Teacher Tech blog with Alice Keeler

Paperless Is Not a Pedagogy

Alice Keeler

Can Schools Offer Work Life Balance?

Can schools offer work life balance? It would take a serious commitment and not just lip service.
work life balance at school
Can Schools Offer Work Life Balance?

Is there such a thing as work life balance at school? Can schools offer a “healthy work-life balance?” I came across a posting for a math/science teacher whose first benefit was this. It stuck out since it was the first time I have seen a teacher job posting that even mentioned work life balance at school. 

No Work Life Balance at School

screenshot of a job posting in Kansas where they want you to respond quickly in emergency situations. Not offering work life balance at school.

To contrast, I looked up a similar job posting in the same state and there was no mention of work life balance at school. It listed “Must be able to respond rapidly in emergency situations” and use a fax machine. What message are we telling educators?

No Salary Listed

As a sidenote, neither posting listed the pay. As my dad use to say “If price was a selling point, they would put it up front.” Digging through a school website to find the negotiated agreement is ridiculous in my opinion. This is an exchange of work for money. List the money up front. #endrant

Table of Contents

Is Work Life Balance At School Possible?

I tweeted the screenshot of the job posting. Teachers are quitting in droves and the stress of the job is a major factor. I thought it was refreshing to see that at least one job posting understood that. Several people replied to the post with great skepticism.

It feels sad that many educators feel so abused by the system they find it impossible that a school could offer work life balance. 

Happy Teachers are Good for Students

It is my opinion that the phrase “what is best for students” is oftentimes weaponized to guilt teachers into doing more. “Well, you should….” when there is little training, support, and definitely no time given to allow the teacher to do the “should.” 

A teacher who is stressed out is NOT what is best for kids. 

Lead With a Healthy Work Environment

The teaching profession had a 50% retention rate over a 5 year period when I started teaching in 1999. I remember even back then we would talk about the need to have higher retention rates. 

🙋🏽‍♀️ Hands up if you know a new teacher that you walked in on that was crying. I think probably all of us. 🙋🏽‍♀️🙋🏽‍♀️ Double hands up if it was you. 

You get into the profession of teaching because you love kids and are passionate about learning. The disillusionment for many sets in quickly. Expectations of the job exceeds the time available. The expectation of being able to do conflicting tasks in the space of a class period defies the laws of physics. 

We know the teaching work environment is toxic.

This toxic environment not only undermines the well-being of educators but also jeopardizes the quality of education that students receive, leading to a critical conversation about how to nurture and protect one of society’s most valuable assets – its educators.

Plan Out Healthy Work Life Balance at School

The first right step is surely to list it first in the job posting. 

We want teachers… how can we consider what would provide a healthy work life balance at school?

Just saying it is not enough. What would the specifics be?

AI image of healthy work life balance
Even AI can not quite right get work life balance at school

Planning Period is Sacred

AI image of a teacher planning

It is IMPOSSIBLE to do lesson plans, grade, give feedback, and contact parents in a 50 minute planning period. 

Post the number of weekly, uninterupted, planning minutes provided.

I would be thrilled to see a job posting that clearly indicated a daily planning period that is NEVER EVER stolen. No meetings on your plan should be a rule. A hard rule. Even if you want to plan collaboratively, a healthy work life balance at school would mean that there are at least some minutes every day to yourself. 

Simple math, 120 students at one minute each is 2 hours. Giving students high quality feedback each week exceeds the typical amount of planning time provided. The number of planning minutes should be realistic on how much time it actually takes to plan and do teacher tasks.

Allotted Collabortion Time

Collaboration is important. Collaboration time should be part of the regular schedule. For many schools this is already a thing. It might be called “PLC time.” Put this in the job description. 

Time for Parents - Scheduled Office Hours

A phone call home is important. However, I am personally sick and tired of whenever you have an issue with a kid for the admin to ask “well, did you call home?” I’d love to call home, but I’ve literally been teaching all day and every single minute of my day was taken up. When exactly would I have been able to do this?

Calling guardians is no doubt a job expectation yet there is not a slot on the daily schedule for it. Each teacher should have an “office hours” specifically penciled in. During this time it is expected to meet with parents in person, through video calls, phone calls, or send emails to guardians. 

The elephant in the room is that many parents work. Meeting after hours helps guardians but does not help teachers have a work life balance at school. In fact, quite the opposite. Offering a stipend to hold office hours outside of school hours might be attractive to some teachers. Others may consider it healthy to take a mental break during school to trade for a couple of evening office hours a week. 

