When you are a teacher the day goes quickly. It’s easy to allow all your tasks get away from you. Before you know it the sun is setting, you need to get home, and you still have piles of work that needs to be finished that day. Inevitably what happens is that instead of relaxing at home, you’re grading papers and creating lesson plans.
This can be a huge strain on your mental health and your relationships. But you can stop taking work home with you by maximizing your time at school so you can get more done at work, and less done at home.
Plenty of us aren’t morning people, and it can be tempting to sleep in as long as possible. What this often means, though, is that you’ll arrive at school without much time to yourself in the classroom to get things done.
- Set your alarm to go off 5-15 minutes before you plan to get up. This allows you to take some time to yourself to laze in bed and wake up a bit before you have to get up and get ready.
- Take a few minutes for yourself at home to relax. Maybe this means sipping coffee in your kitchen, catching up on the news, or flipping through a magazine. Whatever you choose, make sure it isn’t related to work.
- Figure out what would make your morning flow the most smoothly and implement it. Maybe it’s having your clothes picked out the night before. Maybe you have an easy breakfast from home instead of picking something up on the way. Once you’ve visualized what sounds relaxing to you, put it into practice.
Before Students Arrive
Getting to school early gives you time to work on tasks without being disturbed. In the mornings your brain is fresh from sleep, and you’re likely to get more done than if you stayed at school late.
- Make a list of tasks that must be done every day and do these right when you arrive at school. You should be able to do many of these tasks on autopilot.
- Prep any materials you need for the day in the morning before students arrive, if you’ve not done this already.
- Work on any other miscellaneous tasks you have in the time that remains. This could be paperwork, grading, lesson planning, emails…whatever needs to be worked on, get started on it now!
Your routine for this time period will depend a lot on how much prep time you get and how long your lunch break is.
- Make sure to take time during your lunch break, or your entire lunch break, to relax, eat, and take some time to chat with your colleagues so you’re re-energized for the second half of instruction time.
- If you don’t get a lot of prep time, use it to complete small tasks that tend to build up versus planning lessons or prepping for the next day.
Working in your classroom after students have left is one of the best times to get extra work done. Resist the temptation to chat with co-workers and instead settle down for an hour or two to work on your To Do List.
- Set a limit on either how late you can stay at school every day, or a set number of hours a week you can stay to work on tasks after school. This can change during busy times of years, such as the end of the year or during conferences, but otherwise stick to this schedule firmly so you have a better work-life balance.
- Finish gathering materials and planning the next day of instruction so you have less to worry about in the morning.
- Grade a set of papers. This may be a set of worksheets, tests, or even essays. Close your classroom door, exit out of your email, and focus on grading so you can get a good chunk of it finished every day.
- Write up any reports, emails, newsletters, and other documents that can’t wait before you head home.
The goal is to have very little – or no – school related tasks to do at home, but sometimes you will have to. Even if you don’t have anything to do for work you’ll still have personal tasks that need to get done.
- Get the tasks you need to do finished before you relax. That way when you sit down at the end of the day you can fully relax.
- If you have grading or planning to do, set a time limit on how long you can do so before you stop for the evening.