teacher work life balance

Discussion in 'General Education' started by #teacher17, Aug 9, 2017.

  1. #teacher17

    #teacher17 Rookie

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    Aug 9, 2017

    Hi,

    This is my second year as a teacher after a 2 year break from teaching and I'm starting to have memories of long, sleepless nights! I would come in early and stay late but still feel like I didn't get much done. I was also always exhausted and grumpy due to lack of me time. I really want to be a great teacher but at the same time, I want a life. I left work earlier than usual after school and I kind of feel bad! What suggestions and strategies do you have for work life balance? I'm fearing early burnout within the next couple of years if I work non stop.
     
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  3. vickilyn

    vickilyn Multitudinous

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    Aug 9, 2017

    I have no problem with arriving early - there is a laundry list of reasons why that can be a smart move. However, I have come to support leaving as close to contract time as possible. It shortens your commute in many cases because there is less traffic, it keeps you from frittering away time without being productive. I will give 110% while I am there during the day, so that I can leave with a clear conscience. I use every minute in my day to finish what NEEDS to be done, sometimes to the exclusion of socializing to any real degree. All of my coworkers tend to be on Facebook, so I can leisurely interact later if so desired. This is work on my terms. I have become much more efficient in grading, setting up rubrics, inviting student evaluations about other student's work, since that is a learning experience for all concerned. I keep my gradebook on my computer, keep emails short and sweet, and reach out to CST members and admin sooner rather than later, which helps keep some situations from escalating into something of a storm. Contact teachers with more expertise when needed, and reciprocate by offering help when you have the expertise. I am social with my coworkers, but I don't socialize to any great degree with my coworkers - call it separation of church and state.

    You can be a great teacher without being a martyr. Advocate for yourself, know when to help, when to say no, and when to compromise. I have stayed sane even taking grad classes at least one night a week. Be efficient in your school work and assignments, and I have learned to accept that the A- is good enough. Odd thing is, as I accept that perfection is not necessary, my grades have not suffered at all! Go figure. I give freely of my time while at school, but know when to withdraw if the drain on my time and emotions starts to rise. I have calming activities at home, like germinating seedlings and watching them mature into beautiful trees and plants. My house may not always be meticulous, I may stop and pick up food on my way home, but it works for me. Hopefully you can find that happy medium that will lighten the load. Best of luck on avoiding burn-out!
     
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  4. Mshope2012

    Mshope2012 Companion

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    Aug 10, 2017

    Like Vickyn, I get to school early and pretty much leave on time. It is a great feeling to walk out with my friends and go home. However, I am not so good at getting a lot done during the day. I have to teach using a program where I am doing direct instruction a big part of the day. I used to be able to assign independent or group work and get some work done while kids were working. Those days are pretty much over. (When we have work, it is in smaller chunks like ten minutes, and then back to direct teaching.) So I do have a lot of work that I do at home or on weekends. I am single so it is not a big deal for me.

    Sunday is always my sacred day of doing school work. I do my lesson plans, website, handouts, grading, inputing grades, and all that on Sunday. From my first years, I have cut down on the amount and how I grade. We do have a few major exams and essays that take several hours to grade. I usually like to sit and do them all at once rather than do a few here and there. Also, I need to concentrate when I am grading. I find that impossible to do at school when students are around.

    Now, my coworkers with small children and families can get almost everything done at school. They use their planning time well. I tend to socialize and putter around when I make copies. They are most in and out. They might grade during class or assemblies or at times lunch. Personally, I never do that because I know I can do it at home. So this is a double-edged sword because you do need some time for other things and yourself. Friday nights and Saturday, I usually do nothing school related. I don't even attend school functions or games because that is "my" time. I also have cut way back on volunteering and extra duties. It just got to be too much. I like to feel relaxed and calm during the school day, not like, "Ugh, I have to chaperone that dance tonight until 10:30 pm. Why did I sign up?" I now leave that stuff to the newer and untenured teachers! However, every once in a while, I will "help out" a little. I just don't go crazy like I used to.
     
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  5. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Aug 11, 2017

    I wish I could do the same, except I always promise my students that their grades will be updated every day, no matter what the assignment is. Speaking about this, I grade ALL tests, quizzes, and projects as well as enter homework grades in the same day they're collected. I do this because I don't want it to pile up and because I was a student once and wanted to know what score I got immediately.

