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Teaching Profession Opinion

Tips for Balancing School, Outside Career Ventures and Family

By Starr Sackstein — October 30, 2016 4 min read
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I’m often messaged both privately and publicly with questions about how I maintain the many things I do.

Working full time in a school as a teacher and teacher coach, writing a blog three times a week, publishing books one to two times a year, speaking about the beliefs espoused in those books and being a mommy is extraordinarily challenging.

Don’t let the ease in which things appear to be happening fool you.

I struggle.

Prioritizing is often a challenge and as my son gets older, his needs become more varied in some ways and less demanding in others. He has come to accept that I have a public persona and with that comes certain responsibilities. And because of this, I live in a world of conflict that often creates undo stress and sleepless nights.

Here’s the thing, I love my work. A lot. I never thought I wanted to be a teacher when I was a kid and I also never thought I wanted to be a mom. Both of these things I was completely wrong about myself which goes to show that we really don’t know ourselves as early as we think we do.

Definitely not one of those girls who fit the stereotype of wanting to be married and raise a family, I wanted a career and I was certain I’d be a writer and I’d change the world. Being an educator, gives me a purpose and a means in which to change the world and also gives me important material to write about.

My son, however, is my most important student and it wasn’t until he was born that I realized how much it mattered to be a good mom.

Watching students over the years, I’ve seen what happens in broken families: the struggles, the behavior issues, the learning challenges and the trauma. I wanted it to be different for my son, but I certainly haven’t been able to protect him from everything.

Divorce has been a challenge we’ve navigated together as my career has progressively taken off. My son has had to share me with thousands of students who I reference as “my kids” and now thousands of educators who my work has inpsired.

I don’t always make the right choices, but I do always try.

Here are some things I try to remember when I get stressed about the day to day:


  • I can only do so much in one day and if I don’t get it all done, the only one who really matters is my son. I will have more days to finish revising books or participating in Twitter chats, but I will only have this day that my son is where he is in his life and he is rapidly getting older. Soon I will no longer be someone he wants to spend all of his time with and then I’ll have to deal with that stress. So I have to make the most of my time with him.
  • Using calendars in my house and through Google helps me stay organized with the many things I have to do. When am I co-moderating a chat? I get an alert on my phone when these kinds of events are upcoming. Can I speak at your school’s conference day? Let me check my calendar and see if it works out. Being organized really helps me keep focused and productive.
  • Deadlines also help me prioritize. As different responsibilities are nearer than others, focusing on the ones that are right in front me help immensely. That being said, also getting a jump on upcoming projects when there are lulls in my schedule also helps. This is the one area being divorced really helps with since my son is with his dad every other week. I try to pile as much work into that time as I can, so I can really focus on him when I have him. I also plan a lot of my speaking engagements around my custody schedule. Since school is my first job, making sure my lessons and assessment/feedback gets done at work is also essential. I always use my free time at school wisely.
  • Plan time for breaks. Burn out will happen if your going so fast all of the time. So I have been powering off earlier and really trying to take walks at least once a day and get to bed earlier.
  • Remember that it’s okay to say no. Sometimes I can’t be everywhere people want to be and although I’m flattered that they want me, I just have to say no. It doesn’t reflect my interest or feeling about them, just my schedule usually.
  • Family and health always come first, so I try not to feel guilty about putting those things at the front of the line. (This is admittedly more challenging than it sounds writing it in this list)
  • Drink lots of water to balance out the coffee. Sometimes I drink too much caffiene and when I drink water, I feel much better. So as silly as it sounds, staying hydrated helps feel better.
  • Doing something fun. This may be hard to believe, but since the Pokemon Go craze began, my son and I have been playing together. It has been a great way for us to go for walks and talk about his day and what’s happening in the world while we work on the game. When he isn’t around, I play it too. I find the mindlessness of it very relaxing. Do something fun every once in a while; it helps.

Changing the world is big job and no one person can do it alone. Always remember that there are people who will help if you reach out. Building those networks for work and family are huge. Who will be your go to person in a pinch if you need help with work? or someone to watch your children when you’re stuck in traffic? The people we surround ourselves with are essential to a happy life, so always take time to maintain the important relationships.

What is your one tip for balancing a busy life? Please share

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