- Bill Zimmer, principal of Highland High School in upstate New York, shares in Education Week his eight strategies to maintain a successful work-life balance.
- Zimmer’s tactics include tips on proper planning and prioritizing, controlling email, incorporating regular sleep, meditation, exercise into daily schedules, and finding time to read, travel, or engage in other hobbies to relieve stress.
- Failure to attain a proper balance can lead to burnout, Zimmer warns; however, balancing those elements can make a principal more effective in the long run.
Principals tend to experience burnout to a greater degree than most business professionals, which should be a concern to district leaders because of the high cost of replacing them. An article by Global Therapy.com suggests an interesting perspective on why this occurs: “Strangely enough, while the business model fosters and rewards continued the success of the highest levels of leadership, the educational model actually 'punishes’ its successful leaders,” the article asserts. The piece goes on to note that successful business leaders produce more money for a company, but the efforts of successful and effective principals often require them to fight for the additional funds required to support innovative efforts.
Regardless of whether that holds true in all districts, it is true that being a school leader is a stressful job. Dealing with students is only part of the equation — principals must also deal with parents, district administrators, school board representatives, community members and oftentimes toxic employees. And each of these groups may pull a principal in a different direction.
Maintaining a proper work-life balance is crucial for principals. Some question whether this concept is even possible, while others suggest that a work-life blending is the more appropriate goal. Whatever it takes, principals need to strike some kind of balance in their lives that allows them to maintain their sanity and composure and focus on why they became a principal in the first place. Otherwise, they are more likely to strike out in frustration or make hasty decisions that will only complicate their lives and potentially impact others' futures as well.
Maintaining an appropriate work-life balance is also necessary to model proper responses for teachers. Teachers are also prone to burnout, and they need guidance — and permission — to maintain a harmony in their own lives. A principal who is running in high gear from dawn to midnight may make teachers feel that they are required to do the same. Education requires a sense of urgency, but maintaining a constant high-alert, high-stress mentality is not necessary or advisable for school leaders.