Faith that Works

Teaching middle schoolers how to live and practice their faith

I have a challenging group of students this year.  I think as teachers, we’ve all been there.  In my efforts to stay positive, I have kept a lot of my frustration and defeat bottled up since the beginning of the school year, and I didn’t realize until some tensions came to a head at home this week what a toll it was taking on me to “stay positive” without recharging.  So as I made a plan to make some personal changes, I have some super common sense ideas for all you other teachers who are also struggling to balance home and work and stay positive.  I know that reading this list may feel like, well duh Emily, of course, but maybe making an intentional choice to incorporate one or two of them in the week ahead will help.

1.Take care of your spiritual health.

When my exhaustion hit an all time high this week, the last thing I wanted to do was wake up for morning prayer.  But each morning that I read through the scriptures and saints of the day in my Magnificat magazine, I found that God had some pretty important things to say to me in his word.  I felt that I could face the day knowing that I had started it with God.   If you don’t have a morning prayer routine, maybe start one.  Mine is only about 15 minutes long because my baby loves to wake up early, but even that 15 minutes can really help.

2.  Meditate.

In addition to teaching full days, in the fall I am the cross country coach for a small but mighty team of really nice kids.  But those two extra hours of work make dinner time and bed time at home very stressful.  One practice we decided to do a yoga workout the day before a meet, and a very curious thing happened.  Instead of coming home super stressed and tired, I came home calm and energized.  I would love to say that at this point I am doing yoga every day to maintain that positive energy, but I am still struggling with that.  But the idea of taking some time to become aware of your breathing and body can help you recharge is an important one.  This week I am committing to doing a small 5 minute guided meditation at the beginning of my plan period every day.  I am just going to find a few on Youtube that I like, but maybe 2-3 yoga poses would work too.

3. Change up the routine.

When you are struggling with balance, the last thing you want to do is add something else.  But I think that adding a small change during the week can give you something to look forward to- like a mini retreat from the every day routine.  My personal recommendation is to try to go to daily mass if possible.  Our church has one at 12, and since I don’t have lunch recess duty this week, I am going to try to make it to mass at least one extra day this week.  I think this will help remind me why it is so awesome to teach at a Catholic school.

4. Make time for family a priority.

I am a super responsible person.  When I had to take a strengths test in grad school, responsibility and belief were two of my main strengths.  When I say I will do something, I do it well.  Life after having a baby has been a struggle for me because I have built a reputation that I am a person who gets stuff done, which is true.  But taking a long look at the fall, I see what a toll that has taken on time with my family.  So this weekend is a sacred family weekend. (I know that I have spent the last 45 minutes writing this, but it is currently 6 am and everyone here is asleep.)  We are making plans with nobody and our only goals are to do all our jobs and fun things together as a family.  Every now and then, it’s good to take time away from the rest of the world and spend it with the people you love the most.  It’s too easy to take them for granted.

5. Set boundaries.

This year I have established some hard and fast boundaries that have really improved my mental health and my time at home with the family.  I do not check or respond to school emails etc. once I have gone home for the day/weekend.  I also do not respond to messages sent to my personal email about school things. (Except when our school email wasn’t working.)  This is hard for me to stick to, but so far I have and it has really made a positive difference in my day to day interactions with my husband and son.

Do you have any suggestions to add to the list?  What ways are you working for balance between work life and personal life?  Please comment and let us know!  I would love to hear from you.

6 thoughts on “Finding balance in the day to day work of teaching

  1. KM Cams says:

    Even 5 or 10 minutes of yoga (using YouTube) has made a profound difference in my ability to stay closer to balanced. Back in the classroom this week for the first time, I have to remember all the balance things because I am way, way not balanced right now! Great suggestions.


    1. Emily Appert says:

      Do you have a specific channel on youtube you use?


  2. Anne Appert says:

    Balance?? That’s a thing? Ha!
    Since I’m basically working two full time jobs at this moment, finding balance has been extremely difficult. When I do try to balance things, I find that when I wake up and write morning pages I feel a little bit more focused throughout the day (I’ve really dropped the ball on this recently). Also, with my art, I feel better when I take time to play instead of just working on the things I need to get done (so this is my version of your weekend I think).


    1. Emily Appert says:

      I love what you wrote about taking time to play! I think it is so important and re-energizing. One time last year my class was talking about The Emperor’s New Groove, and my students and I proceeded to walk everywhere that afternoon like Kronk does when he is sneaking. It made us all laugh, brought the class together, and made the day be filled with joy from such a silly exercise.


  3. Cat Ohbayashi says:

    Thank you so much for this! I teach 3rd grade, and I so needed to read this today. It’s so easy for me to let my anxiety and stress take control, so this was a much needed reminder with great suggestions to boot.


    1. Emily Appert says:

      I’m so glad it helped! Third grade is such a fun age, but you definitely need a lot of energy. Hope this week is awesome!


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