    Basically, after the students leave I grade, update the grade book, answer work and parent emails, submit any help desk requests or make copies, and then finish up by cleaning up my classroom. All of this takes time and keeps me after until about 5-5:30pm, even though school lets out shortly before 3pm. Why do I do all this? Because I hate taking work home with me or having work pile up, lol. :)

    I admire you and envy you for being able to leave so early.
     
  6. futuremathsprof

    futuremathsprof Phenom

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    Aug 11, 2017

    Have your students peer grade each other's homework assignments (i.e. swap papers with the person next to you) when doing homework discussion. This cuts down on grading a ton because I would have to grade like 150 a night otherwise. Ugh.

    I do all the quiz, test, and project grading, however. :)
     
  7. MathGuy82

    MathGuy82 Companion

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    Aug 11, 2017

    Yes!! I agree with futuremathprof as well. One thing I do, is when students have homework, I check it off for completion and effort while they are in class. I really do not assign homework anymore. Now days, students can look up answers online and use an equation solver that shows work in math. Other subjects students can look up as well since we all have the overabundance of internet. I do hand grade one quiz a week that takes about an hour for me to grade 70 students or so and a test about every three weeks. Otherwise, you will become swamped. Same thing goes for English/History and other subjects. I knew in college that my professors never graded the entire paper. I can tell they skimmed here and there on comments unless it was like a one page paper. It takes too much time grading everything and teachers won't have a life. I stay a half hour or so late or tutor when it's needed by my time off is my time off unless I'm part of student council or something.
     
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  8. MathGuy82

    MathGuy82 Companion

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    Aug 11, 2017

    First off- You are a very dedicated teacher. If you feel okay doing this, I would keep it up. However, after years and years of doing this, it may become a bit tiresome and stressful. I think the assignments you give are more than excellent, however, maybe you can grade by completion rather than grade every problem? If you don't want to go that route, maybe grade a couple of problems here and there (maybe like 3-5 for each student). Otherwise, that is A LOT of grading to do everyday. After my first year of teaching, my colleagues stated that I was grading too much and that is why I was stressed. They recommending that if I grade everyday to have the non-test quiz days as "participation days" and that worked well. If I saw students don't work in my class or are not with the class, they would only let's say get 3 out of 10 points or sometimes 0 out of 10 if they slept through class or didn't work. I know this is kind of a bit scattered brained and not real linear but it works for me. i go around the class at the end of the period and have them show me what they completed to get a grade. Others I work with dislike this idea and others do. So it's all up to you.
     
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  9. Ima Teacher

    Ima Teacher Maven

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    Aug 12, 2017

    There is always something else that could be done. However, not everything HAS to be done. Make lists of what you want to accomplish, and then divide it by things that must be done immediately and things that can wait. So many things can wait.

    I quit taking work home years ago. I stay after school until 4:00 on Tuesdays to let kids stay and have work time. Most of the time they don't really need me to help them, so I'll work. On Fridays I stay after and get things ready for the week. I'm usually leaving by 5:00. I work during planning time anytime I don't have meetings. I'm not a morning person, so I never go in early. Some of my coworkers are, so they come in around 6:00 in the mornings. I don't even get up that early.

    Oh, and on the weeks I have to leave early on Friday, I'll work on Sunday afternoons after church for a few hours if necessary.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2017
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  10. MathGuy82

    MathGuy82 Companion

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    Aug 12, 2017

    So true!! I like this.
     
  11. HistoryTeach4

    HistoryTeach4 Rookie

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    Aug 13, 2017

    I am so glad that I found this thread because I have thinking about this since the end of last school year. I would leave the school at 3:45-4:00 (not by choice; our administration doesn't let us stay there when they are not in the building) and continue working at home until 6:00-7:00. I would like to go in early, but again not allowed in the building if there is no administration.

    I have found new ways of presenting information that I not only think is better for the students, but also easier for me to plan. I am giving up on trying to grade EVERYTHING. I have decided that not all assignments need to have a grade and not all assignments need to have data collected from them. Another thing I am going to start doing is saying NO. Part of my problem last school year, I think, was that I signed up to do to much. I feel like that is one of the reasons I felt so burnt out at the end of the school year.

