Marking. Assessments. Reports. Meetings. Planning. Travelling to/from work. Oh yes, actual teaching!
It’s no surprise that teachers feel that they have little time for themselves, especially as pressures of exams and accountability rest heavily on the shoulders of many in the profession. But what you do away from school really matters, and this should be given as much consideration and planning as the time spent within work.
Some teachers will be experts at this, and we view them in awe. It seems impossible to have outside interests, or side projects, away from the school environment, as many are so consumed with thoughts of the next days lessons, or the behaviour of that child which prays on your mind.
Here we go. Let’s stop for a minute and ask these questions to yourself:
- Where do you actually spend most of your time?
- Are you on social media because you are fascinated by how others teach? Looking for ideas to improve your teaching? Or simply wasting time?
- Do you watch television mindlessly? Or do you watch longingly as a means for escape from reality?
- Does your time add up to building a skill, mastering your teaching skills and expertise, or avoiding it?
- If you were to break it all down and evaluate your time, would you be satisfied with how you spend it?
Making time is about deciding what matters. There is only room for distractions if you let there be.
Some distractions are annoying. Receiving an e-mail from a work colleague about planning at 9.30 pm can be irritating and set you off doing a task which you never planned for. This is not the fault of the person who sent the message, but did you really need to open up and read the e-mail? Rarely are such e-mails a matter of life or death, and will say more about the e-mail sender than you. It’s all about priorities. Look around, and try to re-connect to the real you:
Do you like reading, but never have time to read a book? Prioritise, and make time.
Do you like swimming, but never have time to pop to the pool on the way to/from work? Prioritise, and make time.
Do you like spending quality time with your family and/or friends? Prioritise, and don’t lose sight of those people who care for you the most. Make time, switch off from work, and enjoy being together. Let’s look at a few considerations:
Technology – A Controllable Distraction
Technology is an amazing tool, but it is also capable of distracting us about priorities. Technology demands our immediate attention. Well, it does, when we allow it. Go analogue (cold turkey) for a couple of evenings a week. You will get fidgety initially, but if you distract yourself with another relaxing/enjoyable activity that you like, you will find that the technology will actually wait for you.
Mindfulness – Get into the Moment
Have you ever driven to work, but failed to recall how you actually got there. You drove on auto-pilot, consumed with the day ahead – with the lessons ahead – with little attention of the big-wide world around you as you drove. It is scary when you realise this, but can jolt us into a realisation on how we can all just saunter along on auto-pilot. We’re sometimes literally unable to see the wood for the trees, but being mindful of our surroundings and our senses can drag you back into the real world, enjoying the ‘here and now’ of our lives, allowing a sense of perspective – if we allow it.
Pupils – Masters of Distraction
How many times have pupils failed to hand in homework because they were busy doing other things? OK, there may be some various issues going on, but mainly children have priorities right. They live for the here and now, and school work can easily take a back seat when back at home. They allow time for things they enjoy. Are they wrong here? Or have they got their priorities right? We could take a lesson from them, to some degree!
Reconnect with Yourself, and Those Around You
This is not a call to take yourself off to a retreat, and rediscover yourself – unless that is something that appeals – but just a call to occasionally stop, and take time to connect with other people who see you as being important in their lives.
We all have responsibilities, and many teachers take their jobs (rightly) very seriously. A responsibility to our pupils; a responsibility to our school; a responsibility to ensure we are doing the best in our work. But we also owe a responsibility to ourselves, and for those who care about us.
It all sounds very easy – we know this. We have had various sessions discussing work/life balance, and it is an issue to many in the teaching profession. But aspire to those colleagues who you perceive to have the balance right, and find your own distraction which can consume you when you’re away from the classroom.
Try to get a perspective on life, making sure you don’t look back at your time…
- Wishing you had the courage to live life true to yourself, not the life others expected.
- Wishing you hadn’t worked so hard.
- Wishing you had the courage to express your feelings.
- Wishing you stayed in touch with friends.
- Wishing you’d let yourself be happier.
Help inspire others. If you have a hobby or activity which really helps you distract and prioritise away from teaching, then please share by tweeting us at @UKEdChat, or via the comments below, and we will add the comments to help others find an interest that can help improve how time is spent.