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Work/life balance

February 08, 2009

Hello again,

Demanding employers, cultural variations and teachers anxious to earn the maximum can be a bad combination. I have heard some disturbing...

... tales of teachers, especially those in different cultures from their own, working to the point of exhaustion. Frankly this is good for neither teacher nor student.
But can anything be done? I think it has to start with the individual teacher. Each one has to decide how to balance working and personal life. Many schools are only too willing to offer classes all day and then in the evenings too. The teacher has to learn to be assertive so as to agree only to reasonable working patterns.
How can this be done? Well, start by mapping out your week. If, for example, the school wants you to work six days out of seven, then make sure you keep your evenings for your personal life and that at least one of the working days has an early finish. You need not only rest and recuperation but time to do all your basic chores: laundry, shopping, cooking. On the other hand, if your school provides meals, then obviously some of your chores will be less onerous. The main thing is to try to work out a routine that gives you time for yourself (hobbies, sports, relaxation) and your friends and family.
Of course, this sounds simple, but even if you negotiate a reasonable working week, you may still find that lesson preparation encroaches on your personal time. This is where time management skills are essential. Make sure that all your lesson preparation can yield maximum benefit. Use the same or slightly adapted lesson plans as often as you can. Use peer marking techniques or group round-ups for marking so that you don’t have to deal with students’ work in your own time. Look also at how best to use slack time during the working day. If you have half an hour spare at lunchtime, use it to do some exercise: can you have a swim, a run, a game of tennis at lunch time? Or is that best used to relax with a book or newspaper? Decide what works best for you.
If you find that your school is not helpful in facilitating your work/life balance, then raise the issue in a staff meeting. Quite often systems get put in place without any real consideration of the impact they have on individuals. Pointing out the drawbacks and discussing solutions can often lead to a mutually acceptable outcome. I heard recently, for example, from a teacher who successfully negotiated a regular one-hour lunch break after having first being given a timetable that had breaks at unsuitable times, meaning that he often could not have his lunch until after 2pm.
Good luck!

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  1. Anne Mac Leish Says:

    Brenda ,I agree with you. I'm freelance & live in Rome. Language schools don't exist any more! they want money! I work 4 2 schools as a support teacher & do Trinity exam prep. I do my best & people appreciate me. I do lessons at home & give a good price! My daughter works 4 an International school. Has 2 degrees,32 years old but isn't treated well because she has a slight Italian accent! Has 2 hide 2 have a bite 2 eat! She is very good & wants 2 open up with2 friends. She teaches kiddies from 3-5! I saw her lessons. Nothing 2 say! How can akid write 14 in words if they can't grasp a pen! Thanks 4 your time & advice! Anne Mac Leish.

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