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Balance

The emotional toll education takes on teachers makes balance essential to a happy career and a happy life.

Rocky last post and now Mr. Miyagi. The venerable Socrates and Plato of the modern era. Both use combat sports (boxing and karate) as the vehicle to bestow wisdom to their sons (for Daniel, Mr. Miyagi is the father figure he lacked his entire life).

Pat Morita (Mr. Miyagi) has just given Ralph Macchio (Daniel) a new car for his birthday. Mr. Miyagi sees how excited Daniel is, but senses something is still troubling him. Daniel shares that he is worried about the upcoming karate tournament.

Mr. Miyagi reminds Daniel of a prior karate lesson on the importance of balance. He shares that balance is not only critical for success in the tournament, but also in life. Handing Daniel a picture of his girlfriend is a reminder that there is more to life than the karate tournament. And, when you focus too much on one area it leads to stress and worry.

Every day teachers invest time, energy, and their hearts into supporting the academic and social emotional needs of their students. It is an incredibly rewarding profession, but also an incredibly draining profession. If a teacher is unable to balance school and their personal life, it is impossible for them to sustain the wonderful things they are doing in the classroom.

There are definite highs in education: establishing trusting relationships with students that allow them to take risks, creating unique learning experiences that engage the most reluctant of learners, collaborating with colleagues to capitalize on the strengths of the whole. The list goes on and on. But, there are times when relationships fail, lessons bomb, and colleagues choose to work in isolation. It is during these moments when balance is most critical.

Every setback is amplified when it is all you have. Without balance there is no avenue to rebound, reset, and refocus. You fester. You stew. You doubt yourself.

Often the best way to recover from a failure is to turn your attention to something else. That something could be family, a hobby, a budding interest…anything. Focusing outside of education does two things: allows you to find joy and gives your brain the time it needs to process and reflect.

When you come home from school and the day, or week, has not gone as planned, it is important to have something to pick you up. You need an escape. You need something that will take your mind off of the problems of the day. You need something to look forward to. As a teacher, it is a necessity to find that something or somethings, because it is too much to put all you happiness eggs in your teacher basket.

Having an escape not only provides joy, but it gives the much needed time away from a recent road block. With time, your brain has time to process what happened, why it happened, and ways to make adjustments moving forward. When you try to fix a problem at school right after it happens, you can easily be either too emotional or too close to it to identify potential solutions.

An administrator’s need for balance is equally important. Because a principal’s job contains such a variety of components, it can be challenging to leave work at work. A “to do” list is often playing on loop in your head. Sometimes you have to tell yourself, occasionally out-loud, to stop thinking about school.

Family and hobbies are two areas suggested earlier to help live a balanced life. An additional one, that is extremely valuable for administrators, is having a group of supportive friends. It would be great to have friends work in professions outside of education, so that the conversations do not constantly revolve around school. However, people tend to gravitate towards those in similar professions, because they spend time together and often share common beliefs.

A principal having other principal friends can be extremely beneficial. A principalship can be lonely, so having friends who face the same challenges is comforting. You never have to say, “But, you don’t understand,” because they do.

One important note to remember is not to let school conversations dominate when you are meeting up with friends outside of school. Remember it is all about balance, and you do not want the lines between school and friends to blur. Otherwise, when things are going poorly at school, you will not want to meet up with friends either.

Deliberately look for things not school related to share with friends. Be the one who suggests a new restaurant to eat at, sporting event to attend, or show to binge watch together. Your administrator friends will thank you, because even though they understand the importance of balance, they might not always make the choices to live balanced.

Educators experience highs and lows. When you hit a rough patch, having balance allows you to ride out the low times and get you back to what you do best…changing lives!

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