Expecting teachers to contact parents after school hours is NOT a healthy work life balance.

After School is Not School Time

After school is exactly that… after school. Toxic is guilting teachers that if they really cared for kids they would not work just to their contract. THEIR CONTRACT! Thus, there is an unwritten expectation that you do significantly more than your contract.  Without exception, teachers should not be expected to work outside of school and we should not celebrate those who do. 

Other Duties as Assigned

Inevitably when I talk to a teacher who is stressed out and I advise them that x y and z are outside of their contract they will come back with “other duties as assigned.” 

The phrase “other duties as assigned” in teacher job descriptions has become a symbol of the unrelenting demands placed on educators, contributing significantly to the erosion of work-life balance in schools. This catch-all clause often translates to an expectation of being on-call around the clock, blurring the boundaries between professional responsibilities and personal time. For a healthier work-life balance, it’s crucial to eliminate this vague and open-ended expectation. 

This change would not only help in setting realistic expectations but also foster a more sustainable and fulfilling teaching environment, where educators can thrive both professionally and personally, without the constant pressure of undefined, ever-expanding duties.

AI generated image of other duties as assigned being crossed out

Job descriptions should be transparent and specific, outlining clear responsibilities and work hours, thereby respecting a teacher’s time outside school. 

Life Happens During School Time

To address the reality that teachers, like any professionals, occasionally need to attend to personal matters during the school day, schools can establish a supportive and practical policy. This policy would acknowledge that unforeseen personal needs, such as picking up a prescription, dealing with a child’s emergency at another school, or running errands like collecting a special order that would be closed after school hours, are legitimate and sometimes unavoidable. The policy, rooted in trust and understanding, would allow teachers to briefly step away from their duties to handle these pressing matters, with the expectation that such occurrences are infrequent and genuinely necessary.

Guest Teacher Role

In my vision for a more teacher-friendly school environment, I propose the introduction of a permanent guest teacher specifically designated for providing short-term class coverage. This role, tailored to accommodate teachers needing to briefly step away for personal matters, could revolutionize the way schools support their staff. Imagine a system where, for every set number of teachers, there’s a dedicated person who seamlessly steps in for anything from a quick errand to a couple of hours of personal time. This not only offers teachers much-needed flexibility but also ensures that students’ learning remains uninterrupted. By integrating such a role, schools can tangibly demonstrate their commitment to the well-being and work-life balance of their educators, fostering a more supportive and understanding teaching environment.

AI image of a pair of teachers

A fair system should be developed that allows teachers to address personal matters as they arise, while also incorporating measures to discourage abuse.

Personal Growth Days

In the dynamic realm of education, it’s essential to acknowledge the multifaceted lives of teachers. That’s why ‘Personal Growth Days’ in our school system is important for nurturing the well-being of educators. These are specially designated days where teachers can pause their usual classroom duties to focus on self-care and professional development, without the constraints of traditional professional development themes. What sets these days apart is their flexibility — there are no blackout dates as long as a substitute teacher is available, ensuring that teachers have the freedom to take this time when they truly need it. Whether it’s for attending a wellness workshop, indulging in a hobby, or simply taking a moment to breathe and reset, Personal Growth Days are a school’s commitment to the holistic health of its teachers. This initiative not only supports the mental and emotional health of educators but also contributes to a more vibrant, engaged, and effective teaching environment, ultimately benefiting the entire school community.

I might be alone in this, but I need to have some breaks in school schedule. I moved to a district that ended school mid May. This seems awesome except that it meant very little breaks during the school year. It was exhausting. The school year felt like a race. I would personally rather add 10 days to the school contract with 10 extra flex days.

Well rounded teachers who have time to develop outside interests are better for students. 

Make Subbing Not Suck

I asked for advice on Twitter for tips for my dad who was thinking of picking up some subbing now that he is retired from engineering. The advice back was “DO NOT! Subbing Sucks.” A lack of high quality substitute teachers has a big impact on teacher work life balance. Teachers come to school sick because there is not a good option for class coverage. Teachers are denied personal day requests because there is no one to cover classes. Consider quality of life for substitute teachers as well.

Mentors Mentors Mentors

Mentoring works to improve teacher retention and job satisfaction. 

In essence, mentorship in teaching goes beyond mere professional guidance; it encompasses holistic support, addressing both professional challenges and personal well-being, which is essential in fostering a sustainable and fulfilling teaching career.