    Hoping this year will be the year I find that work/life balance.
     
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  12. #teacher17

    #teacher17 Rookie

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    Aug 13, 2017

    Today I try a piece of advice that I was recently given. I was told to schedule a block of time for work and once it's over, it's over. I did it!! I scheduled a 4 hour block this morning and stopped after it was over. I feel good and think I'm going to keep it up! Our team does lesson planning together during one plan period per week. I'm going to try and knock as much as I can out during my prep this week.
     
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  13. #teacher17

    #teacher17 Rookie

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    Aug 13, 2017

    They try to kick us out because they don't want us to stay late! I'm definitely going to take that cue. I am not going to grade everything either because it takes way too long. I don't mind going early because there isn't a race for the copy machines but I'm going to quit staying late.
     
  14. eduktp

    eduktp Guest

    Aug 14, 2017

    Being a teacher is always challenging. We are responsible for the next generation. It may sound a bit idealist or over exaggerated but this is the truth. I had a discussion one of the education policy makers who thinks that the role of the teacher has been minimalized. the teacher is nothing but an information deliverer. In the world of information technology, the place of the teacher will be soon replaced with the devices and gadgets. He wonders that soon the teaching and learning process will lose the human touch. I contradicted his statements saying that in the current scenario the need of the teacher is higher than anything is else. the devices or gadgets are set of steps and humans are famous for breaking the rules and steps. Especially the wonder-package kids. A learner always looks at his teacher for the right guidance.
    In this world, the growth mindset teachers will do a great job. The teachers need to know what mindset do they have? Whenever you come across a failure or frustration in the field of teaching you should ask yourself, what am I aiming at - process or product?
     
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  15. Backroads

    Backroads Aficionado

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    Aug 14, 2017

    This thread is awesome in its responses.

    My admin has actually called me the "chill teacher" and has even expressed a wish more teachers be like me. Part of this is simply my personality, but work-life balance is a big thing to me.

    Like others, I tend to err on the side of going in early. This doesn't happen as I would like it to due to getting little girls up and about and off to daycare, but it's helpful now and then. I also recognize that my family comes first. I even see this is a boon to my students, an example of priorities. In fact, I felt even less guilt when I started thinking of it as an example. I also don't bother with being too cutesy. Sure, because I'm in lower elementary I need a certain level of cutesy, but that's what TAs and parent volunteers are for. I try to keep my lessons simple and effective with more focus on the kids actually doing stuff. My homework is simply reading minutes that a parent volunteer can easily check over. I plan my planning time, giving myself a list of the Must Dos and Could Dos. I make taking work home the exception.

    The awesome result is that I rarely feel terribly behind. Teaching is one of those things that will fit whatever time frame you give it, within reason. I truly believe that after the first few years of keeping your head above water, massive amounts of time really isn't necessary. After that, you either let your job become your hobby as well (which is absolutely fine as long as it's your desire) or you have lousy time management skills.
     
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  16. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    Aug 14, 2017

    I also arrive early. I hate staying late.
    I think teachers need to promising when things will get done. You do it when you can do it. If you start promising things will be done at certain times you will get complaints if it's not done. It's your classroom so you need to get things done on your own timeline.
     
  17. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    A few things I did:

    - Arrive early. I was way more productive in the morning and usually had the building to myself. I made copies and got work done in peace.
    - When my students were in gym/music and out for recess I worked like crazy. I maximized those times, staying focused on what needed to happen next to ensure the rest of the day ran smoothly. If I was organized for the day, I started laying out materials for the next day.
    - Anything I brought home had to be done by 8:00 or it didn't happen. At 8:00 all of my school stuff was packed up by the door, done or not. If it was really important, I was sure to have it done by 8. It's amazing what you can learn to let go.
    - Accountability - I told me teaching partners that my goal was to leave by 4:30 every day (students dismissed at 3:45). So when I was still puttering around at 4:45, one of them was quick to remind me that I should be gone.
     
  18. mathmagic

    mathmagic Enthusiast

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    Aug 15, 2017

    I've always admitted it, and it's what I'm unfortunately known for: I've been at school / with school work far, far too much in my first three years. Almost always it would be 7/7:30am arriving (25-30 minute commute), and 6/7 (sometimes later) leaving. I've improved on not coming in on weekends that often - something I did on at least one day of the weekend seemingly almost every week my first year - but that's as far as I've gotten.

