Published 26th August 2021
Having a good work-life balance is an essential part of survival these days. There is so much going on around us that we need to make a concerted effort to look after ourselves and our mental and physical health. As English teachers, it can be easy to get overwhelmed by our work and let it take over our lives. But this is not healthy and can lead to exhaustion and even burnout.
Read more: How to Avoid Burnout as a TEFL Teacher
So let’s look at a few practical ways you can make sure you have a good work-life balance while teaching English as a Foreign Language.
1. Be prepared
Teaching can be stressful. Every lesson you are dealing with people. The nature of the job means you are constantly talking while being mindful of what you are saying, and making sure your language is graded appropriately. At the same time, you are constantly checking up on your student’s interests and comprehension.
Being a TEFL teacher is quite a juggling act. You need to know your lesson plan, assess your learners at every stage of the lesson, and adapt your lesson if necessary. Also, you are dealing with any personality clashes that may come up between the students, while directing any necessary movement of the learners to ensure the best configuration for the learning activities. Whew!
As you can imagine, this can be quite a stressful situation. Because there is so much to think about for the TEFL teacher, you must be adequately prepared for your lessons. Make sure you put the necessary thought and time into your lesson prep. Make sure you are clear in what you have to do at every stage of the lesson to accomplish your aims. And also make sure you have all the resources you need and that you are comfortable with any tools or technology that you might be utilising.
Being prepared will help you have confidence in your abilities. Experience is the greatest teacher but even for new teachers, having a good plan is the best way to set yourself up for success.
2. Take a break
If you’ve done even a little part of your TEFL course you’ll know that planning an EFL lesson can feel like you’re in a vacuum. Planning a thirty-minute lesson can take you hours if you fall into the trap of what-ifs? Spending so long on planning your lessons is not sustainable. It’s also not healthy.
If you’re just starting as a TEFL teacher, know that your planning will take longer than necessary. Lesson planning is a learning curve, and that’s okay. But one very helpful tip is to be firm about making decisions. There are a million ways to teach the same lesson, so choose the route you want to take and stick with it. This will save you from endless rabbit holes as you try to find “the best” activities for your lesson.
Set a time for your lesson prep. This might be a chunk of time to plan for the whole week or smaller periods every day. Stick to your time slot. Lesson planning is part of your job, which means you should do it during working hours. Lesson prep can easily creep into your free time but be strict with yourself so that it doesn’t.
3. Get social
You might be talking all day with your students but for the most part, your students aren’t your friends. Connection is an important part of our lives and keeping in touch with friends and family is essential for your mental health.
If you are teaching English abroad, make sure you keep in touch with your friends and family back home through the use of technology. Check-in every couple of days and keep those connections strong. Try to make some local friends so that you have some people you can hang out with after a long day of school. If you can’t speak the local language, you should be able to find other TEFL teachers or ex-pats in your city.
4. Get physical
Teaching is a physically demanding job because you are on your feet for most of the day – getting your 10 000 steps in shouldn’t be a problem! But it’s important to get out and about in the fresh air too. Walking to and from work is one way to get daily exercise, but if walking is not possible and you have to commute, try to make some time for a walk or a run before or after work. If you’re into heavy sweating, join a gym and fit in a few workouts every week. This will keep you healthy and physically fit, ready to deal with any stresses life throws at you.
If you teach English online, it’s even more important to get up and be active. You might be sitting at your laptop for hours every day. Make sure to make time for exercise as often as possible, even if that means doing yoga stretches in the garden or taking your dog for a walk. The great thing about online teaching is that your schedule will be flexible so you’ll be able to fit exercise in when it suits you.
5. Get some rest
Rest is vital for a good work-life balance. As a teacher, you need to be aware of the possibility of burnout and do everything you can to prevent it. This might mean saying no to lessons if you are already booked to your maximum capacity. It also means taking time off from teaching every day to allow your mind to reset, as well as taking regular rest days or holidays. If you are teaching English online, make sure you schedule days of rest if you work on weekends and regular vacation breaks.
If you are teaching English abroad, it can be tempting to go out and explore your city with every free moment you have, but be careful not to overdo it. Travelling in a new city is exhausting, and sometimes you just need to relax with a book or have a nap instead of checking out the local market.
6. Watch what you eat
Being healthy is not only about getting enough exercise but also about eating the right way. We’re not saying you need to be on any kind of a diet but you know you shouldn’t be eating McDonald’s every day, right? Nourishing your body with healthy and nutritious food is essential for keeping yourself healthy.
If you are teaching English abroad, familiarise yourself with the local diet. Eating local specialities and cooking for yourself is not only healthier than eating restaurant food all the time, but it’s cheaper too.
If you’re teaching English online, make sure you don’t always eat at your laptop! Take time to step away from your desk and prepare a good lunch. You can’t survive on toasted sandwiches and 2-minute noodles forever!
7. Find your happiness
We thought we’d save the most important for last.
Your happiness is key to a good work-life balance. You need to be happy in your job in order to be able to enjoy your life. If you’re unhappy with your work, this will spill over into your everyday life, which will make you depressed or frustrated.
Work out what it is that will make you happy and work towards that goal. If that is earning tons of money, then you can work hard knowing you are adding to your savings every day. If that means living a relaxing lifestyle, then you will be happy working less and being more mindful of your free time.
The point is, this is your life and, as clichéd as it may sound, it is what you make of it. Teaching English is one way to create the life you’ve always wanted to live, so make sure you look after yourself, so you can live your best life.