Ai generated image of 2 people talking and there being time for work life balance at school

Mental Health Support

Especially post pandemic mental health should be a priority for everyone. Advising “self care” is inadequate. Provide resources, telehealth, wellness services, etc… 

Child Care Centers

The majority of teachers are women. Helping them to reduce the stress around caring for their children goes a long way toward work life balance at school. 

No Emails Outside of School Hours

I feel like answering my school emails are a full time job. THERE ARE WAY WAY WAY too many emails. It costs “nothing” to fire off an email, so they are sent off flippantly forgetting about the fact that “time is money.” Schedule any emails to only send during work hours. Do not expect anyone to read or respond to emails outside of school hours. 

Reduce In School Emails

Are there donuts in the teachers lounge? How important is that really to clog up a teacher’s email? The front office is sending emails. The librarian is sending emails, The department chair is sending emails. The co-curricular departments are sending emails.

Hey guess what, I am teaching I can not be reading emails all times of the day, nor is it good for mental health. How many times have I missed doing something or missed out on something because the email was sent during instructional time. I am told “we sent an email.” I literally was with students, didn’t get your email, you can’t hold me accountable to that information. 

Daily Newsletter

At my old school I taught at there was a policy that you were not allowed to send emails to the entire school unless you were the principal or had permission. Other places I taught at did not have this policy and I literally wanted to quit just over the volume of email.

Designate one person to collect information that needs to be emailed out. Compile that information into a daily or at most twice daily newsletter. Create a culture that values NOT sending out so much email or spending so much time on email. 

Sample Job Posting

When a teacher reads a job posting, do they get the impression that a high priority is work life balance at school?

Job Title: Innovative Teacher (Emphasizing Work-Life Balance)

Location: [School/District Name]

Job Description:

Join our forward-thinking team as an Innovative Teacher, where we passionately prioritize work-life balance alongside educational excellence. Our school/district is dedicated to creating an environment where teachers can thrive both professionally and personally, ensuring a fulfilling career that harmoniously coexists with a healthy personal life.

Work-Life Balance Features:

Flexible Time-Off Policy: Generous and adaptable leave policy for personal matters, enabling teachers to manage life’s demands with ease.

Reasonable Work Hours: Our commitment to work-life balance is reflected in our scheduling, which limits after-school commitments and unnecessary meetings.

Wellness Programs: Access to wellness and mental health support services, fostering overall well-being.

Personal Growth Days: Allocated days specifically for self-care and professional development, independent of traditional teaching responsibilities.

Key Responsibilities:

– Deliver engaging and effective instruction in your subject area.

– Develop and implement lesson plans that balance high educational standards with manageable preparation time.

– Assess student learning with meaningful yet efficient methods.

– Collaborate with colleagues in a supportive, team-oriented environment that respects personal time.

– Participate in professional development, focusing on both teaching skills and work-life balance.

– Maintain effective communication with students, parents, and colleagues, respecting personal and professional boundaries.


– Competitive salary that acknowledges the value of your role.

– Comprehensive health, dental, and vision insurance plans.

– Retirement savings plan with employer contributions.

– Opportunities for professional development, including time management and stress reduction workshops.

– A family-friendly schedule, including school calendar and events.


– Valid state teaching certification.

– A passion for teaching and commitment to student success.

– Strong communication and interpersonal skills.

– Ability to work collaboratively and maintain a positive mindset.

Join Our Team:

If you’re a teacher seeking a balance between a rewarding professional life and personal well-being, we encourage you to apply. Be part of our innovative team, where we value your professional journey and personal development equally. Let’s work together to create an educational experience that’s enriching for both our students and our teachers.

Work Life Balance for Administrators

Without question, work life balance for administrators is worse than for many teachers. Hopefully this is not an excuse for any administrator to not care about the work life balance of the teachers. Personally, I think administrator stress creeps over into teacher stress. We would all be happier if administrators also had work life balance. 

A Failure of the System

Why is it that teachers, and administrators, struggle with work life balance? The system does not easily allow for the changes that need to take place to value work life balance. It obviously is not free to value work life balance. 

It is no surprise that many teachers were skeptical of the job posting marketing work life balance at school. Given the current system, how can work life balance possibly be offered?

A Cultural Shift

This cultural expectation that teachers should do everything has to change. If I had a nickel for every time anyone said “it’s your job to…” There is a perception about all the tasks a teacher should be completing, but it is literally impossible to meet all of those expectations during school hours. As a community we need to shift the unrealistic expectations of teachers to allow for work life balance at school.

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