As a special education teacher, navigating work-life balance can be tricky. There are times when you need to turn your attention away from school to focus on your personal life and mental well-being.
It’s important for special education teachers to make sure they don’t get overwhelmed and burned out while also ensuring that their students are receiving the best support and resources possible.
Not having some semblance of work-life balance can quickly morph into stress and anxiety that you carry with you to school and back. That can lead to burn out that has you contemplating whether or not special education or teaching is even for you.
Here, we’ll explore different ways special educators can strike a healthy balance between their professional and personal lives. We’ll look at tips for organizing your schedule, utilizing available resources, developing self-care habits, setting boundaries with colleagues and students, and more! Work-life balance may not be that far off!
The Basics of Work-Life Balance for Special Educators
Organizing Your Schedule
With all the demands of teaching, many special education teachers feel overwhelmed and exhausted. A great place to start when looking for balance is with your schedule. Utilize calendar tools to stay organized and prioritize tasks by importance. This will help prevent you from feeling like you’re always falling behind while ensuring that your students receive the attention they need and you’re getting the time to recharge that you need.
One tip that works well is to block off time at the start of each week when you are off the teaching clock. Those are the times when it’s just for you and your family. Evenings and weekends should be personal time, but there may be instances when school events or conferences must occur. Marking off personal time at the beginning of the week ensures you are giving yourself the time you need to relax and recharge!
Utilizing Available Resources
Many special educators don’t take full advantage of available resources such as technology, aides, support staff, and other teachers on their campus or district who can offer guidance and assistance. Don’t be afraid to reach out for help! Other people can lighten your load so you can focus more energy on the things that matter most.
Developing Self-Care Habits
When it comes to work-life balance, self-care habits are essential. Make sure you’re taking time to relax, unwind and recharge your batteries. This can look different from person to person — take a walk around the block, read an inspiring book (or one with a fun and engaging plot!), or go for a yoga class if it’s something that resonates with you!
Self-care can also look like taking a warm shower, tending to flowers in your garden, washing your face at night with a gentle cleanser, or painting your toenails funky colors. If it brings you joy and peace, it’s the perfect self-care.
Setting Boundaries with Colleagues, Families, and Students
It’s important for special educators to set boundaries between their professional and personal lives. For example, make sure you don’t take on too much outside of school hours — set specific times during which you will not answer emails or phone calls. You should also clearly communicate expectations with colleagues, families, and students so they understand when they should expect responses from you.
Just because a parent or student emails you on the weekend does not mean that you need to respond. Your contract hours are the hours you are paid for being at work. Time other than that is for you and your family. Boundaries are healthy and good. Set them.
Leaving School Work at School
Taking work home with you can be tempting, but this is an important habit to avoid. Make sure to prioritize your personal life and set a specific time for when you will stop working each day. If a task isn’t finished, it can wait until the next day — you deserve some rest!
Knowing When to Say No
When it comes to work-life balance, sometimes the answer has to be “No.” Don’t be afraid to set limits and recognize your needs — it’s OK to say no if something is not essential or doesn’t fit within your schedule.
Finding Balance is Possible
Striking a balance between your professional and personal life as a special education teacher doesn’t have to seem impossible. With a few simple changes in how you approach your schedule, utilize available resources, develop self-care habits, and set boundaries with colleagues, families, and students, you will be able to find more balance in no time!
Remember that taking care of yourself should always come first. You are worth it!