“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
-Matthew 11:28-30 NIV
As an educator, the days can nights can feel very long. You spend all of your time and energy serving students in your classroom, only to find that at the end of the day there are mountains of papers to grade, emails to respond to, and lessons to plan for the next day. As we go from week to week, it feels like this cycle goes on and on and will not be broken until Christmas break, spring break, or summer break. Until then we feel captive to this process. We may even start to feel some build up in our jobs which affect our attitudes at school and home.
What if I told you that there was a way to reclaim your evenings and weekends? What if I told you that you could enjoy your family without feeling guilty about the schoolwork you are leaving behind? If you want to break free of this cycle and are ready to enjoy teaching again, then we are going to explore some ways in which to do more quality work for your students rather than quantity.
Educators have much to do during a school day. The planning period is supposed to be a distraction free time to get lessons around, etc., but we all know that student issues come up, parent phone calls need to be made, and other paperwork starts to creep in during the only time we have by ourselves to get things done. As a result, many educators feel like they need to come in early, stay late, or even come in on the weekends, so that they can have a distraction free environment and keep their head above water with their paperwork. Here are some ways to honor that sacred time that you have for planning:
- A List of Tasks– Make a list before the day starts of what needs to be done today, and what might be nice to have done today. Focus on the needs first, then move on to the wants.
- Grading– Do you need to grade every single assignment? Probably not. Choose which formative assessment you will use to meet the standard and stick with that. Grading every single worksheet and assignment just to fill your grade book will consume hours of your time.
- Learn to Say No: As educators, we find it hard to say know when someone needs our help. If you spread yourself too thin by participating on 3-4 committees for your school, then you will need to spend extra time during your day to get your planning done. Make sure you are committed and passionate for what you sign up for. If not, you will feel like it is not a good use of your time.
Delegate The Workload
There are a lot of tasks that we need to complete as an educator. We have paperwork to complete be that lesson plans, curriculum development, IEP paperwork, meetings, etc. The hard part is that we have to fit all of those tasks into a small planning period, lunch, or after hours because we are teaching throughout the day. Think about all of the activities you do throughout your school day. Are there any that you could delegate to your students? Let’s take a look at some possible examples:
- Grading– Assignments that are not summative or formative assessments could possibly be graded by the students. This could include daily math homework. How nice would it be to not have to take home a stack of math papers every night?
- Other Paperwork– Do you have papers that you need to get together and send home each week? Some schools call these Friday Folders, but instead of you filing all of these papers, maybe a parent volunteer or student could do this for you each week?
- Plan As a Department/Grade Level– Working in isolation is hard. All of the work is on you to make all of the copies, come up with assessments, etc. Not only is this best practice, but it is a huge time saver. If everyone pitches in and takes on a task, the workload will be much easier. For example, if one person is in charge of making copies for math, they could run all of the copies for the department/grade level. This would save a ton of time. You could even have a parent or teacher’s assistant help you out
As we looked at earlier, learning to say no at times is needed. This helps to set limits on what you will or will not be committed to. You will also want to set limits with your personal time. Unless it is an emergency response, the email or text from a parent or colleague can wait until the next day. Just try it for a few days and let me know if you would rather be talking to parents and responding to emails instead of relaxing or hanging out with your family. I am guessing you will take the free time any day!
I learned that early in my career from a great mentor to set limits and stick to them. These boundaries will help you relax and concentrate on you and your family when you are away from school. The work will always be there tomorrow.
If you let the stress of your work build up for too long, you will dread going into work on Monday. Take care of yourself, so that you can take care of your students.