October 2015 Features

Backtalk

Dear Bryn Mawr Alumnae Bulletin:

I appreciated “the balancing act” about Kathy Luneau Simons’s work [The Balancing Act, February 2015], in part, on creating work-life balance at MIT and beyond. At present I am finishing my 26th year of service in secondary and higher education, fifteen and a half of which were in public schools.

My sense is that work-life balance is largely a luxury of the academy and independent education. This semester at Albright College, where I work in the Education Department, I have had roughly 75 instructional hours. During my last semester in public education, the total was about 468. That does not involve various duties over the years such as homeroom, cafeteria duty, bus duty, study halls, and the expectation to stand in the hallways in between classes. I never heard of work-life balance during those public school years, although one colleague complained that she was expected to devote far more time to other people’s children than she was able to give to her own.

Regarding the “Ten Tips for Better Work-Life Balance,” please consider the following. One was expected to answer phone calls right away and to return parents’ phone calls and emails ASAP as well. Just saying “No” could be considered insubordinate. Forgetting about perfection was difficult when unannounced classroom observations became the norm, and “down time” was a lost art after a 42-minute lunch break was reduced to 30 minutes “bell to bell.” Furthermore, setting one’s own rules could result in an unsatisfactory evaluation.

While I would not trade the years in public education, I count my lucky stars that I am teaching once again at a college. Ironically, someone on NPR, as I recall, once referred to colleges and universities as early retirement homes for the young. That might be over the top, but in the “real world” work-life balance is more often than not “such stuff as dreams are made on.”

Sincerely,

Doug Stenberg, GSAS ’87

 

 

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