Teaching can be ridiculously difficult. It can be emotionally taxing and physically exhausting. Your to-do list is never-ending. You may often feel like you’re being pulled in a hundred different directions. It can be easy to let this job overwhelm you. I could spend 60 hours or more at school and still never feel like I’ve done enough. More is not always better, though. I can’t perform at my best if I constantly feel overwhelmed and exhausted. It is important for teachers to find a work-life balance that is sustainable. Through the years, I’ve come up with some strategies that help make it easier to have a life outside of my classroom.
Don’t grade everything.
I graded everything during my first year teaching. I also had no idea what I was doing. Years of experience have helped me to see the big picture when it comes to grading. I don’t need to put something in the gradebook every time my students put pencil to paper. I make sure to plan so that student’s grades reflect their understanding of the standards without much fluff. I make sure to have weekly grades that show how well students perform on certain standards (I call these accuracy checks). I also have weekly vocabulary assignments and homework that is a spiral review. Of course, I have tests and projects grades as well, but not on a weekly basis.
Use technology to your advantage.
We are 1:1 with iPads this year. I have used this technology to help save time in a variety of ways. I put our warmups on a self-grading Google Form. This gives me instant feedback so that I can spend more time on a question or skill that students struggled with. It also instantly grades the warmups, which really saves me a lot of time. I also have transitioned to having vocabulary quizzes using Google Forms as well. In addition to being a time saver, students really become invested in performing well because they know they will have instant feedback.
Use your planning time wisely.
I really like to socialize at work. I’m good friends with some of my teammates and really enjoy their company. I could spend all of my planning time chatting it up with my colleagues (and have). This obviously doesn’t help me leave at my contract time with a clear conscience. I have found that I am most productive when I put myself on a schedule. On Mondays and Tuesdays, I grade and enter grades from the previous week. I like to work on my lesson plans on Wednesdays. On Thursdays and Fridays, I make copies for the upcoming weeks. Of course, I regularly get behind schedule, but I find it is easier to keep my head above water if I stay committed to my schedule.