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Best of 2016: #4 How to NOT Take School Work Home as a Teacher

How to not take school work home - Best of 2016

The 4th most popular post of 2016 is all about time management and setting priorities. It is especially even more true now that I have both a toddler and infant at home. The biggest time saver for me is to use what other people have created. I have let go of my pride and I use what works. My challenge to you this winter break is to leave your school bag at school. Can you do it!?!


A reader recently requested a blog post on balancing life as a teacher/mom/blogger. Here are all posts with the label teaching mom, and I will be the first to tell you that it is a balancing act that always seems like it is really close to tipping over. Like everything on the internet, I am sure it seems I have things together much more than I actually do. For example, right when school got out I went weeks without a new blog post, because it was actually harder to find time to write when I was at home full time, due to operation potty training, than it was while teaching full time. Bless those of you who work from home with kids, because my before/after school and prep time is when I get SO much done, and this includes blogging. So, while I am not an expert by any means, here is my biggest tip for finding a teacher/mom balance - do not take school work home!



Best of 2016: #4 How to NOT Take School Work Home as a Teacher




How to not take school work home

Set boundaries

As a first year teacher who also directed the play and musical, it was common for me to be at school from 7am to 9pm. Like many first year teachers, I was in a constant state of drowning and had no boundaries of when not to be doing school work. I let teaching Spanish I-IV as a department of one become all consuming and I rarely got to see my new husband (who I married six weeks onto my first year teaching. ay ay ay!) Even when I was not at school, I would pull out the work laptop during the evening and weekends. Once I had baby boy in January of my second year teaching, I knew things had to change. Now I (generally) follow this boundary when it come to school work - only work while AT school, and I leave within 30 minutes after the bell. It helps that I need to pick up the little guy from daycare at a certain time or I am charged a late fee. Charge yourself a fee if you stay after your cutoff. Also, after one year, I dropped the play and musical. Do not let someone guilt you into "helping" with something that you are not truly passionate about. Remember your boundaries and say "no, thank you."


Plan ahead

In order not not take anything home, you must leave with your plans ready for the next day. This means you must plan ahead and not wait until the last minute to get lesson materials ready. My rule is to leave Friday with all plans and materials are ready for the next week. I personally like to plan an entire unit at once, with a rough idea of what we will do each day on Google calendar. I pull all materials and get everything copied for the entire unit at once, as well as post a folder on Schoology with online resources, links and handouts. Then around Thursday, I put the next week's plan in my weekly lesson plan template. At this point, I check through my copies, see if anything else needs to be prepped or online materials or links added to our Schoology folder for that unit. This gives a little wiggle room, so by Friday everything is ready for the next week. This way as soon as you pick the little one up from daycare on Friday, it is mom weekend mode and the teacher stuff stays at school. In the rare occasion that there is something that HAS to be done at home, it is after the little one is sleeping as to not interrupt family time. 


Get Organized

It is so much easier to plan, after you have completed a unit once before. It is ever easier if you were organized the first time around and thought about implementing it in the future. Here is how I organize lesson materials in binders. My system is to put all activities, manipulatives, and copies that will need to be made in plastic sheet protectors, which are organized by unit in a binder. This way when you do your rough unit plan the second time around, everything is basically ready to go. 


Prep Time is Precious

I know this sounds selfish, but it is a big factor in not having to bring anything home. At the small schools I have taught at it is a daily occurrence that you are asked to cover someone's class during your prep, because there is no sub. While my current school at least gives you $15 for volunteering, to me it is NOT worth it. For one, prep was my pumping time a year after baby boy was born, so no amount of money would have convinced me to miss that chance. Now I use that time to go through my To-Do list in a focused way, and missing it would mean getting behind. So I will never win co-worker of the year for covering classes, but it is a choice I have made based on priorities. Set a plan for your prep, and once you have gotten everything done, you can reward yourself with chatting with your favorite co worker or secretary. If you fail to plan for your prep, you plan to fail. 



Enlist Help

If it does not require a teaching degree, let someone else do it. This year I was VERY lucky to have a senior Spanish IV student, who volunteered in my classroom one period a day as a student assistant. If you do not have a program like this at your school, work to try and get one, because it was a blessing. Also there are parent volunteers, students with study halls, homeroom etc. The key is when you come across tasks such as cutting, making manipulatives, straitening up the class library, decorating bulletin boards, write them on your list for when a helper gets a chance. By planning whole units at once, you will see what needs to be prepped way in advance, and it can be on the list for when someone has a chance to help. If you wait to the last minute, it will be YOU frantically running to the copier between classes, or cutting out activities. If you do not have any help at all, make your students accountable. Have the first class carefully cut out the category cards, clip them together, use in each class after that, and SAVE them in an organized fashion for next time. There is no shame in asking for help!


Do not reinvent the wheel

If you find a great resource from someone else, use it. If using a wonderful unit you can purchase on teachers pay teachers will save you hours, BUY IT. If you are teaching a novel you better buy the amazing teacher's guide. It does not matter what style of teaching you do, someone has started the groundwork of what you are planing to do. So before you create something from scratch, Google it, Pinterest it and tweet out the request to your PLN. Make sure you are planning ahead, so you have some time to dig, but 90% of the time someone has a starting point that will save you hours. It is not about pride, it is about your sanity. A new teacher in my building insists in creating EVERYTHING herself, refuses to use TPT because she is too picky about formatting, and as a result is typically at school for 12 hours a day minimum, and is burning out at a rapid pace. 90% of what I do in my classroom was created by someone else and I feel zero shame about that. 


You may be gasping out loud at the idea of leaving all school work at school, but it can work. This means you must set boundaries and say no. It means the precious before/after school and prep time is GOLD and must be used effectively. It means those tests from last hour will have to wait until prep tomorrow to be graded. Also, you must plan ahead and not wait until the last minute to get your lesson materials ready. You will need to enlist help and not insists that you do everything yourself and 100% perfect. You have to give yourself some slack and remember that if you work yourself to the ground as a teacher you will burn out, FAST. Teaching is a marathon, not a sprint and hopefully this tips will help keep you a little more sane next school year. 
**Disclaimer during the summer I do school stuff and blogging during nap time.**

What are your best tips for not taking school work home?

2 comments

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  2. Amazing post! I have three preps this year instead of just one and am trying to stay ahead of schedule. I also decided not to take any work home this year. Last year all of the work I did bring home never got touched at home anyway, so it does make me stay focused at school. Everything you said here resonates with me! Thank you! (There, I hope that's a better comment than Mr. Jix up there.)

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