Teachers are teaching during their eight hours at the “office.” So where do they fit in the time to plan lessons (A.K.A. design instruction), grade students’ work, make phone calls to parents, and all of the other things for which they are responsible? They do it in the evenings by staying late at the school, taking their work home to do after dinner, or both. They show up early in the morning to prepare the day’s lessons so class can run smoothly.
Personally, I used to arrive by 7:00 a.m. to prep for my students’ arrival at 8:30 a.m. Teach all day. After dismissal at 4:15 p.m., I stayed to tie up loose ends, catch up on emails, have impromptu meetings with a parent who stopped by or called, or attended a faculty meeting. I would leave the school by 6:00 p.m. if I was lucky. However, I brought home papers to grade and my planner. I would work on grading and planning until 10:00 p.m. IF I didn’t fall asleep, with all of my work in my lap, on the couch first. I know this is almost every teacher’s story. No wonder there is teacher burnout!
In my conversations with those still in education looking for something different, they are all curious about the new sense of work-life balance I have found. It is a foreign concept for most of them. I always start by telling them that I can pee when I want and I have an hour for lunch every day. As silly as it sounds, it was one of the first experiences I LOVED about the corporate world; not just Instructional Design. That sense of freedom was a huge shift in mindset for me, and definitely took some getting used to.
When I delve deeper into the conversation of work-life balance I like to preface it by saying there is no stress-free job out there. Things like large projects, deadlines, management, and company culture can all play a factor in how stressful or un-stressful any job can be. However, since Instructional Design saved me, my stress is far less than what it used to be, and I have much more balance in my life.
Here are the points I make to those who ask me how does your work-life balance differ as a teacher versus an Instructional Designer:
I don’t as an Instructional Designer. There is no need nor expectation for me to take my work home with me to continue working on it late into the evening. I am given tasks for the day. I have the eight hours in the business day to accomplish those tasks. Then, I go home for the evening. I feel this is the culture of Corporate American in general. The work will be there in the morning right where I left it.
I am now able to freely take a day off without having to weigh the pros and cons of spending the extra hours to create substitute plans to be out for the day. I don’t have to bother my colleague to create substitute plans for me if I have an emergency situation. I can just leave.
For those not in education, lunch periods are typically 20 minutes in duration. Teachers line students up five minutes prior to the scheduled lunch period to get to the cafeteria on time, and monitor the students in line until they get seated. That takes roughly 10 – 15 minutes. Then, teachers have approximately 5 minutes to get their own lunch in line or heat up what they brought and eat it. The last 5 minutes of the lunch period is spent organizing the children to throw away their trash, clean the tables, and line back up to return to the classroom.
Since becoming an Instructional Designer, I have been able to take a full hour for lunch and eat with adults! It is AMAZING! Having this extra time means I can take the time to chew my food properly instead of inhaling it, decompress if needed, or even take a walk.
I do have twinges of missing being in front of a class teaching. However, all of the other things I loved about teaching I still get to do as an Instructional Designer. If I have swayed you further in the direction of exploring Instructional Design, check out IDOL courses Academy. The content and supportive community there helped me successfully change careers.
Written by: Gretchen Johanson
Gretchen is an Instructional Designer, IDOL Courses Academy Mentor, and former public educator. Combined, she has over a decade of experience in learning and development. She considers herself a life-long learner and is always looking for opportunities to grow and develop her skills.Work-life balance is important to her. She enjoys kick-boxing, traveling and family time when she is not working.