A teacher’s work is never done!
I have spent many years running myself into the ground, working long hours, trying to have the perfect classroom with the perfect activities, differentiated, linked to the curriculum and engaging for all learners. The reality is though, that this job can take so much of your time and energy and there is always something more to do.
I was talking to a work colleague recently about how we have both cut down on the hours that we work. Around 10 years ago I tracked my hours during a particularly gruelling time and I worked 70-80 hours per week. I would get to school before 7am, leave around 6pm and every Sunday I would spend a huge part of the day there, getting organised for the week ahead. I also took home hours of marking each evening. I was absolutely exhausted and my health suffered. I now look back and wonder how I got through it all. I now work around 45 hours per week and I still feel guilty about not putting in the extra effort!
One of the turning points which helped me to reduce the number of hours I was putting in, was simply to leave my laptop at work. A colleague told me to do this and I remember initially thinking “Oh my gosh, I can’t do that. What if I need to look for a resource online? What if I don’t get everything done and ready for the next day?” I was curious to see how leaving my laptop at work would affect my teaching so I decided to give it a try. I can still remember coming home that first evening with no laptop and no marking. I had no idea what to do with myself!! From that moment I realised that so much of my time was spent searching. Searching for the perfect lesson. Searching for ‘that’ resource which my students would love. So much time wasted by trying to find something that probably doesn’t exist. When I started leaving my laptop at work, my productivity during the day increased dramatically.
I realised how much time I was wasting at work and began to use resources that my colleagues recommended, or resources that I had already previously used. So why was I trying to look for more and more online? I really don’t know. But I think in some ways I have always had this desperate need to prove that I am good at what I do.
The other big turning point with managing my work load was my ‘To-Do’ List. Just one month ago my list was 3 pages long. I still have one page of jobs I haven’t completed yet and I might not. Instead of looking at my list now and feeling overwhelmed, I look at it and choose the 3 most important, non-negotiable tasks and get those done. If I want to tackle more, I do. If it is getting late and I need to go home, I do that. Prioritising has been absolutely vital in getting some more work-life balance.
You will never be done. There will always be something more to do. Do you need to have that awesome display up on the wall? Maybe. But if there are other things that need to be done, the display can wait. Can you finish a lesson a few minutes earlier and get the students to mark their own work? Depending on the task, this can save you hours of your own time.
We need to give ourselves the oxygen mask first.
What are your tips to managing your workload? Share below!