Balancing life as a teacher.

Hi everyone! Thanks for visiting our blog! We hope everyone is having a good term.

I don't know about you, but term 3 always seems like the busiest to me... Despite not having to do reports, there always seems to be a lot happening - and much of that is outside the classroom! Recently, I've also realised that I'm struggling with the whole balancing life thing? Who else out there has a list with sooooooooooo many things on there that you want to get done, but never seem to have the time to do?

Being a teacher brings with it some unique professional challenges when it comes to time management. Ours is a profession that seems to constantly pull at you, demanding your attention at all times, including your time outside the classroom, which means that balancing life in and outside of school can become difficult, frustrating and sometimes depressing.

When you become a teacher, you quickly learn that there is a lot that you need to balance, including:
  • Planning and programming;
  • Researching better ways to engage kids and get them motivated about learning;
  • Assessing student learning and writing reports, IEPs, behaviour reports etc.;
  • Meeting with parents to discuss their child’s development;
  • Creating an engaging learning space that kids will want to spend the day in;
  • Attending professional development opportunities; and
  • Networking and collaborating with other teachers.
Many people would read this and think "That sounds like most jobs, what are you complaining about?" - the difference with our profession is that between 8:30am and 3:30pm we are actively teaching, engaging with and caring for our students - so all of these things that demand our attention need to happen outside these hours! But then there is the home life that one still leads and and must balance as well. For many of us, we are in relationships and have families that demand our attention once we're home (and rightly so!). Some may volunteer our time with local community organisations, tutor or teach weekend school. We also have homes that need to be maintained, events that need attending and  personal things we like to do - some may want to head to the gym, others may like walking their dog while some of you still play sport! 

Teaching is fast becoming a profession with a high rate of drop outs from new graduates and is well known as a profession with associated high levels of stress related compensation claims for psychological distress, physiological illness, and job dissatisfaction (Kyriacou, 1987). This level of stress can affect a teachers capacity to fulfill duties effectively. It incorporates considerable cost in absenteeism, reduced quality of teaching, and has the propensity to negatively impact student learning.

As teachers and role models to our students, we NEED to make the conscious decision to maintain our physical, mental and emotional health. Not only is it necessary for us individually to survive a very demanding profession, but we are some of the most important (and in some cases, only) role models in our students' lives. We should be modelling what a healthy lifestyle looks like, and also how we can maintain it!

1. Healthy Eating:

Teaching is a cognitively complex profession. In the course of a single school day, we can make hundreds of decisions and must respond quickly to the myriad unexpected turns that life in the classroom may take. Teaching is a high-energy job, so it's essential to arm our brains and body with the right fuel. Start your day with a hearty, healthy breakfast and eat foods throughout the day that consist of non-starchy vegetables and fruits, healthy oils and fats, a variety of protein sources, and selected whole grains. We also need to be careful with what we're putting into our bodies during the day - teaching staff rooms are renowned for their delectable treats - but these aren't always healthy. Rather, they provide us with the sugar hit we need/desire to get through the next teaching phase for the day! 

A way to ensure that you maintain a healthy diet that will fuel your body throughout the day is to plan - planning is something teacher's do extremely well! Plan out your meals by week or month - I often do up a month dinner play, then have a daily plan of what I'm going to eat. It does take time and sometimes it doesn't happen - but it does become habit. Having healthy meals and snacks to get you through your day does have a huge impact on your overall mental and physical health and general well-being.

Check out my favourite yummy snacks below! They are very popular in the staff room, especially when people learn they're healthy! I've also included the some sites where I get my healthy meal ideas from below. Share yours too in the comments!

Yummy, healthy recipes!

2. Physical Exercise

Physical exercise is known to not only keep our bodies healthy for longer, but being physically active can help reduce stress and anxiety and boost concentration - I personally love getting out on the netball court or touch footy field once a week to alleviate stress and frustration! But when time is precious, and there don't seem to be enough hours in the day, what can you do to get more active?

  • Be active in school - some schools organise groups PT sessions or Yoga classes for staff to participate in straight after the end of school. If you have a gym in your school, head in before or after school. If you've got a duty, why not join in the hand-ball comp or involve students in a B-Ball shoot-out, plank hold or squat challenge.
  • I'm one of those rare people who gets up with the sparrows - I prefer to get up and start my day early. When I can, I walk our dogs along the cycleway or I head to the gym. If the weather is bad, or hubby is away, I try to do a workout at home before the boys are up - check out the video below for my new favourite workout clips!!!!! If I've had a lazy morning though, I make sure I walk to our local park in the afternoon so that my boys are expelling any left-over energy from their day, our dogs get a walk and I can walk-out any stresses I've brought home from work!
  • Pair-up! One of your colleagues might live nearby or simply have the same goal - to be happy and healthy! Get together a few times a week at a local park and go for a walk/run or share the costs a PT session. Working out with someone makes you accountable, and it can be fun! 

