I’m not one to set New Year’s resolutions, but something happened recently that spurred me to set a BIG one for 2020.
My eight-year-old stopped believing in Santa. This may not seem earth-shattering, but to me it was. She’s my baby, my last to believe. The thought of how much less magical next Christmas will be with none of my children believing breaks my heart a little. And it drives home once again how fast my kids are growing up. We are entering the tween/teen stages (pray for us), so I feel like I need to be on my parenting game now more than ever.
This leads me back to my resolution. It’s really hard to be a great mom when I’m bringing home so much school work. So in 2020 I resolve to leave the work in my classroom.
Yikes. Like I said before, it’s a BIG commitment. And I know the only way to make it happen is to be very intentional about how I spend my time. I will also need to tighten up my work boundaries and be consistent with them.
After lots of careful consideration and research and talking to inspiring colleagues who already live my resolution, below are seven action steps I will take to set work boundaries this year.
1. I will make the most of mornings & prep periods.
I am naturally a morning person. I feel the most alert and get my best work done early. My husband is in charge of the morning routine at home so I can get to work early and get a strong start to the day. I will specifically focus on sending emails and contacting parents (see #6). Then later in the day, I have my prep periods to grade. And this is what I need to do every day. I can take 20 minutes at lunch to go be social and have much-needed adult conversations with colleagues. But during my prep periods, I must be an introvert. I must put my head down and get my grading done (see how I plan to accomplish this with #5).
2. I will spend one weekend day per month at school.
Here’s the reality: Though #1 sounds great, I know there will inevitably still be more to do than I can accomplish in my mornings and prep periods. So I will take one Sunday every month (Sundays work best for me) and spend at least four hours at school. This is actually something I’ve already been doing for years. The amount that I can get accomplished in that quiet, alone time is astounding and really makes me feel prepared for the month ahead.
3. I will transition from school to home.
Teaching is such an emotionally and mentally draining profession. Yet it’s not fair to myself or my family to bring my stress and negative emotions home with me. To prevent myself from doing this, I need to decompress on my way home. For me this usually consists of blasting some uplifting music in my car. (Lizzo has been an incredibly helpful therapist this school year). For some people, hitting the gym on the way home may work better. Some may need to stop and get a cup of coffee. Whatever you need to do to shed the day, at least temporarily, do it. I will get myself an Amazon Music Unlimited subscription and keep rocking out.
4. I will grade gradually.
What I mean by “gradually” is that I will give lots of feedback on the formative, or “practice,” work that I assign on a daily basis. But when it comes to the summative assessments, I will use my rubric (which my students will have seen since the start of the unit) to offer a final score. I will not give feedback on the final piece because all the feedback has been given over time. This allows me to grade the final assessment mor quickly. I have also found that by grading this way, it encourages students to listen to feedback and better grow their skills.
Another way to approach grading comes from one of my favorite blogs, Cult of Pedagogy, where Kristy Louden offers detailed feedback on the summative assessment with the purpose of having students revise and resubmit. Angela Watson also offers several good ideas for streamlining grading in her Cornerstone For Teachers blog.
5. I will take back my phone.
My personal cell phone needs to be for personal use. I have already deleted the Outlook app, which allowed me to check school emails on my phone. I do not need to be responding to a parent contact at 8 pm when I need to be putting my kids to bed. I can respond first thing the next morning when I get into work (see #1). I am also separating my school social media accounts from my personal ones and will only update my school accounts at school, with the exception of occasionally updating school-specific Pinterest boards … because I have an admitted Pinterest addiction.
6. I will create a parent contact routine.
Besides grading, the thing that takes the largest portion of my time is contacting parents. But all teachers know that building those parent partnerships is crucial to being an effective teacher. I use my school’s online learning management system to post updates about curriculum, which parents can access at any time. What I struggle with are parent contacts about how individual students are doing in my class.
To overcome this struggle, I’m going to divide my students into four groups and keep rotating through those groups each week. That means week one of the month, during my morning work time, I will try to get a quick contact out to the parents of each student in group one. Then the same with week two and so on. If I can keep up with this routine, each parent will get a contact once per month. I think that’s a good start.
7. I will adopt a growth mindset for myself.
I’m a perfectionist. There. I said it. And a lot of other teachers I know fall into that same category. We want so badly to get everything right for our students. But here’s the thing: I encourage my students to adopt a growth mindset yet don’t give myself the same grace to learn and grow. That needs to stop in 2020. All of my plans for outlined above may not work out. However, at least I have a specific, intentional plan. I will have to learn from my mistakes and tweak my routines as I go. THAT’S OKAY. I need to always remember that I am doing the best I can and I am a good teacher!
We’d love to hear—how are you setting work boundaries in 2020? Come and share in our WeAreTeachers HELPLINE group on Facebook.
Plus, how other teachers maintain work-life balance.