balance than a help?
I think I can answer this in one word: No. Without the Internet, I couldn’t do my job. All my lists, jobs, plans, etc. are all stored and updated electronically. If I had no technology, it would be a big hindrance. I can see how one can get lost on the web and waste hours of time but I try not to get distracted if there’s a job to be done.
Q6. How do you try to relax during demanding times of the school year? I find September and May exhausting.
I reward myself with an EPV day if I can. I also have a rule all through the year to not work past a certain time and it seems to work ok. However, if I do have a particularly bad day, I try to make sure I give myself a nicer day the day after, if I can.
Q7. Can you share your toolkit for a work-life balance?
I have a time in the day where I stop. If I don’t stop at this time, I have to have a very good reason. I also try to keep fit and eat well. I think this is very important for stress levels. I also make sure that my family are number one in my life. That’s probably the most important part of the toolkit.