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An advanced degree is a great way to advance your career – especially in the field of education. If you’re interested in moving from the classroom into administration and taking your career to the next level, you’ll need a Master’s or a Doctoral degree to get you there. Most graduate education programs allow you to earn your degree while working full-time – but heading back to school while you've already got a full-time job is no walk in the park. In order to meet the challenges of grad school while continuing to excel in your teaching position, you’ll need to find a healthy work-life balance. Make the most of your time – and your job – with these tips to organize, strategize and succeed:

Inform your school that you’re going back to school.

The first step is to get your school leaders, administrators, and colleagues on your side. Most districts encourage teachers to pursue higher degrees for professional development and improve their teaching skills. Getting those “higher-ups” on board with your plans and working hours from the start is important for fostering communication and building good relationships. Letting your fellow teachers know your plans is also essential, especially if you need to rely on someone to cover an after-school obligation so you can leave a little early on exam day, for instance. Balancing your new workload in both teaching and studying might call for sharing your lesson plan with your colleagues. Work life balance for teachers is attainable with help from those around you.

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Combine forces.

Your role both as a classroom teacher and a student might fit in together. When possible, let your classwork overlap with your schoolwork to help in your work life balance. For example, if you have a class that asks you to develop curriculum and lesson plans, design a plan that works for your students, too. Doing double duty will save you time and cut back on your stress. Not only is this a timesaver, but it provides you with “real world” feedback that can help make you a better student, as well as demonstrate to your instructors that you're fully involved in your classwork. Plus, you can gather data that you may be able to use in any follow-up reports you may need to create for your own classwork. Seeing the positive impacts of your efforts also contributes to your job satisfaction. 

Get comfortable with saying “no” to extracurricular activities.

Between your job, your school hours, and your family and personal obligations, your time is going to be stretched thin. Don't make things more difficult by offering to chaperone a dance, chair a committee, advise a club or coach a team. It may be difficult to say no (especially if there's a stipend involved), but it's important not only to your success at work and in school, but also for managing your overall stress levels. Safeguarding your academic and personal time pursuits keeps your mental health in check and far from teacher burnout. 

Come early – and stay late.

To avoid distractions at home, tack on study time to the beginning or end of your workday at school. One of the problems of going back to school once you have a spouse or kids is trying to find some quiet time to do your work without continual distractions amid the responsibilities of personal life and home life. But if you can arrange your schedule so you can arrive at work early or stay late, you can use the relative seclusion of your classroom or school library to minimize distractions, stay focused and get your coursework done. That said, you’ll also need to:

Set strict boundaries.

Don't use work hours to study or complete your own homework. One of the surest ways to annoy your superiors is to let your workday obligations suffer. Avoid the temptation to use prep periods to work on your own homework and focus instead on the things they actually pay you to do: grading, preparing lessons and other work-related duties.

Take care of your health. 

Your ability to assist your students is hindered when you're unwell or exhausted. Maintaining physical fitness, observing a nutritious diet, and getting  enough sleep all contribute to your effectiveness as a teacher. If you have trouble keeping good health, seek help from medical professionals. Mental health is also equally important. Ask for extra support if you have to or find a safe space for you to recharge.

Regulate your screen time.

Constantly checking your devices can disrupt your concentration on being in the moment.  Make it a habit to put your phone in silence mode and place it face down when you need to focus on lesson planning or studying.

Socialize with people outside the field of education.

While your fellow educators can give that sense of fulfillment, they are still within your work sphere. Consider stepping out of that environment once in a while and you'll be amazed that engaging in another interest might be the breath of fresh air you need. Consider joining social groups or hobby clubs. 

One more tip – don't forget to reward yourself on a regular basis for achieving even small goals. Combining teaching with grad school isn't easy; by looking forward to small rewards, it'll be easier to stay on track and push forward to your next goal.

Need more pointers for better time management in a Master’s program? Check out our post “How to Create Work-School-Life Balance” for some tips on getting organized, setting priorities and managing your sanity.

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