If you had to write your own report card and rate yourself on work-life balance, what grade would you allocate and what comment would you write?
C– Could do better!
D What is work-life balance?
B Delusional, pretends that all is fine but is about to be buried in paperwork and missed deadlines!
According to research only 6% of Australians report that they have a good work-life balance. I find that figure shocking! THIS is your real life – it isn’t a dress rehearsal, this is the real thing.
I tested the data from this research at a teacher conference recently. I asked the 100 educators in the audience to rate themselves on work-life balance and then raise their hand if they rated themselves an “A”.
Initially I was impressed when 18 teachers proudly raised their hand to indicate that they felt they had a really good work-life balance. However, in response to a murmur in the front row about working part-time, I asked the 18 participants to put their hand down if they worked part-time.…only two hands remained in the air!
Obviously working part-time improves work-life balance and is a decision that some people make.
My 5 minute straw poll at the teachers conference confirmed what my two year-long Masters research in 1995, had concluded, “Teaching is stressful”.
Whilst many factors contribute to the stress that comes from working in education, I believe that by it’s very nature, working with people is stressful
Unlike working in a factory, we can’t always predict what our day will hold.
People can be unpredictable. We never quite know what is going on in another person’s world. They may be suffering from health issues, have had an argument with their partner, lost their job or be under extreme financial pressure, before walking into our school.
Schools can therefore be a reflection of the stress that a community is experiencing. In many cases the school is the last remaining hub of the community. They can be one of the few remaining places in a community where people congregate and interact. Staff in schools are therefore at the pointy-end of society.
Being a school leader is arguably even more stressful. Not only are we dealing with the foibles of the community, we have the demands of staff, competing priorities, increased expectations and tightening budgets to contend with. It is no wonder so many of us struggle with work-life balance.
A 6% success rate is VERY low. For school leaders, it’s probably even less. Often leaders in schools put their own needs below those of others. It’s time we got serious, took some personal action and heeded the advice given by flight attendants on a daily basis, look after yourself before looking after those of people around you!
Staff, parents, students and the wider community often rely on their Principal to be resilient and a source of both stability and wisdom. Unfortunately, if we don’t take care of ourselves, we will not be in a position to support others in their time of need.
My five recommendations for improving your work-life balance are:-
Aim for work-life satisfaction instead of balance. Aspiring to get balance creates a mindset where we try to ‘balance’ We should get satisfaction from the important work that we do as well as the other roles we play:- parent, partner, family member, neighbor, community member, son or daughter, coach etc.
Like it or not, our work is a significant component of who we our as well as taking up a significant amount of our waking hours. If your work as a school leader is not giving you satisfaction then I have two pieces of advice.
First, monitor your self-talk and ensure that you are telling yourself that your work IS important, you have an opportunity to make a difference in people’s lives every day and that opportunity comes with challenges.
If, after you have tried to improve your self-talk, you are still not feeling a sense of satisfaction from the important but challenging work that we do as school leaders, it is time to follow my second piece of advice.
Start to plan your exit strategy! Life is too short and our positions too important and demanding to be doing work that isn’t satisfying (at least three or four days per week). If your work is not giving you satisfaction, do something about it. You deserve to get satisfaction from your work,
Planning your exit strategy doesn’t mean you have to resign immediately. Consider what else you would like to be doing. What do you think would give you satisfaction? Could you utilise some leave time to see if it is as satisfying as you think it will be?
Do you need to undertake some part-time study to get other qualifications or to explore other areas? Could you change your lifestyle to reduce financial pressure – perhaps a ‘tree change’?
Develop some family Golden Rules to protect the time you have for your priorities and stick to them. At times school work can encroach on our family life. It can seem that we don’t have time for anything other than work and sleep. Establishing some Golden Rules for limiting the amount that work encroaches on us is vital.
Golden Rules are personal and vary from person to person.
The following are some examples:-
- If I have to do some school work on the weekend – I’ll confine it to ONLY one day
- Leave school at 3.30 pm on Tuesdays
- Limit reading and answering emails to 30 minutes per night
- Take my partner on a date night, one night per month
- Have a family dinner at the dining table two nights per week
- Call my mother every weekend
- Go to the gym (or walk the dog or swim) at least every second day
What Golden Rules do you need to implement to protect things that are a priority in your life?
Look after yourself! Your physical well-being has a direct connection with your stress level and mental attitude. It is therefore vital that we look after our own well-being. We all know what we should be doing. Having the self-discipline to actually DO, what we know we SHOULD, is a different thing.
People are relying on us. It’s time to get serious and be the best role model we know
Often one of the first things we stop doing when we are ‘busy’ is exercising. We know that we should be exercising regularly. We know that we need to eat well and that we should stop to sit down to eat. We also know that we should be drinking two litres of water each and every day and that AFDs (Alcohol Free Days) are also recommended. Getting the sleep our body needs is important to restore our resources and reinstate our reserves of patience and good humour.
These areas need to be priorities – especially when we are busy!
Avoid Deferred Happiness Syndrome (DHS) Many people suffer from what has become known as Deferred Happiness Syndrome. They put off being ‘happy’ to some later stage and wish their life away. You might have heard people say….“I’ll be happy when this week is over!”
“I’ll be happy when this term finishes….when I’m on long service….when the holidays are here…when the kids leave home… when the mortgage is paid off….”
Instead of putting off your happiness, plan a list of things that you want to do in your life-time. Don’t wait for a life-crisis before writing your ‘bucket list’. Start thinking NOW about the following FOUR personal goals you plan on achieving THIS year!
