Finding a work-life balance when you work in LIFE Skills is hard.
You are so many things to so many people- a case manager, a nurse, an adult services provider, a community liaison, a nutritionist, a mom or dad, a friend, a boss, an employee, a paper work processor, a motivator, an enforcer, and, oh yeah, a teacher too! This list doesn’t even begin to cover what a LIFE Skills teacher does.
On top of all that a teacher does, there is the constant thinking- thinking about student transition plans, their IEPs, their behavior and their data, their emotional well-being, their mood, what they need to get through tomorrow or this week or this month, and that is multiplied by every student a LIFE Skills teacher interacts with.
Lying in bed at night, LIFE Skills teachers are thinking, planning, worrying, hoping, and NOT sleeping. We see our students for more hours of the day than we see our own children or our husbands and wives. So the question becomes how can we find a balance?
There are a few things LIFE Skills teachers need to think about.
- Set Priorities. Stop for just a moment. Think. Think about what is most important to you. My guess is that it is your family or a loved one. Are you showing that person or people how much they value them? Are you doing things that make them feel like they are number one? And are you taking care of yourself so that you can take care of the loved ones around you?
- Say No. There are limits. Your time is as valuable as you make it. Focus in on your priorities and make sure they come first… which often means saying no to some things. It may be hard the first few times, but it is better to set limits than feel like you are being pulled in a million different directions.
- Make Time for You. Remember back in the day when you would read leisurely? Or go out for long walks? Or maybe volunteering at a place that makes you happy? Make time for those things. Maybe you can’t knit a Guinness Book of Records sized blanket (who has time for that), but find some time for the things that make you happy.
- Go Home. And leave that big huge bag at work. When you go home, you have other wants and needs you need to address (like family, friends, and yourself). Don’t feel like those precious hours between you getting home and going to bed have to be filled with work. All the things on your desk will still be there tomorrow. Now I am not saying ignore your responsibilities, but prioritize your to-do, do what you can, and pick up where you left off tomorrow. You will get it all done.
- Shut Up About It. Your spouse will tell you right now that they are tired about hearing every little thing about your day- the toileting, the drama, the pinching or biting, the stress. They want to be supportive, so they listen… but all the gritty details just make them worry about you. Make it a point to tell one positive story from your day. It will help you remember why you are teaching in the first place and make your spouse feel better every morning when you walk out that front door.
- Get a Positive Support Network. Surrounding yourself with people that can listen to your stories, empathize, but not turn it all into a pity party. Feeling like people who are there for you makes anyone feel good. Remember to be there for your friends as well and try to find the light for them too.
There is no right answer to all of this. Every teacher has to find their own balance and work at setting limits. You love your job- if you don’t, it may be time to think about your next career. There are lots of places a rock star like you can move to next, but your happiness has got to be your #1 goal. Work through these six pointers and find your own balance.