Work-Life Balance

It has been two months since my last blog post but I promise I have a fantastic excuse. Check it out.


So I’m a dad now. How does that change things?

Above all else, it means I need to learn about a little thing called “work-life balance”. This is a concept that does not come easily to me. To understand why the idea is so foreign to me, we need to go back to my childhood.

Where I learned to work

I grew up the son of a workaholic Italian immigrant. I watched him work 80 hour weeks on the family farm and in the family fruit shop (could we be more Italian?) throughout my childhood. From sunrise to sunset, 7 days a week, he worked endlessly. Because our family home was attached to the fruit shop and the farm, our life and his work were as one. My siblings and I all worked with him as soon as we were old enough to plant a cabbage or serve customers in the shop. Work-life balance? Who needs it?

Then I became a teacher

For somebody already predisposed to becoming a workaholic, being a teacher is not a great idea. Being a teacher can be all consuming if you allow it to be. If you’re reading this blog the chances are you already know this. The time you spend in front of your students is only a small fraction of your teaching life. You inevitably end up bringing work home with you. Marking papers, preparing lessons, worrying about little Timmy. It’s neverending.

In 2016 this work-life imbalance reached fever pitch for me. Work sat over the top of everything I did. While I was showering, I was planning my lessons. On the drive to work, I listened to an education podcast. On the drive home, I voice-typed a blog post. Once home, I created a video lesson for my students, took part in a twitter chat or marked diagnostic exams.

2016 was a great year for me professionally and I wouldn’t take it back for anything. But we can always improve and i can definitely improve my work-life balance.

So 2017 needs to be a little bit different. I’ve got a little guy and he’s only going to be this little once. I don’t won’t to miss it!

The Work-Life Balance Plan

So here’s some ideas for how I’m going to balance this whole thing out in 2017.

  1. Work Harder
    Nope, that’s not a typo. In 2017 I’m going to work harder than ever before. But only when it’s time to work. Sometimes I find myself agonising over some marking or watching some Netflix while simultaneously writing a blog post. Not this year! If it’s time to work, I’m going to work HARD.
  2. Work Smarter
    In the morning, I’m refreshed and firing on all cylinders. This is the perfect time to write a lesson plan, make a video for my class or mark some exams. In the afternoon, I’m running out of steam. This is a perfect time to reply to emails, make any phone calls to parents or schedule a meeting. This is really about getting to know myself and how I work best. Then taking advantage of that.
  3. Make lists
    I know I’m “the tech guy”, but nothing helps me prioritise like a nice handwritten list. Getting a good list written first thing in the morning and knocking each task off is a great way to make sure I get my work done when it should be done.
  4. Leave it at work
    I’ve learned that work will expand into the time you allow for it. The more work I do at home, the more work I seem to find myself to do. I’m doing my best to leave my work at work this year. It won’t always be possible I know but I’m going to give it my best shot.

For those worried that this means I won’t be blogging in 2017, Fear not. When it comes to work life balance, what you’re really talking about is priorities. Self-reflection and sharing my practise with other teachers is a big priority for me. As such, the blog is now up and running once more.

How’s your work-life balance? Got any tips for me on how to keep this thing in check? Comments below are definitely welcome.


  1. Hi joel, I marvelled at all you were managing to fit in last year. As a parent I totally agree with leaving work at work, it isnt always possible but my motto is it will still be there tomorrow. I have been managing blogging this year much better by doing multiple blogs at the same time. Congratulations on your little one and best of luck finding that balance.

  2. Congrats on the new addition to the Speranza empire! If you haven’t already read it, I suggest you read 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Dr Stephen R. Covey. There is a great chapter about developing a weekly planner that aligns with your priorities and goals. Think list making in steroids!

  3. Welcome to Baby Time-zone! There is a parallel time-zone for parents of wee ones. Expected departure times are severely influenced by nappies and feeding times, and a sleeping ‘routine’ becomes the holy grail. Best. Ride. Ever. He is gorgeous!

    As for life-work-balance, I see workaholics as people running away from life and escaping into work, whereas those that have a passion for their vocation (such as teachers like yourself) are more like artists, forever bringing a vision into reality. A while back I realised that there were two types of teachers: those that ‘do’ teaching (and manage to leave work at 3.30pm) and those that ‘are’ teachers. For the latter type, teaching is a vocation, a lifestyle almost. It matters a great deal and it matters that it’s done the best it can be done. I wonder if your dad saw farming as a vocation, imbued with the joy, passion and frustration that transforms a mere job into an artistic expression of the better parts of ourselves, with all the hard yards that this entails. Ain’t nothing wrong with that I reckon, unless it starts sapping the joy out of life.

    Funny thing is that teaching is a lot like parenting. You can’t pour from an empty cup so it’s always good to learn what keeps one’s cup filled with good stuff.

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