“Time and health are two precious assets that we don’t recognize and appreciate until they have been depleted.”-Denis Waitley
The idea of helping teachers find more balance and have healthy workloads is both absolutely necessary and absolutely perplexing at the same time. It is absolutely necessary because the frantic pace of education is not sustainable, as evidenced by the number of educators leaving the profession, educator mental and physical health concerns, and the lack of college students pursuing education. It is perplexing to try to define what a healthy workload looks like for educators because it looks a bit different depending on the educator.
Feeling overworked and stressed out seems to be accepted as the norm for educators. Let’s explore this question: does it have to be this way? If not, what steps can we take to improve the quality of life for teachers so they can do the job they love and be healthy–both mentally and physically? How can we help educators feel fulfilled in their work and in their personal lives? How can we reduce educator workloads and stress? The journey to protecting our teachers’ time and health by making workloads more manageable starts with defining some universal truths of healthy workloads.
When our workloads are manageable and healthy:
- We feel in control. Teaching is hard work, always has been and always will be. We know that being an educator is not for the faint of heart. We give big, we feel big, and we have servant hearts. But, we did not sign up for constantly feeling overwhelmed and behind. Having a healthy workload means that we feel in control of our time both in school and out of school. We have the freedom to prioritize what needs to be done first rather than feeling frenzied and controlled by deadlines.
- We have space for creativity and connecting. Educators are creative and are full of new ideas to support students and learning. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to feel like we have time to make our creative ideas come alive? In order to have a need-satisfying environment, we need time to make connections with colleagues and with students. Having healthy workloads means that we have space in our work days to make both of these things happen.
- We choose whether we want to do some work at night or on weekends. Some educators love spending a few hours on the weekends catching up on email, grading, reading articles, exploring Pinterest, etc. That is perfectly fine and they should not feel guilty about spending some time working on the weekend. Educators should, however, feel like working on the weekends and in the evenings is optional. The problem comes when educators feel like the only way they can keep their heads above water is by spending 8-hours at school on the weekends and bringing a couple hours worth of work home every weeknight.
What would you add to this list to help us define universal truths of healthy workloads for educators? What does a healthy workload look like for you? What does having a healthy workload mean to you? Together we can take steps to help all educators do the job they love to do and feel great while doing it (…at least most of the time).