Is work-life balance actually achievable in teaching, or is it just a fallacy?
The fallacy of work-life balance is best summed up in the Department for Education’s recent attempt at addressing teacher workload. There were lots of great ideas steered by those within the profession, but there was no change in structural policies from the DfE to eradicate issues at the core. Marking, lesson planning and worse, data crunching for OfSTED and league table purposes, continue to blight recruitment and retention for those working in the classroom. Funding must increase in order to reduce a teacher’s contact-ratio, and that’s just not going to happen. So, what can we do about it?
Recently, I watched a TED talk by Nigel Marsh.
Throughout this film, I questioned why and at which points I felt frustrated with my job in teaching.
In Marsh’s presentation a simple question [for teachers] is posed: are you working too hard and are you neglecting your family? More importantly, he says if you do not define your own work-life balance, your employer will. It was this sentence that provoked me to think and write this post.
Why James and The Giant Peach you ask? Well, you’ll have to watch the video in full. Here are some take-away highlights:
- If society is to make any progress with work-life balance, we need a serious debate. All the discussions about flexible working hours or dress-down Fridays, or maternity/paternity leave only serve to mask the core issue, which is that certain job and career choices are fundamentally incompatible with being meaningfully engaged on a day-to-day basis with a young family.
- We need to face the truth that governments and corporations aren’t going to solve this issue for us. We should stop looking outside. It’s up to us as individuals to take control and responsibility for the type of lives that we want to lead.
If you don’t design your life, someone else will design it for you, and you may just not like their idea of balance and this is particularly important that you never put the quality of your life in the hands of a commercial corporation. Because commercial companies are inherently designed to get as much out of you [as] they can get away with, even the good well-intentioned companies.”
- On the one hand, putting childcare facilities in the workplace is wonderful and enlightened. On the other hand, it’s a nightmare — it just means you spend more time at the bloody office.
- We need to elongate the time frame upon which we judge the balance in our life, but without falling into the trap of the “I’ll have a life when I retire …”
- The small things matter. Being more balanced doesn’t mean dramatic upheaval in your life.
You can watch the presentation below; it’s worth every second … and it’s an idea worth spreading.
The Giant Peach:
Well, what I am going to do now?
Well, it simple really, I’m off to read a story and this video will explain why. Here’s what I’m aiming for this academic year:
- Go home from work earlier.
- Stop working at the weekend for others.
- Spend more time with my family, on days out, away from the computer and the mobile phone.
With the smallest investment in the right places, you can radically transform the quality of your relationships and the quality of your life … it can transform society. Because if enough people do it, we can change society’s definition of success away from the moronically simplistic notion that the person with the most money when he dies wins, to a more thoughtful and balanced definition of what a life well lived looks like.”