Balancing Act--how do you do it?
I am a 20+ year veteran teacher. I teach high school language arts. During my first 10 years of teaching in the late '80's early 90's, I engulfed myself so much in working every day teaching teenagers, almost becoming one with them, that I was almost completely consumed by the work, the emotional turmoil, the pressure of simply meeting the needs and demands of the job. Teaching literally ate me alive as I shriveled down in weight, and physically became a walking skeleton, moribund in physiognomy and psychology. My supervisors all but kicked me out of the profession as they witnessed my physical and emotional demise.
But, I was a damn good educator, successful, loved, admired. Leaving the profession for me was unthinkable, yet inevitable as I ultimately had to make the choice of saving myself or remaining in the profession I loved but that was killing me. I left. ;-(
For the next six years I worked as an Human Resource manager for a couple of different organizations. I regained my physical and emotional health almost immediately; however, after the first four years, my emotional health began to deteriorate again. Why? because I was unfulfilled. I, in no way, felt I was giving back to the community, the world, to life. Even though many of my day to day tasks and responsibilities as a Human Resource Manager were quite similar to that of a teacher, the tasks and responsibilities assisting the adults in these well paid organizations (land development, aerospace engineering, educational consulting), just could not compare to the tasks and responsibilities of assisting the development of the next generation for such professions--at least not for me. So I returned to teaching.
Since returning to teaching over 10 years ago now, I have again immersed myself completely in this profession--My True Calling--but with balance and wisdom...at least so I thought. I knew not to allow the educational realm to engulf and devour me again. I knew/know how important balance is in life to maintain my health--physically, emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. So, upon returning, I set out to make sure to take care of my own needs as well as the needs of my students, administrators, parents, etc. However, in doing so, I have now come to discover that I am again feeling overwhelmed and engulfed by education. Why? because my own needs encompass life-long learning and discovery, specifically of education.
I obtained my Masters in Education, I am enrolled in my doctoral program, I am a member of and/or board member of a myriad of educational organizations, I am an ex-curriculum director and administrator--I am a Teacher. My main focus is still my students--their needs, their education, their lives. Now, however, I'm caught up in "balancing" my time between taking care of my own need to educate myself through my involvement in my own doctoral program and other educational organizations, my own need to maintain physical health through exercise, outdoor activities, proper nutrition, SLEEP, and the needs of simply keeping up with the grading of papers, planning of lessons, communications with parents and students, and meetings with administration. In attempting to maintain balance, I have incurred guilt and a sense of weakness. Guilt--for not being able to give fully to any one of the areas of my life, and a sense of weakness for not being able to achieve as so many others do who are involved in all of this and so much more.
Even now, while I write this, utilizing this blog as an escape, a method of giving back to myself, my chance to connect with my peers, I am shirking on my responsibility to my students because the time I'm using to write this (and the time I've spent all morning perusing ASCD's Edge and a myriad of other educational resources), I really should have been grading the 50+ essays and other assorted writing assignments that my students deserve timely feedback on as well as my full attention in helping them improve. Because I have given myself this time for my own learning and personal needs, do I later sacrifice time grading papers, or do I sacrifice my health by working late into the night to meet that responsibility? If I do sacrifice sleep, or food, or any of my other physical needs, won't the other areas in my life also be effected detrimentally? Yep, they will.
And so the balancing act continues.
So how do YOU do it, fellow educator??