Lines between home and work

I have owned a Smart Phone for the last 3 years.  For two of those years I have had my work email address hooked up to my phones.  Recently it is becoming an issue that I am too easily accessible through Social Media tools/email and it really is starting to blur the lines between the time I am at work and not at work.

I wonder if I’m better off being as connected as I am or not.  Its a fine line that everyone needs to walk in regards to their connection between their home and work lives.  Especially beginning teachers as the burn out rate has been reported to be as high as 50% with in the first 5 years of teaching.  Is too much connection to students going to end up being our undoing?  Or is it just an annoyance that we will all need to eventually live with?

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About mrthejud

I'm a teacher at Greenall High School in Saskatchewan.
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24 Responses to Lines between home and work

  1. Patricia Cone says:

    You need to set work email hours just as you might set office hours. You will burn out if you don’t. Just because the email is there you don’t need to read it.

  2. mrthejud says:

    I am really starting to realize that more and more. Fortunately my phone allows you to set the frequency that it checks the email. The other thing that I need to work on is call filtering as I had my first work call on a Saturday night and its only October.

  3. courosa says:

    Several colleagues of mine totally unplug outside of work hours – no email, Internet, nothing. Some include a footer in their email messages saying so – so that people won’t wonder why they are not responding seconds after they sent on email on a Sunday.

    Of course, I don’t – because I’m here on a Sunday evening responding to your blog.

  4. mrthejud says:

    Well I appreciate your dedication Alec. Do you think that at some point in your career you will start to implement a policy like that? How do you find that balance for yourself?

    • courosa says:

      I have a very different perspective from most – I don’t see it as a balance at all – I see this all as a blur. Personal, professional, home, work – it’s mostly the same to me. Yes, there are things that certainly don’t cross the boundaries – but much more of it intersects and ‘blurs’ than only a few years ago.

      Now, of course, being in a professor role is much different than being a teacher – but there are similarities, and I do think some of the artificial boundaries have become barriers to the formation of ‘real’ learning environments/communities.

      For now, I’m OK with the blur. But who knows how I will feel next year?

  5. James says:

    I work on the web and I do tend to blur the lines. I don’t have the energy to have multiple accounts for multiple interests, so those that engage with me on Twitter get it all – education, web, design, running, food, animal rights, rants, observations, etc, etc.

    Having said that, unless a project deems it necessary I never open work email on my day off and my Android phone is purely mine, no work data streams to it. My interests are my interests and I don’t worry if they blur. Working on a project plan or coding an interface for work? Not going to happen on my time.

  6. A colleague recently asked me how I have so much time to tweet, blog, and stay connected. Don’t you have a life he hinted. As a matter of fact I do, I have two kids, hobbies, I am writing a book, I’m an avid reader etc….The thing is when I am online. I am all over online. I am reading blogs, writing, blogs, sharing favorite music on Twitter etc…I a gree with Alec I like the blur, but I think everyone needs to find their balance.

    I have chosen for example not to have a smart phone, because I do not want that level of connection. If I had one I would Tweet everything and at 20,000 tweets already, I am not sure that would be a good idea.

    I sent this Tweet out a while ago and I think it sums up my thoughts:

    Being connected online is not what I do, it is who I am……

  7. Emory says:

    You really bring up a really important issue. Whether a “blur” or “balance”, as tech has become more portable and ubiquitous I think we’ve all had to wrestle with issues of how accessible we’d like to be.
    I don’t disagree with Alec’s position. And I’ve benefited from the information he shares and his willingness to be plugged in and accessible most of the time. However I’ve tried to find a balance for my time on and offline that works for me, and tweak it as needed.
    It seems you are being thoughtful and reflective about this line between work and home is often that is a good sign. I suspect knowing there is a potential issue means you’ll address it will find a path that works for you before burnout occurs.

  8. Debbie S. says:

    I agree with what Patricia says: just because it’s there doesn’t mean you need to read it. But my version is: just because you read it doesn’t mean you need to answer it! Picking up the concept someone else in the class blogged about: it’s not the medium. If you are perceived as accessible, it’s because you have made yourself accessible.

    I could never “turn off” my old land-line phone from years ago – and if I was home, I ALWAYS answered the phone. But now I can and do turn off my smartphone (or the sound at least) when I am doing something where I don’t want to be distracted. Technology always has benefits and disadvantages.

    If “connection to students” is “an annoyance,” I think you either need to rethink your boundaries or rethink your career!

    • Lisa M Lane says:

      Debbie, it never occurred to me that one of the things about a cell phone is that it’s easier to turn off than a land-line. For some reason, I also don’t jump when it rings as much.

      But I disagree about having to check your boundaries or your career if you find connection to students an annoyance. Being connected to students all the time means you’re on duty. I don’t want to be on duty all the time. Talk about burnout…

      • mrthejud says:

        I agree with Lisa on this one. What I am trying to do is keep my career. I enjoy working with students for the most part but my patience only extends so far. If I was constantly connected to the students then I wouldn’t last the year because I would be absolutely burnt out.

        More than that though is that I don’t have much in common with my students so I don’t know what kind of interaction you expect me to have with the students? My boundaries are well defined and for some very good reasons. Debbie, how do you define your boundaries?

      • Debbie S. says:

        Being connected to ANYONE or ANYTHING all the time causes burnout – I agree completely Lisa! So if it’s too MUCH connection that becomes an annoyance, that’s understandable and not a problem. But I don’t get the sense from his post or his reply (sorry – this platform is not letting me reply directly to his reply) that that is the case. It sounds to me like connection to students in general is annoying.

