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March 24, 2010 It's a Boy! Balancing Motherhood & Teaching By Beth Newingham
Grades 3–5

    I welcomed my second bundle of joy on Friday, March 12th. Evan joined his 2-year-old brother Luke, weighing in at a hefty eight pounds! Before having my first son two years ago, I never could have imagined the joy that children would bring to my life. Prior to having kids, I was certainly one of those teachers who arrived early, stayed late, worked on "school stuff" every evening, and even spent much of my weekend planning and preparing lessons for the days and weeks to come.  While there are certainly days and weeks when I feel that I am still maintaining that way of life, I am finally learning to strike a healthy balance between motherhood and teaching.  Teaching is certainly a passion of mine, but my two boys have helped me learn that there is more to life than creating great lesson plans and updating my class Web site!  It is certainly challenging to be a great mom and a great teacher, but I have found some creative and successful ways to do both.


    Read on to learn how I balance my teaching responsibilities with my family life!

    Get Organized!


    Mom and baby Being organized has really helped me maintain peace of mind when it comes to my teaching.  I find that truly planning ahead reduces the stress that comes from preparing lessons the night before or forgetting to send home important or timely notes.  Here are some of the organizational strategies I've put into place to keep myself sane!

    1. Plan Units Instead of Lessons: I have used the past few summers to write out "units at a glance" along with daily lesson plans for the units I teach in reading, writing, word study, and social studies.  While it was a lot of work at the time, I am so grateful each week when I can just look ahead and see exactly what I will be teaching.

    2. Stay Late (or Arrive Early) ONE Day a Week: I choose Mondays to stay late each week.  Since my husband's office is closed on Mondays, I stay an extra hour or two at school to get everything I will need for the week laid out, copied, and organized.  This allows me to come to school each day and not have to scramble around getting things ready for my daily lessons.  Notes and/or worksheets are copied, posters for mini-lessons are pulled out of storage, and word study center activities are set up for the week.  On the rest of my work days I am more able to get right home to my boys for some quality time together!

    3. Look Ahead: At the beginning of each month, I look ahead at any events, field trips, or special projects. I have found that busyness at home can lead to forgetfulness at school! There were times during my first year back after having my first son that I would forget to send home field trip permission slips or other informative notes until days before the event. Looking ahead and getting all notes created and copied ahead of time has saved me many headaches!


    Use Parent Helpers!

    Parent Prior to having my own kids, I actually did not use parent helpers much.  I felt bad asking parents to do "my work" (copying, putting class books together, laminating word study center activities, creating new math game materials, etc.)   However, it was often these "easy" (although time-consuming) tasks that were keeping me at school for so many hours after the students were dismissed.  My teaching partner and I now send home a parent volunteer calendar where parents can sign up to come in and help on any day of the week.  As soon as we know they are coming, we make sure to have work ready for them to do.  I can't believe I did not use parents before.  They have saved me a great deal of time that can now be spent with my family!




    Mix School Life With Family Life

    I make an effort to make my family life part of my school life whenever possible.  Especially now that my first son is getting older, I often take him to after-school events hosted at our school.  Luke loves the school fair, family game night, the ice cream social, and other fun events planned by our staff or the P.T.O.  I also bring my son to school to meet my class throughout the school year.  He took part in our schoolwide Halloween parade, made a short appearance at our class Valentine's Day party, and came to our Southeast region "Disney Day" tour stop to share his "Disney Museum" items (thanks, dad!).  He also tagged along with my mom (grandma) when she was a Mystery Reader in our classroom.

    100_4747 Disney

    My husband, a dentist, also visits our classroom in February to do some fun "Dental Health Month" activities with my students.  (Check out his Dental Health Month "Totally Terrific Tooth Trivia" Challenge!)  I am careful that Luke's appearances do not interfere with academic time, but I do feel that it is important for my students to be familiar with my family.  I talk about my family often when I am teaching, and I like that my students are able to connect their faces to my stories.

