I’m sitting in bed mentally preparing to go back to work tomorrow, after nearly three weeks off for holiday break. For the first time in my entire career, I did almost no work over break. I made a couple copies and checked Instagram, but that big pile of work I took home…nope, none of that got done. But I’m not worried. Tomorrow will be a great day.
I’m a fifth year teacher. I’ve taught in the same school, in the same classroom, for the entire time. I’ve taught 4th grade for all five years and am teaching 5th for the first time this year (I have a combo). I feel like I finally have enough experience to reflect on a popular topic in the world of education: teacher workload.
It’s hard to talk about workload in general terms, because it is going to be different for different teachers. It does depend on subject and school and experience. But even with that caveat, I’m going to do a little generalizing…
1. Student Teachers: Prepare To Work A Lot
I believe student teaching is an amazing experience to prepare for having your own classroom (see my post here). But in order for it to be meaningful, you need to be ready to put in the hours. Spend as much time as possible in your classroom. I know, I know. You have class and assignments and credentialing requirements and maybe a job and a family. But the more you experience now, the more prepared you will be for being on your own. Be meaningful with your time…don’t spend time stressing over assignments and tests. If you put your heart into it, you will pass and get your credential. Almost everyone does, and complaining about silly requirements won’t do your spirit any favors. Stay positive, but be prepared for student teaching to be your life.
2. First (and Second) Year Teachers: Prepare To Work Even More
So many people pressure first year teachers to have a “healthy” work-life balance. They chastise early teachers for staying late and coming in early. I’m going to advise the complete opposite.
Having your own classroom is hard and stressful. But it is less stressful if you give yourself the time to truly prepare for each day. My first couple years, I basically lived in my classroom. I stayed ‘til 9 on Friday nights. But when I was with the kids, I felt confident and prepared. My room was organized and my lessons were well-planned. That allowed me to develop the skills as I teacher I still use. Moreover, I started amassing a set of high-quality lessons and projects I could use in the future.
Nobody tells Law School or Med School students and interns that they should work less or take it easy. We understand that they are working hard and sacrificing things in their personal lives to develop the knowledge and skills they will use throughout their career. I think we need to apply the same view to early teachers.
Everything I’ve written so far aligns with the idea that teaching is a lot of work and that work-life balance is a struggle. But I have good news…
3. It Gets (A Lot) Better
During my third year, I worked a lot. I came early and stayed later, but had more flexibility with my time. I had to work some late nights, but could choose which nights. If I had plans one afternoon or was going away one weekend, I made it work without much stress.
Then, this crazy thing happened my fourth year. I slowly stopped working so many hours. I had a lot of lessons already in my back pocket. I was more efficient with my time. I knew what my kids needed to know and what lessons would come next. My classroom was well-organized. I was teaching better than I ever had, but I was also working far less.
This year is even easier. I’m teaching a combo and taking on a whole new grade, but I spend so much less time at work. I still spend occasional late nights at work, but more frequently, I leave whenever I want. One of my favorite things about teaching now is my flexibility with being able to do the work I need to do when I want to do it.
Teaching has become sustainable. I have time for friends and family (granted, I do not have kids yet! That is a whole different topic!). I work out frequently and sometimes (gasp!) go home at 3pm just to sit on my couch and watch TV. I spent an entire vacation not working and am still totally confident about going back to work.
Everyone has their own experiences and things to balance. But based on my experience, my advice for people going into teaching in regards to work/life balance and workload is…
Put in those hours early! Invest that time in your early years, and don’t feel guilty for making teaching your “life”. That investment WILL pay off (in less time than you think)!
We’re playing a steampunk themed table top, and the party is on a three day train ride to the capitol city. The party mechanic, after trying to look the engine (twice) and breaking the train (twice) and finally having to get the medic to roll science and fix the train, has decided to go to the luggage cart to check on her robot as a form of self comfort. She’s being escorted by the tactician, because she can’t be trusted on the train alone.
DM: The luggage is pushed against the walls, and there is a large safe in the middle of the room. It has a one foot walkway around it on all four sides.
Tactician: That looks like a big pile of nope. I ain’t going near that.
DM (ooc): Oh c'mon, I let you guys shop for an hour and a half. Give me this.
Tactician (ooc): I know you. And I’m telling you that this whole situation is just a nope.
I’m a very sad chipmunk right now. I rented a car to go down to San Diego for the SPG concert with my girlfriend. Everything was going great, we made our normal 3 he drive from Apple Valley to San Diego with over 5 hours to spare and look around the fair… Or so we thought.
About 5-6 miles away from the fair grounds we hit dead lock traffic and a broken traffic light. There where people directing traffic and it only took 30 min, no problem still plenty of time. The. A big pile of NOPE slapped us in the face because 3 more lights where down and it took over 30 min to get through each one, except the last one which we where stuck at for well over an HOUR and a half. Finally it’s about 8pm and we pay for parking and decide the last hour of the show is still worth seeing.
Well fuck you said life because not only did we search for parking till 9pm, but one of the workers forced us into the exit lane even though we kept telling him we where trying to park. He just kept telling us to go left where we would be in the exit lane and would not let us go anywhere else. So I paid $10 to drive around a crappy parking lot for an hour then told I had to leave before we could even enter the fair. Needless to say exiting was another horrible 45 min wait before we could be on our way.
All I wanted was to take my girlfriend to see our favorite band and try to get a hug from Bunny (who is my favorite band member) because she helped me understand what being trans really meant to people, and how I can help my girlfriend feel comfortable being who she is, but the universe keeps telling me no. :-(
I know that the traffic problems is in no way the bands fault, I just had to vent about the way it was set up -_-.