“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
Are you ready to reclaim your nights and weekends after a long day or week at school? One of the hardest realities about the profession of teaching is that we teach all day and there is little to no time during the day. During our planning time, we are often working on developing our lessons, curriculum, or helping students. Teachers rarely get time to even go to the bathroom! The end result is that many teachers walk out of the school (or stay very late) to grade papers and prepare for the following school day.
There has got to be a better way to help teachers reclaim their nights and weekends outside of snow days, and scheduled breaks throughout the year. Today we are going to explore some ways in which teachers can refresh and recharge without causing buildup and burnout.
Establish Your Priorities
Throughout the day, I have many people and activities tugging at my time and attention. During the school day, I have lessons to prepare for, IEPs to write since I am a special educator, progress monitoring data to keep track of, and working with students individually or in the whole group to provide instruction. Even though I feel like I am pretty efficient at my work, I seem to always have more to do at the end of the day. In order to give more time for my family, and to recharge for the next day, I had to prioritize my work. In the book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey, he walks through the matrix above in detail and provides step by step action items to help you make the shift in your priorities.
It was about this time last year when I needed to make a change. I started to do some research on how I can prioritize my life in ways that will make me more fulfilled and reaching my goals in multiple areas of my life. My previous post Prioritizing Your Life To Meet Your Long-Term Goals helped me to give a structure to my decision-making of what I needed to tackle that day, and what could wait.
Know What You Can Handle
When I first started teaching, I was very active within our school as a department leader, sports coach, and I worked in the after-school program. Not only was I committed to these activities, but I also needed to plan, deliver, and provide feedback on the curriculum for my students each day. When I first started teaching, I knew I could handle all of those responsibilities. Partly why I was able to take on so much was because I was not married and did not have my own children at the time. Over time, the more responsibilities I took on, I felt spread thinner, and I felt that I was not performing at my highest level at any of these responsibilities.
Is It Time to Make A Change?
This was the point in my career when I knew I had to make a change. I enjoyed all of the roles that I was in, but I knew I could not do them all at the same time. I had to determine what were the most important roles that I needed to focus on at that point in my career. Those decisions gave me peace in knowing that I would be able to serve in the areas that matched up with my long-term goals as an educator. Here are some practical ways to reclaim your nights and weekends today!
If you are looking to reclaim your nights and weekends, then the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend is a must-read. When you have your priorities set on what you will focus on, it is easy to let other things creep in the way. Items that are urgent but not the most important flood across my desk all the time as a teacher. There are many days when I feel that I am just barely keeping up with today and I have not even gotten to other items on my to-do list.
I am learning more each day and year how to prioritize and set limits for myself. Focus on what is an immediate need and what can wait until a later time. During the day, requests and busy work will consume our time, and we will not feel like we have accomplished anything. The most important priority was to my students during the school day. After school, it was my family. I began to set limits for myself in order to protect the time I had for my family and my students. It is time to reclaim your nights and weekends for what is most important in your life. Here are some examples of setting limits as an educator or other professionals:
Ways to Set Limits in Your Life
- Answering work related emails after the school day– Unless it is an emergency, I typically do not respond to work related emails until the following day.
- Communicating my availability to parents- At the beginning of the year, let parents know that after a certain time that it is designated as family time and you will get back to them the next school day.
- Try not to take work home unless it is urgent and important- Try to avoid bringing papers to grade every single night. Only grade what is essential for the content. Many students are able to correct their own work in class. Papers I usually bring home are tests, essays, etc. that will require more time and are usually assessment grades.
- Commit to roles and responsibilities that you are passionate about- I am often asked to serve on different committees, etc. I now pick one or so that I know I can put my full energy into without sacrificing the quality of my teaching or time away from my family.
- Delegate tasks if you can– There are many tasks that teachers do in the classroom that could be delegated to students are are finished early, etc. Also, having a parent volunteer come in once a week could help tremendously with tasks that otherwise you might have to complete during your lunch or after school such as making copies, sending notes home to students, etc.
Give Yourself Permission to Rest
One of the hardest things a new or veteran teacher learns is how to take time for rest. We all know it is valuable, but a million things run through our minds of what we need to do and to plan for during the upcoming day or week. Setting priorities, limits, and taking needed time for rest is essential to thriving in teaching. Reclaiming your nights and weekends allows rest and recreation. This time will give you the energy you and your students need to tackle whatever the day brings.
Do You Know A New Teacher Who Needs Encouragement?
Teachers across the country are looking for wisdom and encouragement. The book, Teaching for God’s Glory, is 180-day guide for new teachers. Each day there is practical advice and inspiration for the new teacher. Some topics include supporting varying student needs, working with families, self-care, best practices, etc. Pass on the resource along to a new teacher in your life!
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Do you go into the classroom on Monday overwhelmed at the week ahead of you? The Momentum Monday newsletter is like a Snickers bar for teachers. Each week, there is great information for what you need right now in your classroom. There are student engagement strategies, teacher self-care, a teacher tech tip, and a Q & A section with actual questions that I have received from teachers. Click to view the latest issue of Momentum Monday and subscribe to future issues and view our past issues!