    IMG_1474 IMG_5213



    Explore Creative Solutions for a More Flexible Work Schedule

    Evan sleep Luke After having my first son, I went back to teaching the following year in a shared-time position with another teacher in my district. I am lucky to teach in a district where shared teaching is supported by our administration.  I teach on Monday, Tuesday, and every other Wednesday.  My teaching partner teaches Thursday, Friday, and every other Wednesday.  With this schedule, I am able to be home with my kids two to three weekdays each week.  However, it does take a great deal of communication with my teaching partner.  We are in constant communication about our students, but it is actually nice to have a partner to confer with when it comes to making academic and behavioral decisions about our students.  I also know of teachers in other districts who split the days in half so that one teacher teaches certain subjects in the morning, and the other teacher teaches the rest of the subjects in the afternoon.  This option would likely require less communication between the two teachers, but it would mean both teachers would need to be at school every day of the week.

    I would highly recommend shared-time teaching to any working moms or dads who are looking to strike a balance between teaching and parenting.  I was not ready to stay at home full time, as my passion for teaching was too great.  However, I was also not ready to leave my kids and work a full-time job.  Shared-time allows me to do both "jobs," and I have found that I am better able to put 100% into both my teaching and my parenting with this ideal schedule.


    Learn to Say No!

    This was the most challenging thing for me when I returned to school as a working mom.  I have always been the teacher who volunteered for every committee and took on many responsibilities on top of my classroom obligations.  I continued doing this even during my first year back after having Luke and quickly learned that I can not do it all!  As difficult as it was to not be a part of all that was happening at my school and in my district, I knew that being a good mom to my son was more important than anything I was doing in my professional life.  I had to reevaluate my priorities and decide what committees and projects were incredibly important to me and determine which ones I needed to drop. I immediately felt a sense of relief as I let go of some very time-consuming commitments that were taking up valuable time both at school and at home.


    Do Away With Less Purposeful (yet Time-Consuming) Projects in Your Classroom

    As soon as I became a working mom, I realized that I could not do all of the "extra" things I had been so accustomed to doing in my classroom before I had my own kids.  There were activities that required hours of preparation and projects that consumed my time outside of school.  Movie-making is a perfect example of this.  I used to make four to five movies a year with my students and would spend entire weekends editing the movies.  While I still do a couple of movies a year, I have cut back on this time-consuming activity in my classroom.

    I also looked at all of the projects that I had done with my students in the past and ranked them in order of academic importance and curricular purpose.  I was able to determine that quite a few time-consuming projects were not worth the time and effort required to pull them off.  Many teachers look at my Web site and say, "How do you do it all?"  The truth is that many of the activities you see highlighted on the Web site are not things I do every year. Some are special projects related to our year-long theme or are things I have done once or twice in the past. 

    Updating my class Web site has also become more challenging with kids at home.  I do not have all the time in the world to update it each week, so I have come to terms with the fact that it is okay to update it once a month instead.


    Use Every Minute of the Day!

    I am very conscious of my precious prep time.  My students always have at least one special class (gym, art, music, Spanish, media) each day.  During this time I am not in charge of the students and can get work done in my classroom.  Prior to having kids I would find myself chatting with the office staff or other staff members I bumped into in the copy room instead of really getting work done.  I always knew I could just stay after school and finish it later.  I now use every minute of my prep time to grade papers, update bulletin boards, make copies, etc.  I often find myself working through my lunch break as well, but it is also important for me to visit the staff lounge so that I stay connected with my fellow staff members.


    Set Aside a Family Day

    Family1 I try as hard as I can to make Saturday my family day.  On this day of the week, I attempt to avoid anything related to school and spend the entire morning, afternoon, and evening doing fun things with my husband and kids.  My husband is kind enough to give me uninterrupted time on Sundays to do lesson plans for the week, create my weekly newsletter, and get things prepared for my teaching days.  I find that I am more refreshed and ready to teach on Mondays when I have spent quality time with my family during the weekend! 


    Kudos to my amazing husband who is so supportive of my career and completely understands the demands that come along with being an elementary teacher!





    Share Your Balancing Act

    I would love to hear from other moms and dads who are juggling teaching with parenthood!  Share some tips with me and other readers of the blog who are currently balancing family life and teaching.  I look forward to hearing from you!


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