If you are reading this, you are most likely a teacher. I don’t need to tell you how hard you work – because you know it. You are probably underpaid, under-appreciated (I hope not!!), and most certainly overworked. I am here to tell you that I see you, I appreciate you, and I am so grateful for the work you are doing every day to change students’ lives. I am also here to tell you to not bring work home one more day of your teaching career.
BUT REBECCA, THAT IS IMPOSSIBLE!! I know. I know that is what you are thinking. I’ve been there! 4 years of my teaching career I even had 5 different preps. It’s seemingly impossible to NOT bring home. So why do I think it is so important that you figure out how to do this? And how is this even possible? That’s what I am here to share with you.
I am incredibly passionate about not bringing work home. I am actually so passionate about this, that I committed early in my teaching career to prioritize never bringing work home, outside of lesson planning (because I actually really enjoy lesson planning, so it feels less like work.) But I committed to no phone calls, no emails, and no grading at home. WHY?
Teachers are known for being passionate people. Most teachers I know go into the profession because they love students and/or love their content and want to share it with students (not because we want summers “off”, as so many think). 90% of the teachers I know work WAY more than 40 hours a week. That’s just the physical hours too – it doesn’t even begin to count the number of hours we are emotionally and mentally working as we think about our students, their struggles, and how we can best support them.
Teaching is anything BUT a 9-5 desk job. It takes everything out of you, if you let it. To do our jobs well, that requires us to be able to love students well, and we can’t do that if we are exhausted. Self care isn’t just important for teachers – it’s utterly essential. That self care starts with not bringing work home.
Not only that, but I don’t need to tell you how stressful it can be to be a teacher (especially if you are reading this while virtual/hybrid/distance learning face to face instruction is happening). I truly don’t believe we can retain good teachers unless we do something STAT to make the job less stressful (or at the very least, match the compensation for the hours worked – AM I RIGHT??)
Throw in teaching in a pandemic and I guarantee you are doing above and beyond what is required of you.
Once in college, a professor told me that the average teacher lasts less than 5 years in the profession. I couldn’t believe it. Now, I know that statistic is over a decade old at this point, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was the same now, if not less.
If you want to last in this career, it is imperative that you set clear work and home life boundaries to make that possible. One of those obvious boundaries is to not physically bring work home. But HOW? Here are 4 quick strategies you can start TODAY to make this possible:
Delete your work email off your phone RIGHT NOW.
If you follow me on Instagram, you have heard me talk about this because I am INCREDIBLY passionate about this. If you want to not bring work home, that starts with unplugging. You do not need to be available 24/7. AND YOU SHOULDN’T BE!
We can make a million excuses for why we have to have our email but that’s all they are – excuses. ESPECIALLY if you are virtually teaching you need to set some very clear boundaries or your work day will never end. Deleting email from your phone, and deciding not to get on your computer and check it after hours, is one of the simplest and most effective ways to reclaim your time and not bring work home.
Honestly, it is also potentially a legal risk for you to be seemingly accessible 24/7.
I’ll admit, this was hard for me to do. Even though I wasn’t grading papers at home, I was still seeing messages and replying to them all the time. It took months for my husband to convince me to delete my email, and I am SO GLAD I DID. Other people’s emergencies do not have to become your emergencies! This is something he kept telling me and it took a while for me to believe.
If you are worried about students and parents not getting their questions answered, just be proactive about (1) getting to school a little earlier to have time to do an email check before the day begins, and (2) posting assignments and contacting parents with dates so that they can have plenty of advance notice on everything that is due. There is no reason to be emailing a parent at 9 pm about an assignment due the next day! Speaking of parents…
Set up a Google phone number for contacting parents on the fly – but set it up to go straight to voicemail via your email.
I never felt like I had time during my day to sit and call parents from my work phone – and rarely they answered anyway, due to them being at work also. If email isn’t an option and you need to call parents, I recommend setting up a Google phone number. It is free, and you can have calls forwarded to your personal phone without giving away your personal number. Plus you can set up all calls to your number to go straight to voicemail (my favorite setting!!) that then forwards to your email. This made it possible to use my commute time to call parents, while also protecting my boundaries at home. It also freed up some time during my day to do other tasks since I wasn’t calling parents then.
Stop grading as much as you are grading.
This is probably the most important of all. I guarantee you are grading more than you have to. One of the key factors in not bringing work home is to grade less. How do you do that? I have so many thoughts on this that I wrote an entire other blog post on how to minimize the time you spend grading. Please don’t spend another one of your weeknights staying up till 10 pm grading lab reports and drinking wine (not like I’ve done that or anything….) It’s not good for you, your family, and most likely your students.
Start by collecting less assignments to grade for accuracy. This will save you time and make it possible for your students to get better and more quality feedback from you when you do collect something to grade (win-win!)
I also recommend choosing one day a week to stay late and grade. Yes, this is working after hours, but at least it is at your desk at work and not at home where it infiltrates your family life. I typically did Fridays, and then just stayed until the football or basketball game started that night since I liked to go to those to support my students. Last but not least…
SIMPLIFY your lesson plans.
You don’t need to spend hours lesson planning. Use resources you find from other teachers – whether that be veteran teachers at your school or teachers you follow and respect online. Incorporate more projects or open-ended assignments that put more of the learning on your students and less on you. These take way less prep on the front end and can save you tons of time!
Now, if you enjoy lesson planning, that’s different. I hear you – I absolutely love it! Creating resources and planning lessons is my favorite part about teaching, hence why I started doing It’s Not Rocket Science in the first place! Here is whaat I recommend. Plan to make time over the summer and on breaks or long weekends to lesson plan. But don’t make it your habit to stay up every Sunday night until who knows when coming up with plans for the week.
Even better, use a sick day once a month to spend an entire day lesson planning. I’m serious. My first year teaching there were 2 teachers in my department within a few years of retirement and both said their biggest regret was not using their sick days more often for just personal days. This really struck me. I had a HARD time taking any time off my first few years. It always felt like more work to be gone than to just be there.
But wow, my life CHANGED when I made it a habit to take a day off a month. I was incredibly strategic with that time and got SO MUCH DONE. It benefitted my students AND me. There are so many great articles and sub plans available out there – just do a search on TpT and you will be amazed the high quality resources you can find. Your students can still learn and have meaningful class time even if you miss ONE day here and there.
I believe every teacher at some point in their career lets their job take over their life (if it hasn’t happened for you – PLEASE share all your tips for how you prevented this!!) But what we have to remember is that we should work to live, NOT live to work. If you are working tons of over time (and I highly doubt getting compensated for all those extra hours) I beg you to consider today taking one (or all) of these strategies and committing to not bringing work home another day! I give you permission (not that you need it from me, but if you feel like you do, HERE YOU GO!)
I am incredibly passionate about using tried and true practical strategies and systems, like these, to simplify teachers’ lives. So much so, that I actually have written an entire course called Secondary Science Simplified™️ sharing exactly what I did to simplify my workload so that I could only work 40 hours a week and stop bringing work home. Interested in learning more? You can join my waitlist for the course here!