Five work-life balance tips for trainee teachers

When it comes to work-life balance, it’s best to get into good habits from day one. Here are five tips to get off to a strong start.  

Balancing your work life and social life as a new teacher can feel less like spinning plates and more like juggling chainsaws – but it doesn’t have to be that way. Instead, consider your training year(s) as a chance to embed healthy work-life balance habits.

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Definitely DON’T expect it to be easy at the start

Claire Hill, a professional mentor and continuing professional development lead at Dover Grammar School for Girls, finds many trainees feel quite overwhelmed in the first term.

“Very often, I see trainees who, so far in their lives have done well in everything they’ve turned their hand to, and therefore expect teaching to be just another thing they’re good at,” she says. “Trainees have observed lessons where teachers make the delivery of a lesson seem effortless – but the truth is, it’s not.”

Definitely DO ask to see examples of paperwork

The amount of paperwork involved in teacher training can seem overwhelming but it doesn’t need to be. This is where your mentor can help. 

Hill suggests getting examples of what good lesson plans and evaluations look like to make your life easier. 

“If mentors take the time to show trainees physical examples of good planning and organisation systems from day one, it can be really useful,” she says. “I keep a few old planners and folders to show trainees what this might look like.”

Definitely DON’T give up your hobbies 

You may feel like your identity is getting lost as you are swept up in your new job role. Hobbies and interests are a good way to keep you grounded and give you a chance to unwind outside of the classroom. 

“During my training year, I actually took up yoga,” says Lauran Hampshire-Dell, an English teacher at Gordon’s Secondary School, who qualified in 2017. “It began as something to do to help me get to sleep, and although it was sometimes hard to find the time, I persevered and now it is a real passion of mine.”

Definitely DO make the most of the shared area

Although there is a lot to be learned from creating your own material, reinventing lesson resources from scratch can suck up a lot of energy. Speak to more experienced teachers and see what shared resources are already available.  

“The shared area is an invaluable place to start and trainees should take the time to find their way around whatever system their school uses to organise its resources,” advises Amy Forrester, an ITT mentor in Cumbria. 
“However, don’t make the mistake of thinking you can teach it all ‘straight out of the box’. Read through anything you use and make sure it is suitable for your class before the lesson.”

Definitely DON’T forget about your friends 

It’s a fact: having teacher friends makes you less likely to quit teaching.
Research conducted by the Relationships Foundation, Suffolk and Norfolk SCITT, the Open University and Cambridge Assessment Admissions Testing found that the more relationships a trainee had, the less likely they were to drop out of the training programme.

And it isn’t just fellow teacher friends who make a difference. The research revealed that trainees with “stronger and closer relationships” with their tutors were also more likely to complete the programme. 
Even if you feel as if you’re too busy with work to make time for social occasions, neglecting your relationships will only make you unhappy in the long run, so make time to nurture relationships.