Teaching isn’t a job where you leave everything at work. Grading, planning, worrying about your students – these are all parts of the job that follow you home. Here are some tips for how to balance life and teaching.
Balance Life and Teaching
When I first started teaching 12 years ago, I spent my life doing schoolwork. I arrived at school by 7, stayed until 6, and still took grading home. At that point, I didn’t have a husband or kids, so it wasn’t a big deal. I poured everything into my job.
Now, one husband and two children later, I can’t spend all my time doing work for school. Actually, outside the school day there isn’t much time left for planning or grading. Cooking, cleaning, and taking care of the kids are my top priorities when I’m not at school. I’ve found some ways to accomplish everything that needs to be done and balance life and teaching.
Tip #1 – Use your time at school wisely.
Think about the time you have at school without students:
- Before school
- After school
- Your planning period
Use these times wisely to save yourself time at home. Copy before school and after school. We even have a copier in the lunchroom, so I often try to get a few math lessons ready while I’m eating. I figure getting up and down to get the copies works off some of the food I’m eating.
I also grade every free second I get. As students finish tests, I start grading them right away. I’m usually able to get through at least half the stack while walking around and monitoring the class. Then, I finish them during my planning period or lunch.
I used to save up all the papers from the day and take them home in my bag. Then, I would spend hours each night grading. Now, I rarely grade at home.
Find out some other tips to avoid taking papers home to grade.
Tip #2 – Plan ahead as far as you can.
Aside from grading, planning takes the largest chunk of time. I always try to stay at least a week ahead in my plans. That way, if a lesson requires a lot of preparation, I don’t have to do it all the night before.
Get some more tips for saving time on planning.
Tip #3 – Set aside one night a week for schoolwork.
Just in case everything doesn’t get finished at school, set aside one night a week for schoolwork. For me, it’s Friday night. After I put my kids to bed, I finish grading any leftover papers, complete my lesson plans for the week, and prepare anything I need for the following week.
I know that’s not a fun way to spend a Friday night, but I like knowing that I don’t have to worry about school the rest of the weekend. I get to spend time with my family and accomplish things around the house.
Tip #4 – Don’t recreate the wheel.
If someone else has already created something for the lesson you’re doing, use that rather than spending hours making it yourself. There are so many resources online! Look on education blogs and Teachers Pay Teachers for some great ideas.
Check out the Teach Without Tears Teachers Pay Teachers Store.
Tip #4 – Stay organized.
Meetings at school, kids’ doctor appointments, work for grad classes – these are all things we need to remember. With so many things going on, it’s really important to stay organized.
Some teachers use a year-long planner. Others keep everything on their phone. I personally prefer to look at the week ahead. I created a “Week at a Glance” page that I fill out every Sunday night. It helps to keep me organized, because I write everything I need to do for the week on it. I even list the meals I’ll be feeding my family.
Download my “Week at a Glance” organizer at the bottom of this post.
Tip #5 – Set up for the week over the weekend.
One of my biggest stresses has always been figuring out what to make for dinner. By the time I’m done teaching, I don’t feel like cooking. There was one year when we ate out or ordered takeout at least two nights a week. With two kids, we can’t afford to do that anymore. Plus, it’s not very healthy.
To solve the problem, I’ve started making all my meals over the weekend. That way, I just have to pop them in the oven when I get home from work. My family gets to eat homemade meals, and I don’t have to spend hours in the kitchen each night.
Getting out the door in the morning is another stress. My husband takes my son to the before school program at his school. I take my daughter to her babysitter’s house, and we both have to make it to work by 8:00.
To make our mornings easier, I lay out all of our clothes for the week on Sunday. I also make sure I have something quick to grab for breakfast each morning. That simple planning makes my mornings so much easier!
Tip #6 – Don’t forget to make time for yourself.
Balancing life and teaching isn’t easy. Even if you follow all these tips, you will still lay awake at night worrying about your students. You will also spend more than one night a week doing school work during busy times of the year. There’s no way around it.
However, you need to remember to take time for yourself. It’s so easy to get caught up doing things for everyone else and forget about yourself.
Here are some ideas for how to do something special for yourself:
- Schedule a manicure
- Take a bubble bath
- Find a quiet spot to read
- Get new clothes through Stitch Fix or Trunk Club
- Call a friend
- Have a girls’ night
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What Do You Think?
How do you balance life and teaching?
Let me know in the comments below.
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"Week at a Glance"
Download your free "Week at a Glance" weekly planner to help you stay organized.