As I sit down to write my President’s message I know I want it to be about finding a work/life balance. This is the time of year that it hits us the hardest. The weather is cold, the days are still short, indoor recesses, etc., etc., etc. Then it occurred to me, I think I wrote something similar in the past. A quick search through my drive and, sure enough, January of last year I had noticed the same thing while visiting members at their schools and worksites. Below you will find an updated version of what I wrote just over a year ago and I dare say it’s still pretty pertinent.
As Kirsten and I tour around and visit the RETTA members around the division, there seems to be a common theme we are coming across. This theme can be summed up in a few words; Workload, work/life balance, burnout, stress.
I don’t need to get into all the reasons why, but we all know the job can be demanding and take its toll on us. Below are a few of my thoughts that have occurred to me over the last several months of listening to teachers as well as my own years of teaching experience. These are just ideas but please consider them;
- Keep your work email separate from your personal email. It’s extremely difficult to keep a work/home balance when these crossover. You really shouldn’t be using your work email for personal matters anyway. If you think it’s too much of a pain to have a personal email account (i.e. Gmail) in addition to your work account, or to have to stay on top of both accounts… it’s worth the trouble. I strongly advise you to keep the two separate.
- If you have your divisional emails sent to your phone, don’t. If the division is providing you with a device and paying for the service, that’s a different story but even then you should set yourself limits. And it’s just not a good idea to have work emails go to your personal device. You are under no professional obligation to answer work-related emails on your personal time. That’s your time. Time to shut work off for a few hours. As important as we and our jobs are, remember that we are not “on call” 24/7. If someone from the school absolutely needs to get a hold of you, they will call. Not to mention the fact that if you lose your personal phone and you have sensitive student information on there in the form of emails or anything else, that’s not good.
- If you feel the need to check your work emails in the evening, set a specific time to do it. For me, when I was in the classroom I made a point of not checking my work emails in the evening. That said, I did login to my email every Sunday evening so that I wouldn’t have any surprises Monday morning. I don’t like Monday morning surprises. I’m not saying this one is a good idea for everyone – it did cause some sleepless Sunday nights – but often it put my mind at ease. To each, their own.
- Take your Personal Days. This is a hard-fought-for benefit that we all deserve. Take the days, take care of yourself. No explanation needed.
- If you aren’t feeling well enough to work, take sick time. Plain and simple, you aren’t doing anyone, you or your students, any favours by getting sick and showing up to work in that condition. I know that preparing for a sub is difficult. As a music specialist, believe me, I get it. But, you know what? The students will survive your absence, they will be there when you get back and will probably even be happy to see you return. The school will still be standing. I’m sure most of you already have a “sub binder” or something similar full of activities. Use it, and trust our substitute members.
- Take your duty-free lunch hour. You know you need that time to recharge, and this is another one of those hard-fought-for benefits that you are entitled to. The fact that we had to actually bargain for an opportunity to have a lunch break is silly enough as it is. Please don’t make it seem OK that some teachers may not get an opportunity to sit and have their lunch in peace. You work long enough hours, take your lunch break. Sit with your colleagues, sit alone in your quiet room, go for a walk around the block, whatever you need to do. It will make you a better teacher.
- Attend MTS or RETTA wellness events. There are a variety of wellness events throughout the year for members. Come out and enjoy some social time with your colleagues. Trivia Night, volleyball, hockey, curling, golf… There’s something for everyone.
- Check out the LifeSpeak program recently launched by MTS. You can access it though your MTS MyProfile account. There are literally hundreds of short videos to help you through a variety of life’s challenges. Everything from relationship or financial advice, to addictions, healthy living, mental health and more.
Remember, we are here at the RETTA office for you. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to call.
– Chris Darazsi