Hello everyone, this is Rachel Tanenblatt from Music With Mrs. Tanenblatt. I hope you and your family had a happy holiday season. I hope you’re feeling relaxed and renewed, and most of all I hope that you’re ready to get back into the swing of teaching in January! Have you made any New Year’s resolutions? There’s one that I’m excited to be writing about today: improving my work/life balance.

This is something that’s important to me personally because I just had a baby in October. When I go back to work in January I want to make sure that I keep my school work at school and am able to fully enjoy my time with my family when I’m home. I’ve compiled a list of nine things that teachers can do to keep a healthy balance between work and the rest of their lives. I hope it helps you in the upcoming calendar year!

1. Leave school work at school
This item is probably the most obvious and also the most difficult to achieve. In order to keep a healthy work/life balance, we need to make sure that we are not spending hours after school and on the weekend writing lesson plans or grading. This might mean finding ways to use our given planning time more productively during the week. For those of us whose planning time is limited, it leads us to the next point…

2. Get to work early
Maybe this suggestion is more of a personal preference, but I know that I’m much more productive before school rather than after it. Once I’ve finished a full day of teaching, my brain is fried and I can barely think about what’s for dinner, let alone do more school work.

Winter can also be particularly taxing when we leave work and the sun is already starting to set. Therefore, I try to leave on time in the afternoon and prefer to get to work early to do things like prepare my materials and write “I Can” statements on the board.

3. Utilize your commute
So many of us have to deal with a long commute to and from school every day. Before I switched schools, I had to drive about an hour to and from work. It was depressing and monotonous to be stuck in the car so long. I felt like I was wasting two hours of my precious time each day. Then, I started using that time more wisely. I began listening to audiobooks during my drive and I was actually looking forward to my time in the car so that I could hear the next chapter.

Are audiobooks not your thing? You could try making a special playlist of your favorite music or something else that you would look forward to hearing. I’ve also heard that many teachers will prepare playlists of songs they’re teaching in chorus to help them use their commute time to prepare.

4. Keep work email off of your phone
In a society where we are constantly connected, it is so tempting to want to keep up by reading emails the second we receive them. There’s an immense feeling of pressure when we see every single email the second it arrives. Pressure to respond as soon as possible, pressure to complete whatever task is being asked of us. While it may feel good to clear your inbox, it is actually hurting your productivity.

That, plus the fact that reading work emails at home will only add to the pressure of feeling like we need to respond right away. When we’re at home, we shouldn’t be letting work distract us from our personal lives. I’d bet that you can think of a time when you read a school email at home and someone was asking you to do something. You probably couldn’t do that thing until you got to school the next day, but you still spent half the evening worrying about the thing. Turning off work emails will solve this problem for once and for all.

5. Take up yoga and/or meditation
It’s no secret that teaching is a stressful profession. Adding a yoga or meditation practice to your regular routine can be a great way to de-stress. As teachers, we give and give and give to our students, colleagues, and communities. I believe it is important for us to focus our energy on ourselves when we are not at work.

6. Cultivate hobbies for yourself
Another beneficial way to focus on ourselves is through our hobbies. Whether it’s scrapbooking, running, knitting, or underwater basket weaving, having a hobby gives us something to look forward to doing when we aren’t at work. It can help break up the monotony of our daily routine. Instead of just coming home from school, making dinner and going to bed, it can give our free time some purpose.

7. Make Music For Yourself
One of the best decisions I have made during my teaching career was joining the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. I previously wrote a post on my teaching blog about how beneficial it has been for me as a musician. Especially for those of us who teach Elementary music, we need an artistic outlet that is more than just school music. Performing in an ensemble with other adults reminds us why we entered the profession in the first place. It helps us continue to hone our craft and find new approaches to teaching and appreciating music.

8. Enlist student help
Another way that we can make the most of our time at school is by utilizing our best resource: our students! I’ve found that all students, regardless of grade level or behavior issues, truly want to help. Asking students to help with daily tasks helps them feel validated and make a contribution to the class community.

I started this school year eight months pregnant and I knew I wouldn’t be able to physically continue all of the classroom upkeep that I was used to. I started enlisting student help. Sometimes I would make it an incentive and say I would pick the four best behaved students to help me for a few minutes after class. Other times I would pop into the cafeteria during my planning time and snag a few students who were done eating. I’ve had students help me with arranging/stacking chairs, putting away or setting up instruments, sorting manipulatives and dry erase boards, even filing my Music Express magazines. Kids love to help and it’s a great way to save time while making meaningful connections.

9. Don’t reinvent the wheel
This is the part of the blog post where I list a shameless plug. There are so many ways to save yourself time and stress by using resources available on Teachers Pay Teachers. You can purchase an entire curriculum if you need it! Or you can find masterful, student-tested individual lessons that align to national and state standards. There are games and review activities, classroom décor options, and so much more that are all available at the push of a button. Go ahead, give yourself the gift of more free time this year!

Rachel with Music with Mrs. Tanenblatt

Rachel Tanenblatt is an elementary music educator in Baltimore, Maryland. She is in the process of getting her Kodály levels and enjoys teaching children to sing, play, and move creatively. Outside of teaching music, Rachel also sings semi-professionally and enjoys hobbies such as crafting and photography.