I’m a member of a few teaching groups on Facebook and saw a post tonight made asking for advice about how to switch off, lessen the anxiety and calm down a little. It’s a real shame that good teachers are feeling this way – there’s no wonder that two of five NQTs drop out of teaching in the first five years, though. We, as teachers, take home the burdens of work and are well aware that the job we’re doing is influencing a class full of children.
I often feel guilty about not working. It’ll be 3pm on a Saturday and I’ll get a funny feeling that I ought to be planning something, or updating APP. Or laminating resources. Or something school related. Strange.
I set to answering the Facebook post as best I could. I’ve come a long way over the last year-and-a-bit in addressing my work-life balance. Granted, I’ve still got more to do, but I felt as though I could at least pass on some ideas. Below is a copy and pasted version of what my response was.
Work smart. Set yourself a to-do list every day on a post-it note. If it doesn’t all fit you’re trying to get through too much and won’t get it all done anyway (which will only be stressing you more).
Stay at school and work until a certain time and then go home as soon as it reaches the time. For me it’s 6pm. If it’s not done by this time leave it there. At exactly 6pm. If I’ve finished before 6, I allow myself to leave early. This is still work time so if someone comes for a chat, I make sure that they’re either quick or ask them if it can wait until later.
Set another time at home to stop working. I usually get in, make tea and then do a little more work. I switch everything off by 8pm and if it’s not done then it wasn’t important enough for today.
Make sure you prioritise. Planning and marking are pretty high up on my list of things that need doing but reading through the junk mail that I get sent through school hasn’t been done in what seems like months. Don’t pick the easiest stuff to do first (like reading the mail), pick the most important.
After 8pm, I prioritise again and make my to-do list. The rest of the night (2 hours before I go to bed) is spent doing things for me. I read, watch telly, take a bath, listen to some music, catch up with friends etc.
It took me a while to get used to switching off without feeling guilty but our headteacher made the very good point that you can work yourself into the ground assessing and planning and marking and all the other bureaucracy and the kids won’t appreciate you any more. What they want is a lively, enthusiastic and fresh teacher… and you’ll be all the more wanted by them after a good rest.
If you’ve got any other ideas about how to maximise switch-off time let me know. I’d very much appreciate it!