Just about every teacher I know would like to figure out the secret(s) to classroom-life balance. Most teachers are clocking 60+ hours per week, many of which are unpaid hours spent grading, planning, copying and laminating. If teachers were actually paid by the hour, we’d be up there with some of the highest paid professions, but sadly we are not. If you are an overworked and underpaid teacher like most out there, then read on to find out my four secrets to classroom-life balance.
I used to be one of those teachers who worked all the time, but I eventually reached my breaking point and came to the realization that I could not simply go on working 60+ hours per week. I was neglecting my family and putting work first and my daughter was taking notice of this. Implementing these four strategies has helped me regain some well-deserved time with my family as well as my sanity as a teacher. A less-stressed teacher is a happy teacher, and that’s a win for both the teacher and the students!
1. Learn How to Say No
It’s a hard word to say sometimes, and if you are a people-pleaser like me, then you want to do anything and everything you can to make someone else’s life easier, often at your own expense. Stop trying to make everyone happy. Trying to accomplish the impossible will only bring on more stress, and saying yes too many times will cause you to neglect the things in your life that you should really be focusing on—your family!
Chances are you are taking on too much—much more than you are sanely capable of, and if others ask you, “How do you get it all done?” and you often ask yourself the same question, then you are overworked and underpaid. You may even begin to feel some resentment toward the person to whom you just can’t say “no” to because you don’t want to disappoint them or let them down.
If you allow a bit of wait time before committing to a task, then it may be a bit easier to say “no.” Thinking things through instead of jumping right in may allow you to have a moment of clarity and really allow you weigh the pros and cons of taking on this task.
Your time is valuable, but have you ever thought about how much your time is really worth? I’m talking about putting a numerical value on it. Your time is probably worth much more than you give yourself credit for, and when you really start calculating you may surprise yourself.
Let’s set up an example like a real teacher would. If your goal is to bank $45,000 this year and you are only working 180 days in the year, then simply divide $45,000 by 180, which is $250.00 per day. There are 480 minutes in a typical 8-hour work day, which is roughly $.52 per minute or $31.25 per hour. These numbers mean that if you are presented with a task that is not worth $31.25 per hour of your time, then turn it down.
2. Trim the Excess
If you put too many things on your plate, but you never seem to get to them all, then it may be time to take a look at what you can eliminate. More than likely, you have tried many different ways to come to a work-life balance, but you always seem to end up in the same place—overwhelmed, stressed and at a loss as to how you are going to get it all done.
- Write down all of your responsibilities or tasks.
- Number them from highest priority (#1) on down to lowest priority.
- Take a look at your low priority tasks. Can those be completely scratched of your list without being missed?
If you are reading your list and shaking your head because you think that everything on your list is important and cannot be eliminated, then it may be time to find someone else to delegate this task to. Also, once you have eliminated a task, don’t let your mind trick you into taking on another task in its place.
By continuing on the path that you’re on and biting off more than you can chew without eliminating or delegating some tasks, you are heading down the path of teacher burnout. The reality is that we do not live in a perfect world, and if you are banking on everything going as planned, then you may be sorely disappointed when something goes awry.
3. Don’t Grade Everything
I know quite a few teachers who have entered into teacher burnout because they simply try to grade everything. They feel as if their students will not participate if the assignment is not graded, so they waste their precious spare time grading papers at home when they could be doing other more fun things, like spending time with their families.
Think about a realistic amount of grading you can accomplish in a week’s time without feeling overwhelmed. Now, stick to this number, and only grade content that is relevant to measuring your students’ progress on mastering the performance expectation or standard.
When I was a newbie teacher, one of my grading pitfalls was not only trying to grade everything, but I graded for perfection and I also felt like I had to leave meaningful comments on every student’s paper. Talk about a lot of grading and time! I was not able to keep up the momentum for very long without falling behind and grading every waking moment, even waiting for long red lights and while sitting in traffic. This is when I realized that in order to make teaching a long-term career, I had to make some adjustments for my own sanity.
Try implementing these tips to help streamline your grading and free up more time in your schedule:
- Don’t grade every assignment for accuracy, but instead grade them for effort and completion (within reason).
- Don’t be too picky and try to correct every student error.
- Only leave feedback on assignments that genuinely measure the student’s attainment of the performance expectation or standard.
- If you feel like you need to leave more feedback, use short-hand code words which will save you from having to write every word out, therefore wasting more time.
- Give group assignments instead of individual assignments to cut down on the amount of papers to grade.
- Grade assignments or tests in batches instead of all at once. This will actually make the task seem less daunting.
4. Plan Ahead
Planning your lessons a week in advance instead of the night before will significantly cut down on your stress level as a teacher and it will also increase your organization and make you feel like a rock-star teacher because you have planned ahead. When you have your whole week planned, you can then make all of your copies for the week too. I personally like to tackle this task on Friday afternoons when everyone has exited the building like it’s on fire. At this time, you never have to wait for a copier or you can even double dip and use multiple copiers at once to get the job done in an even shorter amount of time!
If you are at a loss for resources, then head over to Pinterest or Teachers Pay Teachers. There you will find countless resources, some of them absolutely free (and actually fun), to help guide your instruction and the planning of your lessons.
I know it’s impossible to plan everything perfectly, and as teachers, we are expected to be flexible. Just know that these plans are not set in stone and they can be modified and extended to fit the needs of your students.
Now that you know what to do to help clean up your routine, take control of your chaos and free up more time in your work week, it’s time to take action and start implementing today. You will be amazed at how much extra time you have in your schedule to do the things you love when you learn to prioritize your tasks, eliminate the excess, and organize and plan to maximize your time.
Need an organizational tool that will help you accomplish all of these things and more? Check out the Top Form Teacher Lesson Planner. This resource is the ultimate organizational tool to bring you one step closer to taking control of your chaos and not losing sight of your goals, both short-term and long-term.
The Top Form Teacher Lesson Planner is all you need, and within its 200+ pages it includes:
- 25 personalized cover sheets to choose from
- Matching back cover sheets
- Weekly goal sheets and yearly
- Inspirational quotes
- To-do lists
- Birthday tracking sheets
- Absentee tracking sheets
- Graphing paper
- Year-at-a-glance sheets
- Monthly calendar spreads
- Weekly menu planners
- Errand planner sheets
- Student checklists
- Car/bus rider tracking sheets
- Student ID tracking sheets
- RTI and IEP tracking sheets
- Emergency Procedures sheet
- Parent-teacher conference notes sheets
- Parent communication log
Want a downloadable version of this planner to print yourself for a lower price? Visit my Teachers Pay Teachers (TPT) store here to purchase your pdf of this planner today!