        “I don’t have much in common with my students so I don’t know what kind of interaction you expect me to have with the students?” If you can’t find common ground – be it interests, experiences, challenges, etc… – how do you connect with them? How do you make what you are teaching relevant to them? Forgive me, since admittedly I do not know you at all, but those statements are alarming coming from a teacher!

        To answer your question, I define boundaries by taking time for myself away from my children and – when I was a Creative Memories consultant (for 10 years) with my own business – from my customers. As a consultant, I defined my hours and availability and did not answer phone calls or return emails outside of those times unless *I* chose to. As a mom, I regularly go away for evenings or even weekends WITHOUT my kids and I work hard to take some time every day to do something for myself – even if that means only 10 minutes of quiet time.

      • mrthejud says:

        Debbie, I’m sorry if I came off as callous but in general how I connect with students is through mutual interests. I’m just at a different place in those interests. One of the biggest ones is through video games and truth be told I have a very different opinion of video games than them as I’ve been playing them for the last 23 years. Other examples are music. I will talk to kids about music all day and it is an absolutely amazing way to connect with kids BUT if you take those interests outside of a school setting there really isn’t enough there to have a conversation of any consequence outside of the building. I tell my students that in general if you see me outside of the school setting I have about 3-5 minutes worth of conversation to have with them. As our relationship out side of the context of the school is a different thing.

        As for my post above, it actually had nothing to do with students. I am the tech first responder person for my school and get emails about that role more than anything else. What this actually stems from is getting three emails this weekend and then a phone call all about the same issue that I had already dealt with. I really do like interacting with kids for the most part its the other parts that really start to make me feel burnt out (hence the post).

      • mrthejud says:

        Sorry for the double post here but the reason why I put it as an annoyance was I remember seeing a story on 20/20 with a separate school which expected their teachers to be on the clock 24/7 to give help. That to me seems like it is above and beyond the call of duty hence the comment of “I don’t know what kind of interaction you expect me to have with the students”.

        As a teacher who lived for four years in a rural town almost completely isolated other than interactions with my students I learned that if I wasn’t careful then the lines of the student teacher relationship start to look blurred.

      • Debbie S. says:

        I completely understand the tech perspective! My husband is the tech coordinator for a local school district and has had to draw his boundaries by not taking calls on vacation or off work time and ESPECIALLY refusing to help ANYONE with personal computers at home. It boggles my mind that so many people at his school think he should be their personal tech person at home! Only *I* get that privilege! (-:

        On one hand, I understand the lack of connection with students. You work on the equivalent of a US high school level, right? I didn’t understand teenagers when I was one and cannot slow time down enough for my own kids to avoid it. But that’s also why I did not chose a profession that has me working day-in, day-out with kids. In fact, I regularly tell the teachers at my kids’ schools that I volunteer weekly to remind myself why I am NOT a teacher!

        But even when I help at school, or work with the girls in the girl scout troop I co-lead, or teach a Sunday School class at church, I manage to find common ground with many of the kids. I find their views and perspectives fascinating. I think if I were to work professionally with children, that kind of common-ground-finding would be essential.

      • Debbie S. says:

        24/7 on ANYTHING is too much. Even parents needs breaks from the 24/7 gig. Balance is key. (-:

      • mrthejud says:

        Like I said Debbie, I’m just at a different point at that common ground so I can relate to the students based on where I was when I was their age. I do teach at the high school level. I understand that students need to listen to what’s popular/angry for them at the time. I try to help them along with their journey through being a fan of music or being a nerd or whatever. Like I said the relationship/connection with the students is deeply rooted in the context that it happens in. So them getting intertwined into my social media networks isn’t going to do much for either of us.

        Thank you for your comments by the way!

      • Lisa M Lane says:

        I’m wondering whether there isn’t also a variant of the creepy treehouse effect here too – I wouldn’t want to invade their space anymore than I’d want them invading mine. I am only interesting in their media insofar as I can access it to teach them a larger principle. And isn’t it my job to not be of their world? isn’t that very difference part of what makes me valuable as their teacher?

        Along the same lines, if we’re available 24/7, we’re not teaching them very good rules about their own boundaries either…

  9. Jason Green says:

    My sense is that the mobile device cam be a “beachhead” into our private space if we let it be one. Before the smartphone, you had to intentionally sit down at a computer and make yourself available to “work” . That’s no longer the case.

    The best piece of advice I read about this issue (sorry can’t remember the source) is that your phone exists for your convenience , not for the convenience of those trying to contact you at all hours. Rick Webb put it this way:

    The telephone was an aberation in human development. It was a 70 year or so period where for some reason humans decided it was socially acceptable to ring a loud bell in someone else’s life and they were expected to come running, like dogs. This was the equivalent of thinking it was okay to walk into someone’s living room and start shouting. it was never okay. It’s less okay now. Telephone calls are rude. They are interruptive. Technology has solved this brief aberration in human behavior.

    The phone number I give to students is GoogleVoice set to go straight to voicemail. I get the message within an hour and reply when my schedule allows.

  10. Dan French says:

    When I retire, I am going to chuck my smart phone into a lake.

  11. Lisa M Lane says:

    I expect there might be an aspect of life/work/teach separation in this too: http://bit.ly/caIxd7 .

  12. Hockey Forum says:

    This is a great post and may be one to be followed up to see what the results are

    A colleague e-mailed this link the other day and I will be eagerly anticipating your next content. Carry on on the wonderful work.

  13. Pingback: Culture of Availability and my New BlackBerry « Angela's Blog

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