Work-Life Balance

30th June 2006 at 01:00
Work-Life Balance: a practical guide for teachers. By Margaret Adams. David Fulton pound;12

A friend who left teaching now does a satisfying and worthwhile job in the public sector helping people who are unemployed. It's hard work, but it occupies a clearly defined part of her life: she comes home and leaves it behind. Teachers, on the whole, can't - or don't - do that. It's more complicated than just bringing work home. It's more that wherever you are, and whatever you're doing, you're always a teacher. The job leaks into your life. Not only will you make and receive long phone calls at home (about planning, or troubled children, for example) but you'll do it without the slightest feeling that perhaps you shouldn't.

This is, of course, a recipe for stress-related unhappiness or even illness, and there comes a point where you have to do something about it.

Essentially, the message in this book is about being aware of what's happening, and taking charge of your life. There's an audit which will hit home with most people who read it: a battery of 50 questions on how you respond to requests to attend irrelevant meetings, or whether you're being drawn into social events that you don't enjoy but are too nice to turn down.

Some advice is familiar, bears repeating, and is bluntly put by Margaret Adams in terms worth blowing up and putting on the staffroom wall: "Working long hours is bad for productivity and bad for you as a teacher." She doesn't forget that it's not all your fault. Caring schools look after their people and do not, for example, issue meaningless or outdated job descriptions. There's a particularly good, detailed activity in the book called "Can Anyone Do My Job?", designed to ascertain whether your job is actually possible, which should produce some interesting results. This is a heartening book: light at the end of the tunnel, in the form of specific ideas and a general invitation to put yourself back in control.

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