Striving for a Sustainable Work-Life Balance

Yesterday, I received an email asking if there was anything special I wished to pursue in the upcoming 2013-2014 school year as part of our school redesign efforts.  I found the request bittersweet.  Redesigning school is an awesome opportunity, especially if it creates an environment that truly enables students to invest in their education.  Having a hand in that process greatly appeals to me.  At the same time, nearing the end of my second year in teaching, I recognize all too well that I am completely drained.  Without a summer off recharging my batteries, and a third year of reasonable challenges, I do not believe I will continue in my new profession.  However, if I take time for myself and my family this summer, and attain something close to a reasonable balance between my work and personal life this coming school year, I believe my journey serving students can last many, many years.

Here’s a slightly edited version of my response.


As a second year teacher with three preps (i.e., different courses) and BTSA, simply making it through this year took an unbelievable amount of energy, far more than I ever imagined.  My second year was tougher than my first, which was no “walk in the park” with three preps and the turbulence in AP Calculus.  Going forward, I recommend new teachers be assigned no more than two preps if they need to clear their credential via BTSA or another program; otherwise, we may inadvertently drive new teachers from the profession.

Also, with the switchover to Common Core this coming fall, I suspect my work load will remain formidable as much of the curriculum I developed the past two years for algebra 1  aligned with the Mathematics Content Standards for California Public Schools, and not the Common Core; hence, the need to redesign my course to align with Common Core.  Furthermore, the transition to the Common Core requires a considerable effort in the classroom as students will not be acclimated to the shift towards mathematical practices emphasizing concepts and understanding in conjunction with procedures and knowledge.  Additionally, as we continue to expand the ranks of students who take AP Calculus at our school, the need to expend greater energy is necessary to support students with the inevitable challenges in the course.

Given the above, I need to focus my efforts next year on developing a more sustainable pace and a healthy balance in my life.  As I knew coming into teaching, if I do not maintain a healthy balance while teaching, my passion for teaching will diminish, which helps no one.  I left my career in high-tech to follow a passion: help students overcome their struggles with mathematics and academics.  Doing so effectively requires a teacher to work from a position of strength, filled with energy to overcome the inordinate issues that arise in a classroom on any given day.  If I attempt any additional initiatives this coming year beyond teaching AP Calculus AB and algebra 1 aligned with Common Core, I fear my energy level will rapidly deplete leading me to become another teacher attrition statistic.

I send this to you to let you know I wish I had the energy to take on something beyond what is currently planned, something grandiose even.  However, the simple fact is through my experiences these past two years, I know I need to focus on where I can be successful in a sustainable fashion so I can return year after year.

Thanks for reading this!

About Dave aka Mr. Math Teacher

Independent consultant and junior college adjunct instructor. Former secondary math teacher who taught math intervention, algebra 1, geometry, accelerated algebra 2, precalculus, honors precalculus, AP Calculus AB, and AP Statistics. Prior to teaching, I spent 25 years in high tech in engineering, marketing, sales and business development roles in the satellite communications, GPS, semiconductor, and wireless industries. I am awed by the potential in our nation's youth and I hope to instill in them the passion to improve our world at local, state, national, and global levels.
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2 Responses to Striving for a Sustainable Work-Life Balance

  1. Dave,
    I can so relate to everything you say in this post. Like you, with a long and successful career in high tech behind me, I found that BTSA is poorly differentiated (basically NOT differentiated) to take encore career teachers like us into account. I’ve been following the craziness with your AP Calculus students and parents and I have marveled that you did not completely lose your mind.
    So with all that insanity receding in the rearview mirror, I applaud your decision to do what you need to do to take good care of you over the summer and into this next year. We are in this for the long haul, and that means pursuing — and modeling the pursuit of — a healthy work-life balance.
    I hope you have a couple weeks of nearly uninterrupted sleep followed by a restful and rejuvenating summer with your family!

    – Elizabeth (@cheesemonkeysf)


    • Thanks so much, Elizabeth. I must recover and reframe or move on – it is that simple. BTW, the principal “requested” I serve on a redesign committee the last day of school, which I hope will not consume too much effort or time. I should have cc’d her on my email!


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