Are you a new teacher on a rollercoaster ride of emotions? If that resonates with you, I completely understand! Balancing teaching and personal life can be overwhelming, especially when you're just starting out. You might wonder how experienced teachers manage it all, but the key lies in maintaining a healthy work-life balance. Teaching is more than a job; it's about finding your equilibrium amidst the demands of the profession.
As the host of the First Year Teacher Mentor Group since 2018, I have heard countless new teachers share their struggles and vulnerabilities, many of which I experienced during my own first year. The thing is that all teachers were once first-year teachers figuring out how to balance it all. And while times in education have changed, finding the balance between teaching and personal life has always been crucial.
The THRIVE Framework For New Teachers is a comprehensive workbook and powerful tool tailored to new teachers seeking balance in their first year. This framework focuses on six essential pillars to guide new teachers toward finding a healthy work-life balance. This framework is also a great resource for mentor teachers as there are exercises that can be completed with a mentee.
The framework is based on these six pillars:
Try Your Best
When you THRIVE as an educator, you are trying YOUR best. Your best is going to look different than the teacher down the hall that has more experience under their belt simply because they've had more time for trial and error, more time for professional development, and more time to explore new ideas. Your best today might not be "the best there is," but it's the best that you can do today. And as you go through your first year of teaching, your best at the beginning of the year is going to look different that your best at the end of the year. The key is steady progress. So give yourself lots of grace, and remember that most importantly, the simple question to ask yourself is, "Are my students learning?" If you can answer yes, you're succeeding.
You are already showing up, doing the work, and trying to be and do all that everyone expects of you. But sometimes we can fall into the trap of putting our own needs aside. Teaching is a job of "people helping people," and it can lead to burnout if we don't make space for self-care. One question to ask yourself is, "Will my tomorrow self be happy with this decision?" Healthy habits are just small, consistent steps that add up over time.
Within The THRIVE Framework for New Teachers, I share specific ways that you can integrate healthy physical and mental habits, as well as practical ways that you can set boundaries for yourself to help you separate work and home life.
Routines & Systems
There may be times that you end up staying late at school, but you don't want it to become the norm. There is no gold star for being the last car in the parking lot. A routine is something that you do on a regular basis and a system is the particular way that you do something. There are only 24 hours in a day for everyone, so having an efficient way to work is critical in a teaching job that requires that we juggle many different things all at once. It can be helpful to break down your to-do list into three categories:
Things I need to get done today
Things I need to get done this week
Things I need to get done this month
Within the framework, I share specific routines and systems that you can integrate into your week, including how to set up long-range planning using a batching system, and much more.
There are some misconceptions around teaching that can be helpful to break. First of all, you don't have to grade everything. Students can do some of their own record-keeping by tracking their own progress on some things. A second misconception is that you must make everything yourself. Instead, lean on others for lesson plans. Pre-made lessons allow you to get your prep-time back. And finally, let's break the misconception that teachers must "do it for the outcome, not for the income." When we give into this way of thinking, we end up taking on additional tasks for free, or feel we have a moral obligation to offer our time and attention or whole self to people. This is a sure path to burnout.
Iteration & Innovation
Learning on the job is part of the job. Whether you are learning a new curriculum to implement, or are trying out a new classroom management system, iterating and innovating is crucial to teaching. When things are not going well, it can be helpful to write down three specific ways that you might solve the problem. For example, if your students are struggling with transitions during centers, what are three things that you could do this week to solve this problem? Maybe it's taking time to explicitly model how transitions are supposed to look like, sound like, and feel life. Maybe it's asking a trusted colleague to come observe and give you feedback, or maybe it's visiting another classroom and seeing how they do transitions. Because you don't know what you don't know.
Being a reflective teacher is also important. Be honest with yourself, but not critical. Be intentional about celebrating the things that are working. Create a "smile file" filled with positive notes from students or parents to reference on hard days.
Voice & Values
It's important to remember that not all schools are the same. If you feel like teaching just isn't for you, consider changing grades or switching schools before completely giving up on the profession. Most importantly, you want to work in a school that aligns with your values. You want to work in a place where you can express your voice.
So often teachers find themselves in tough interpersonal relationships because of communication issues. Within The THRIVE Framework for New Teachers, I share communication tips, as well as specific ways that you can move from hurt to understanding if you've been criticized. There will be times when we need to have difficult conversations with students, parents, and colleagues. Within the framework, I share steps to help you prepare and have successful difficult conversations.
In teaching, we have to expect that there will be ups and downs just like any other job. However, we are exposed to people in need all day, every day. We can expect that not only will we have ups and downs, but our students will too. It can be helpful to ask ourselves, "Will this matter in 5 minutes? Will this matter in 5 weeks? Will this matter in 5 years?" Keeping that in perspective can help you weather the ups and downs.
When it comes to comparing yourself to other teachers, it can be helpful to keep in mind that the veteran teacher next door has also weathered many ups and downs. Consider this. A tree grows its roots deep and strong only through the rains and winds. If a tree never experiences any weathering, it doesn't have strong enough roots to hold it up. Likewise, we become stronger and more confident teachers when we face the challenges head-on. When we look at the veteran teacher, we don't see the roots underground or the years of learning, lived experiences, and growth. So be careful not to compare your journey to the teacher next door.
To help prepare for those tough days, it can be helpful to have a mantra. This is a phrase or short saying that can get you through those tough moments because our minds can be such a trickster. Write out your declaration and post it somewhere in your classroom where you can be reminded of your mantra each day.
If you're interested in accessing all of the tools and resources included within this framework, you can find the paperback book on Amazon or grab a copy of the digital instant download to print at home. This workbook is filled with exercises, strategies, and more to help you navigate the challenges of your first year of teaching. Your first year of teaching doesn't have to be a daunting rollercoaster. With this framework, you'll navigate the highs and lows with confidence.
What New Teachers are Saying:
"This was exactly what I needed when I needed it. I read more than half of it that night and I absolutely fell in love. This is pretty much gold to me as a new teacher." - K.M.
Find the paperback book on Amazon HERE
Grab the digital e-book to print and place in a binder HERE