  • Join a local sporting club or dance troop - participating sports has many benefits, but it's a simple way to make you accountable (you don't want to let the team down by not showing up) and you can escape from the pressures of life and work whilst you're out there working up a sweat (you can't grade papers whilst taking a shot to win the game!)

3. Mental and Emotional Health 

While people accept that eating right and being active help us maintain a healthy lifestyle, we often overlook or simply shun the importance of mental and emotional health.

One way to ensure you are looking after your mental health is to take a mental health day - I realise that some people may not agree with this, but I think mental health is as important (if not more important) than physical health.  It’s really hard to function if you’re stressed, feeling depressed and anxious. By taking a mental health day you will have the chance to take stock and come back fighting.  When you do take a day for your mental health, do not do anything teacher related - (it's unrealistic to not think about teaching) but it is about looking after myself mentally.  This might mean you walk up to your local cafe and sit reading the latest gossip mag whilst sipping a latte/cappuccino/hot chocolate (whatever your poison)... You might book yourself in to a day spa for some pampering (my preferred choice)... You might simply bunker down on the couch and binge on the latest TV series of choice. Whatever it is, do what is right for you and don't feel guilty - know that you'll head back to the classroom fresh and rejuvenated, ready to tackle whatever is thrown at you!

If you're not coping or just feel like something's not right, don't be afraid to ask for help. If you don't feel comfortable seeking help in your workplace then see your GP for a referral to a good psychologist - talking about it and using strategies that are given to you to help you cope and overcome your issues can really help! 

4. Get Organised

Some people are born organisers. Whilst I wouldn't consider myself a control freak, I do like being organised and having a plan. I find that it helps, especially when the sh** hits the fan, because you'll often have back-up plans for emergencies and will remain calm in a crisis.

To-Do lists are a great way of working through the things you want to get done and provide a great visual for seeing what you've completed - ticking or crossing off that task is very satisfying and often provides a great sense of relief. These are great for both home and work - I usually stick to 3 things, and prioritise with the things that MUST get done sooner rather than later.

Have a weekly schedule set up somewhere where you'll actively engage with it - kitchen command centres are HUGE on Pinterest but are a great example of organising yourself and your family for the day/week/month/year. You'll know if Book Week is coming up and can organise your costume in time, and you'll know when that next dental appointment is and give your HT/DP sufficient notice that you'll need to leave on time to make it.

Organising your time means you can set boundaries with home and work. When you're at home, BE PRESENT! If you're like me and work better at home, then set clear times for working at home - don't do it when you could be spending time with your children or spouse. These relationships are the most important work you'll ever do/have so ensure you give them the time and attention they deserve. Set aside an hour a night for school work. If you need to get work done on your weekend, then allocate a few hours, but once that time is up, put it away - giving yourself a time limit will often mean you're more productive. 

5. Be realistic

I’m sure just like me you want to have that perfect classroom... perfect students… the perfect beach bikini body... be the best player on the netball team... be the best mum/parent! But it took a mental break down and much self-reflection to realise that the only person expecting perfection was me! Always aim high, in whatever it is your doing, but be realistic for you and your circumstances. Take a minute to reflect - maybe just having students working in small groups in your class is a major accomplishment? Maybe leftovers/takeaway/cheese-on-toast are okay once in a while and don't mean your children are unhealthy or that you'll get struck down by lightening (just ignore those other 'judgemental mum' stares)...  maybe getting to the gym once a week is all you can manage at this point in time, and that's OK! It's better than nothing at all! So make sure you set realistic goals with your students, school, spouse, but most importantly YOURSELF!

How do you balance life as a teacher? What are your tips and tricks for maintaining your health and well-being?

Sure the hours appear great. And summers off are nice. But the illusion of a life of relaxation underscores the incredible amount of time it takes to prepare, teach, grade, and then prepare some more. Toss in stressful interactions with students and parents, and teachers find themselves in the frustrating position of so many others: Early mornings, late nights, and very little time in between. - See more at:
Sure the hours appear great. And summers off are nice. But the illusion of a life of relaxation underscores the incredible amount of time it takes to prepare, teach, grade, and then prepare some more. Toss in stressful interactions with students and parents, and teachers find themselves in the frustrating position of so many others: Early mornings, late nights, and very little time in between. - See more at:


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