She was drowning in paperwork and overwhelm.
As a 5-year veteran teacher in fourth grade, Jamie wasn’t new to the demands and workload of the job. But a new administrator, coupled with a new grade level move to fifth grade and curriculum, she was faced with writing all new lesson plans, finding manipulatives, prepping the assessments, creating centers, making homework, writing a weekly newsletter to the parents, and benchmarking all 26 students. Her principal had also given her the task of adding and article to the weekly school newspaper for the entire grade level, which needed to showcase students and the standards they were currently working on.
All this, plus a stack of essays, last week’s spelling test, and last night’s homework that still needed to be graded.
That’s when Jamie knew she had to do something different.
Taking work home from school most nights and weekends
A huge percentage of teachers take home work nightly. It is just a given, right? It is what society – and other professionals in the education field – expect. Perhaps you knew that going in to the job. Maybe that was new information. Either way, you are still taking home a stack of grading, lesson planning, or other papers to do in your own time, off the clock, and eating in to your personal and family time.
This overflow from work to home makes it feel like your job is never finished. You have no balance. No time for those you care about outside of your career. Teacher burnout starts here.
How do I use my time wisely?
The first step is being aware of the dilemma. If you know you are getting behind in grading or other duties, what can you do differently during work hours?
Are you prone to chatting with colleagues after school and don’t realize until an hour later that you have to leave – and now need to grab your bag of papers to play catch up at home? Can you change up your work hours to come in a little earlier when no one else is around, rather than staying late?
Do you loathe grading so much that you wait until the stack is unbearable – and then spend the next week (right before midterms are due), working 18 hours a day between school and home just to get the marking complete? Maybe you can pick one day a week and power through everything just from that week so the stack never truly gets out of hand.
Does daily homework grading create a mountain of papers on your desk that needs to be checked in? Perhaps switch to a weekly homework ritual so you are saving time and allowing for better flexibility for your students and their after school activities.
Jamie’s goal: Walk out of the building only carrying her purse and car keys at contract time.
Can it be done? Yup.
How? Planning and prepping. Just like with your lesson plans. Know your goal and work backward, allowing extra time pockets for the unexpected to happen (as you know it will). The first time, it will not be perfect. The 10th time it will still be a struggle. But once you get a routine that works for you and doesn’t impact your job duties – you will be amazed at how high your job satisfaction soars.
What tips can you share with other teachers that helps you from drowning in paperwork all year long? Share them in a comment below!