As adults, we all juggle a myriad of tasks, chores and to-do lists on a daily basis, balancing it all. It becomes second nature. Students, on the other hand, are not used to being responsible for the adults who may be overwhelmed or stressed due to the complexities of life. At times, students might even struggle to follow multi-step instructions, but we have to give them so much more credit than that.
More than ever before, students are expected to successfully balance the duties of school and home with minimal supervision as early as Kindergarten. Much of this balancing act is learning how to think strategically, planning ahead and following through. A tall order for many young students, perhaps still a challenge for adults as well.
Minimum Requirements from School and Home
School expectations of our students, at minimum, include requirements to maintain attendance, take tests, pass classes, cooperate, communicate, maintain and build relationships and independently navigate the world. While at home, we ask our children to do chores, participate in family time, finish homework, complete routines including activities of daily living, improve relationships, attend events and play dates, and perhaps participate in a sport or extracurricular activity. Simply listing these tasks is exhausting, just imagine how our students feel and the type of pressure they are under.
“A student often wears many different hats: partner, worker, friend, classmate, etc. Often times these roles are in conflict, and a student must be adept at attending to a variety of factors and assessing priorities.” -Johns Hopkins University
Let’s not leave out the parents and teachers, for without them, none of this would be possible and there is no telling where our society would be headed. We are the adult figures, the role models in our student’s lives and we have the responsibility to lead and guide our children. We experience the challenges of a balancing act just as they do, but in much more intense ways, as the stakes are higher once you reach adulthood.
Adults Need Balance Too
Parents and teachers alike experience heavy workloads which lead to rising stress levels. If you are looking for some practical ways to balance things out at home and at work, you’ve come to the right place:
Don’t over-commit – doing so will over tax your time, which will create undue stress on your mind which will cause negative physical feelings. Don’t do it, it’s not worth it. Learn to say no and not beat yourself up.
Find what works best – Each family unit is different, meaning the same process won’t work for everyone. Through trial and error, determine what works best for your family. Even little time saving tricks can make things run more smoothly in this fast-paced life.
98% is good enough – Stop stressing that you haven’t gotten everything done. YOU are enough! Your students and children will still love you, even if the house isn’t perfectly clean or they miss out on a few minutes of recess because the class ran out of time. Take a moment to stop and recognize your “wins”, because even the small ones count!
We can all use guidance and friendly reminders on how to achieve a better school-home balance. Below are three suggestions (for ALL teachers, students and parents) to help circumvent some of the issues that arise from an unbalanced school-home life.
Plan ahead – Keep a Schedule: Our students don’t necessarily keep a traditional appointment calendar or have a smart phone app, but they still have a schedule, which in many cases is their routine. Young or old, when we are able to focus and prioritize our tasks, we can minimize stress and consistently achieve measurable success. For example, when you maintain a daily routine of waking/eating/bathing/sleeping, each member of the family becomes accustomed to the time of day, the activity to be completed and their role/responsibility in that activity. (This also reduces the “yelling” dynamic all parents experience at some point.)
Don’t procrastinate: What happens when we put things off? Eventually, our pile grows and suddenly things seem unmanageable. Student or Adult, whether you are tired, bored, or merely don’t feel like it, we highly encourage you to pull together just an ounce of motivation to do what you can today, and stop pushing things to tomorrow. Procrastinating and letting things accumulate will certainly sap your motivation and unnecessarily heighten your stress levels. Don’t put off the things you need to accomplish for tomorrow think about what you can do today!
Get a good night’s sleep: Without enough sleep, children can experience learning and behavior problems that extend well into adulthood. Adults with sleep deprivation struggle to focus on simple tasks and become generally irritable to an extreme. Beyond that, those of us who do not get enough sleep are at higher risk for depression and other clinical conditions. Overall, whether you are an adult or a child, more sleep = better health. Looking for tips to improve the quality/quantity of sleep for your family? US News lists the top eight here: https://health.usnews.com/health-news/patient-advice/articles/2015/08/12/is-your-child-getting-enough-sleep
The moral of this article is this – we are all in a precarious balancing act, it’s part of life. However, teachers and parents are more accustomed to the nuances that comes with keeping everything in harmony due to experience and age. What we shouldn’t forget is that our students are facing balancing acts of their own, some never experienced before. Support them by offering assistance, setting a good example and encouraging them when they need it most.
Dr. Chandra Williams is the expert at turning around low performing districts and schools to close achievement gaps for students in school districts across the country resulting in double digit growth in reading and math. Learn more about her at www.CSAS.co.