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The beginning of a new school year is ramping up and one of my biggest goals every year is pretty simple (or so it seems): do not take school work home this year. I'm including my biggest tips for creating balance this school year so you can try to not taking any of your school work home!
It's okay to set boundaries. Every teacher out there has a life outside of teaching. As teachers, we are very much people pleasers and we are always willing to help out wherever we can. However, don't be afraid to say “no, thank you” this school year. It's okay to set some boundaries. If you know you'll need to stay late, pick one or two nights to do so. Then, every other night leave on time.
One of the biggest things I see teachers who take a lot of work home with them or need to stay later at school is they aren't truly focused during their prep time. I know it's easy to get caught up in a conversation in the staff lounge, but your time is precious. Whenever I have a prep period, I shut my door and focus on what work needs to be done. I'm able to get my grading, copying, organizing, assembling done when I avoid the distractions and stay focused. Set a plan each day for your prep period. What are your must-dos that day and work to get them all crossed off. Don't pile on too much where it will be impossible to cross everything off, but enough to stay working the entire time.
Plan for the week
Another thing that I focus on during my prep time or the one or two nights I stay after is getting my plans ready for the following week. This includes all copies and materials that will be needed. I have a filing system that I use so as soon as copies are made, I can sort them into the corresponding spot for the following week. Before I leave each day, I set out all of my materials that are needed. This way, I'm not scrambling in the morning, and if I happen to get sick, everything is prepared for me. (If you remember, I mentioned this tip in my post How to Plan for a Substitute) Staying prepared and planning your work ahead of time is crucial!
Don't reinvent the wheel
Ask your seasoned teachers for activities or ideas that they use for a particular topic or unit. Most are definitely willing to share and help you. Also, don't forget to check out Teachers Pay Teachers, which is jammed packed with tons of resources for teachers. If you teach second grade, my store is a great place to start browsing!
Ask for Help!
I know not all schools are lucky enough to have aides that can take care of copying or help out with grading, but you can still enlist help. Many parents are dying to volunteer in a classroom. Copying, grading, cutting, or organizing are easy tasks to hand off. Also, some high school students might be willing to help if they need volunteer hours. As long as you have systems in place, someone should be able to come in and take over those easy tasks to make your work load a little lighter.
I hope you can try to implement these tips this year so you can lower your stress a bit and stay focused during your school day!