    While it clearly has "worked" for me, it's worn me down by the end of the school year, where I definitely feel burnt out, and my wife feels the same way, not seeing me until late at night (or if I have work I bring home on the weekends and there's a day she's off then).

    I'll never be someone who can work contract hours, or even spend just 15-20 minutes after contract hours...I just know that is both something I'm not really able to accomplish nor would want to. However, finding a better balance is extremely important to me, especially having kids in upcoming years hopefully.

    This year, I'm going to try to employ some of what I've read here, and elsewhere. My hope is to start leaving by 5 or 5:30 (3:30 is contract time...still well after, but considerably shorter than currently) on most days, with Thursday being a stay-until-next-week-is-mostly-set evening, since our school activities are often those evenings, and Friday hopefully being a leave-a-bit-earlier day. My goal is to only bring home grading and "bigger picture" planning - no day-to-day / actual lesson planning. I'm also going to aim to shed any worries/anxiety around perfection about what I'm doing (grading/planning) that often causes me to put it off, which then causes me to get behind - which is hard to dig out of.

    The key is definitely just "growth mindset". Make sure to accomplish what must be done, and do what else you need to...and have some kind of boundary, if that's possible for you. As the year goes on, and in future years, adjust your strategies, your schedule, etc... to attempt to become more efficient, more productive, and more balanced with your time.
     
  19. waterfall

    waterfall Virtuoso

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    Here are some things that I do:
    -I constantly have a running to-do list and I check off items whenever I can. It's easy to waste time throughout the day- for example, when arriving at a meeting/PD session, I usually arrive a few minutes early and it also tends to take at least a couple of minutes for the meeting to really get started. That's time when something can be accomplished rather than just sitting around waiting.
    -I think about the purpose behind some of the requirements of my job and consider what needs "above and beyond effort" and what needs "just get this done as quickly as possible" effort. For example, I'm required to keep a daily service log of when I see students in case there is ever a legal dispute about IEP hours being met. No one ever looks at these and it's certainly not something that impacts my instruction or my students. I log in what's required and list the activity as "small group direct instruction" for every group. If they want more specifics, they're welcome to look at my lesson plans from that day. Some of my teammates spend tons of time writing huge paragraphs about what they did with the students each day for the logs.
    - I don't spend time on cutesy props or decorations. My mom taught for 30 years and would spend an entire weekend day at least every 6 weeks or so changing out the decorations in her classroom to reflect the season/upcoming holidays, etc. She complained constantly that the kids never noticed, yet she continued to do it! I use colored bulletin board paper and cute borders on all of my boards, but I don't change it at all throughout the year. All of my "displays" are for learning and are often built with students in class (displaying work, anchor charts, etc.)
    - I use all of my plan time as well as before/after school time working, and I work through most of my lunch as well. Many of my coworkers spend a lot of this time chatting, getting coffee, etc. I'm an introvert so I don't really need the social time anyway, so it works out for me.
    -My class is very routine based. This makes planning very easy because I'm just plugging new content into whatever routines we normally do each week rather than spending tons of time thinking of/creating materials for "dog and pony show" lessons. Not only does it save me time, but I honestly think the students respond better to routine and predictability. My principal always says that the predictable nature of my room makes students feel safe. I have few behavior issues despite having a high percentage of "high flyer" students.
     
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  20. bella84

    bella84 Aficionado

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    In my opinion, this is one of the biggest keys, along with knowing how to prioritize. Being a team player and getting to know your colleagues is important, but being social is not. Our contract days officially begin tomorrow, but I've spent a few days during the past two weeks working on my classroom. I've been doing this because there are few people there to distract me. I can be my introverted self and work productively in peace. I have a colleague who has also been there, probably more than I have. My room is near finished and ready for students. Her room looks almost the same as it did on the day summer break began, far from ready for students. Why? Because she's been running around the building talking to people, going out to lunch, catching up, etc. Some people like to use their time away from students and meetings to socialize. I prefer to use my time getting things done so that I can go home without having to bring work with me.
     