- A Place you are going to go
- An ACTIVITY you are going to do
- Something to LEARN (that is NOT work related)
- Something you’ll do that will make you a BETTER person
As you tick off each of these achievements, replace them with another goal. Give yourself permission to be happy NOW and start living life!
Taking action and implementing these five strategies is certain to increase YOUR Work – Life Satisfaction so you can become part of the top 6 %.
The itc publications conference “Simply Teaching – Deeply Thinking” will be held at the beautiful Gold Coast on July 18 and 19, 2014. The two day program looks great and is aimed at both teachers and school leaders.
All sessions are aimed at creating the effective classroom. Reinforcing the importance of explicit teaching in developing the deeper thinking capabilities of all students. A flyer is attached – book your place now! The earlybird offer closes on April 4!
The Power of Teacher Workshops: Providing Better PD at Your School
Based on an article by REBECCA ALBER
Teachers have all experienced a professional development that is so way off target or one that had nothing to do with what they teach or who they teach. Teachers everywhere can talk about having to sit in poorly-run, irrelevant PD like they are war stories.
Why PD Matters So Much
Research shows that teachers tend to teach the way that they were taught. That is, of course, until we gain new insights through experience and development.
Since education is always evolving, professional development is essential for teachers to enhance the knowledge and skills they need to help students succeed in the classroom.
In the words of Aristotle: He who dares to teach must never cease to learn.
An added layer of complexity is that we don’t work with things, but with people. Just like medical professionals (who, of course, also deal in people), we need to continually update, enhance, and reflect our current knowledge and skills base so we can develop a more effective practice. If a doctor said, “I don’t need to go to any seminars and lectures ever again,” you’d probably choose a new doctor.
Making PD Authentic
The key to an effective, quality workshop is this: PD planners and facilitators need to know as much as they can about the teacher participants and their needs and then strive to meet those very needs.
Let’s define needs. They are a gap between what is expected and the existing conditions. A needs assessment, or needs analysis, is an examination of the existing need for training within an individual, group or organisation.
Great school leaders conduct a needs assessment before an after-school workshop.
Use the needs assessment results to guide planning, choice of materials and other supports needed for the workshop. If the powers that be have an agenda item they would like addressed in the day, that’s fine, but the bulk of the agenda has to primarily speak to meeting the needs of the group. Without this, there is danger of an irrelevant, frustrating, forgettable workshop (see war stories comment above). If the only rationale for an entire day’s agenda is, “it comes from the principal/district,” well, see war stories comment above.
No One-Offs, Please
Quick-fix, single-shot PD can often end up as information overload for teachers. Since the goals of these are so often focused on getting a large amount of information out in limited time, rarely do they include time on the agenda for processing, planning, and reflecting — all essential to implementing.
The aim of a good teacher PD plan is to grow collaborative teams and build capacity by speaking to the specific needs of the individuals in the group (i.e. needs assessment first, authentic training activities/materials that speak to those needs next). Then, the facilitator provides continued support for the team as they develop new skills and understandings.
Many beginning teachers start their careers with little professional support while they are required to carry a full teaching load immediately. Novice teachers in high schools may also be assigned to teach a discipline outside their area of training. There are veteran teachers who have a solid pedagogical practice but lack technology training or need to update some aspects of pedagogy. There are many educators who exhibit specific strengths in their teaching methods, while also having some weaknesses.
We talk about personalised learning environments in P-12 and we must apply this same thinking when it comes to professional development for teachers.
How has your school evolved it’s professional development, creating time for relevant and authentic learning experiences for your teachers.
PD From Steve Francis
We are all aware that PEOPLE make the difference in schools. Therefore investing in your people brings the best returns. Professional development sessions for your staff are available on a range of topics. These are ideal for student free days or twilight sessions. Email to check availability of your preferred date and book now.
Which topic does your team need most?
- 7 Secrets to Motivating and Engaging Students
- Building Trust – Essential Skills
- Thriving in Times of Change
- Effective Teamwork in School
- Feedback – Helping Teachers Be the Best They Can Be
- Boosting Morale and Increasing WORK-LIFE Satisfaction
Survey My School
The fastest way to improve your school and boost staff, parent and student satisfaction is to identify and address the problems that annoy and frustrate people. Ensure that your plans for 2014 are informed with useful, accurate information. SurveyMySchool has been specifically designed to support the leadership team to IMPROVE schools. The interactive format of the surveys identifies specific issues and potential solutions.
SurveyMySchool is far more useful than school opinion surveys that only provide data. Whilst having data is a good start, data alone can be misinterpreted and isn’t helpful in addressing people’s specific concerns.
SurveyMySchool is interactive. Respondents who express dissatisfaction with an aspect of the school are asked clarifying questions to provide further detail about their specific concern and potential solutions. The survey report provides useful information to inform school planning, improve the school and increase the satisfaction of staff, parents and students.
Contact us to set up a survey of staff, parents and/or students.
This Month’s Happy School articles include:-
- Writing Email That Saves Time
- How well do you currently Manage Your Stress Level
- Effectively Managing Student Behaviour
- Optimism – Not Just About Being Positive
Subscribe now and join the 500 schools who are already boosting staff morale and reducing teacher stress as members of Happy School. Reply to this email and ask us to set up your membership. It costs less than ONE supply teacher day!
Conferences and Work With Schools
This month I’m looking forward to working with:-
- School leaders in Singapore at the INTASE conference
- Auckland Primary Principals conference
- School Leaders’ breakfast series
- Community of Schools – Teacher conference in Sydney
- SBMAQ webinars on Time Management
- QASSP webinar on Effective Teams
- Claremont Special School staff
I’d be happy to talk with you about the professional development needs of your leadership team or whole staff.
If you’d like me to present at your conference or work with your staff, email me firstname.lastname@example.org