The Well Balanced Teacher
by Mike Anderson
Reviewed by Kristen Sluiter
Fifth Grade Teacher (WA)
New Millennium Network
In the spirit of full disclosure, it took me months to finally finish Mike Anderson's The Well Balanced Teacher: How to Work Smarter and Stay Sane Inside the Classroom and Out. Anderson taught for 15 years and shared that around his 5th year he realized he was working more than in his first year. In my fourth year of teaching, Anderson’s observation was one I’d recently happened upon, too.
One of the main reasons it took me months to finish this book was that, frankly, the first chapters did not resonate with me. I was looking for advice on how to set up a weekly schedule to balance my needs as a person and my needs as a teacher.
Each chapter takes on a new topic about how to create balance in one’s teaching career. By chapter 3 entitled "Belonging: Becoming an Integral Part of a Community," I was fed up. The previous two chapters were about the importance of managing stress and meeting my most basic needs like sleep and nutrition. As far as I was concerned, I didn’t need any more ho-hum reminders that eating well, keeping an exercise log, feeling safe at school, finding a way to disconnect from school, and getting enough sleep were key.
I dismissed the book for months as I struggled to find my own routine for balance. After discovering for myself that it takes small steps to create balance (and sometimes in the most unexpected ways), I picked The Well-Balanced Teacher back up again to give it another try.
As I neared the end of the book, I finally engaged. It was in the very last chapter, "Balance: The Importance of Balancing Our Time and Energy," that I found what I needed. It had sample schedules of two different teachers with varying needs/lifestyles. And it offered solid advice that anyone who might be struggling could get behind.
To paraphrase, it acknowledged that there isn’t enough real time for all we need to do but that if we carve out time for nonnegotiables, figure out what to eliminate, learn to say no, work more efficiently and leverage the strictness of our schedules, we might just have it made.
And there in the Afterword, was a note from the author that validated what I’d figured out in the months away from the book: Take small steps and start now.