  21. scholarteacher

    scholarteacher Connoisseur

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    Aug 16, 2017

    I'm starting my 35th year of teaching. I'm divorced and my kids are grown, so most afternoons, whenever I get home, I don't have to cook or anything. I get to school very early, but because of some health reasons, I don't stay as late as I used to. My hours out of school involve church and family and not much else. If I was younger and more energetic, I'd probably try to have a life! LOL!
     
  22. MissScrimmage

    MissScrimmage Aficionado

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    Yes, this. My first year I changed out the borders on my boards to match the season and I tried to keep up with holiday decor. I am much more streamlined now and put out a few decorative touches, but once the boards go up in September, they basically stay the same. The only thing that changes is the student work/anchor charts on them.
     
  23. TamiJ

    TamiJ Virtuoso

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    Aug 19, 2017

    I produce a podcast called "Time to Teach" and I did a series on work and life balance. If interested, you can check it out here. It's episodes 1-5: http://timetoteach.libsyn.com/
     
  24. #teacher17

    #teacher17 Rookie

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    Sep 10, 2017

     
  25. #teacher17

    #teacher17 Rookie

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    These are good tips unfortunately I doubt I'll make it a couple more years to figure out a system. I can't do behaviors and defiance. I've worked with kids since I was 18 and now 32, I think I'm over it. I'm going to push hard to just survive to the end of the school year but after that, it's time to move on. I thought I wanted to do this but am realizing that for my personality type, this doesn't fit. I need plenty of me time and coming home to only a couple hours to spare is not going to cut it. I'm also not super organized or a planner, I'm a go with the flow kind of girl so this won't cut it. I'm willing to sacrifice breaks for a yearly job away from the classroom. It won't be fair for me to continue to stay in a field that is wearing me down in the end making me unhappy. It's not fair for the children and not fair to me. Never been a slave type either and this job feels like slavery. I just want to leave work at work and come home and enjoy me time! Thanks for your response!
     
  26. #teacher17

    #teacher17 Rookie

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    I consider myself pretty young and lively at 32, I can't continue to give up my life, it's ridiculous.
     
  27. Obadiah

    Obadiah Groupie

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    It is essential to get plenty of rest time and take care of home life time. It is highly essential to get plenty of exercise. I was just reading today in Cure magazine how lack of exercise leads to cancer or recurrence. It sounds counter productive, but limiting overtime actually increases your ability to get more done, assists your creativity in approaching tasks and in dealing with day to day classroom situations, and increases your ability to use your break time at school to get things done.

    If possible, I'd recommend eliminating written homework; little research supports the value of homework and plenty of research supports the harmfulness of homework interfering with family, play, and outdoor time. I would recommend expecting students to read at home and possibly study spelling words at home. Maybe even an interesting math challenge of the week. Other than that, none.

    Assigning students to create the bulletin boards can ease that burden, and as another poster mentioned, I also keep the same background up all year, (and the next year, and the next....) I use a cloth background--flannel is excellent because then you can add flannel graph pictures throughout the month to add to lessons if desired. It also doesn't tear, wrinkle, or fade. Only grade independent practice. Check guided practice in class, possibly within cooperative groups or study buddies. I once saw a teacher set out answer keys for each student to check her/his own guided practice. I've learned not to do too much in a lesson. The less I do, the more the students do, and they're the ones who need to do the work to learn, anyway. I already know the stuff. Now, what I've learned to do with my spare time, and this is just me, I enjoy doing extra research into a topic that I'm teaching, especially now that Internet is available (I began teaching in the 80's). Or I might choose a lesson that I want to do a little extra with. If I still became bogged down with work, I chose one night during the week when I would stay overtime--I avoided taking work home. (I must admit, I learned this over the years. My first few years I was burning the midnight oil, and I literally, one day, fell asleep during class. Just enough to nod off and suddenly wake up when the students giggled). Weekends for me were sacred. Personally, if I did anything on a weekend, I preferred Saturday to just get it over with. But overall, weekends were off limits for teaching, unless, again, it was something fun that I wanted to do extra on. I've never had emails in the classroom, but a book I've read and also I heard comments about this on a radio program suggested that an email does not need an immediate response. Wait until time allows for thinking then respond. I stopped giving parents my phone number and I was unlisted.

    A great book on how relaxation, nutrition, and exercise are important is Pillay, Srini. Tinker Dabble Doodle Try. N.Y.: Ballantine Books, 2017.
     
  28. readingrules12

    readingrules12 Aficionado

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    The best thing you can do is to decide to be the boss of how many hours you put in each week. There are some happy working 40 hours and some who are happy working 80+ hours and many in between. Realize the first and last month of school will often require extra hours so just bite the bullet on those months.

    First put down what you MUST do. Your P can't decide how many hours, but they can require lesson plans, long meetings etc. Second, make sure you add some things that are high quality that will make a difference and help you to enjoy school.

    Third, put down things that are more important than work and make time for them. Some could include: Your health (so time at gym), your family (so time with kids and spouse), your religion (time for church, prayer, and volunteering), and yes some fun (a bit of time for yourself). Make these appointments that you don't miss.

    Fourth, make a goal--such as 45 hours a week for work.

    Fifth, find ways to let go of some things and find ways to save time. Can you stop at the gym on the way home? Are there papers that can just be partially graded or not at all? Yes, that bulletin board can stay up a few more weeks.

    Don't feel guilty that there are only 24 hours in a day. It isn't your fault.
     
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  29. rpan

    rpan Cohort

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    Sep 11, 2017

    When I'm in school I'm in full teacher mode. But when I'm home I'm everything but a teacher. I don't bring work home. You must accept you can't do it all, only your best. And spending all day all evening all night in teacher mode doesn't make you a good teacher, probably the opposite. Once you accept this you can start having a guilt free work life balance.
     
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  30. JimG

    JimG Comrade

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    Sep 11, 2017

    Keep a copy of everything you use in class for use in future years.

    When you need to create something, see if it has already been done by a colleague, by a textbook, or online.

    Evaluate if you are actually working for the whole time that you are there early and late. If you are not, then work less hours and make sure you are utilizing every minute you do put in. Making, prioritizing, and checking off to-do lists helps with this.

    Be organized and eliminate work space clutter.
     
  31. JimG

    JimG Comrade

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    Sep 11, 2017

    It gets easier after the first couple years in terms of work load and classroom management. You are also essentially doing a second first year.

    My first year I would frequently be at odds with my fiancé. She would come up with plans to do such and such over the weekend and I would say I couldn't because I had to get work done. I eventually realized I was not being fair to her and that really motivated me to get my butt in gear to prioritize getting my work done AT WORK. Bringing work home still happens from time to time, but minimally.

    I am curious. What new job do you hope to be successful at without being super organized nor a planner? These skills are not unique to teaching.
     
    bella84 likes this.
  32. TeacherNY

    TeacherNY Phenom

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    Sep 13, 2017

    I had to stay at school late yesterday to help another teacher. She wasn't ready to start right away so in the 20 minutes I was waiting I got my math and ELA work printed for today. I found some things online then modified them to suit my class. I didn't reinvent the wheel. Most times it's not necessary and people waste a lot of time doing that kind of thing.
     
  33. #teacher17

    #teacher17 Rookie

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    Sep 17, 2017

    I understand this is not unique to teaching but I'm just not a type A super organizer or planner, never have been and likely never will be. I don't know what job it will be but it will be out of the classroom. I'm not going to wait a couple years and have my mental and physical health deteriorate just to teach. I appreciate your feedback.
     
  34. #teacher17

    #teacher17 Rookie

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    Sep 17, 2017

    I'm going to try and remember this. I'm just trying to make it for 8 more months with my sanity. I'm so ready to be out of this field. Thanks for your feedback.
     
  35. HistoryTeach4

    HistoryTeach4 Rookie

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    Sep 18, 2017

    I may be in my fourth year, but your post was so true to what I experienced this week. I felt so bad food my fiance because he would get home from work and I would be working and very cranky. I didn't everyone, but it is very hard to work at work when you are not able to get in the building in the morning and are kicked out other building just 1 hour after the kids leave. It also didn't help that our principal started making the lunch duty rotation weekly instead of daily (I use that time to prep and it is hard to do when you lose lunch for a week). I said that one I moved in I was going to be better about bringing so much work home. It's just so hard when you don't have any time during the school day to do so.
     

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