Don’t take work home with you. Sound like a fantasy? Not necessarily. Teachers, take these simple steps to get your life back.
Ms. Sneed Needs a New Teacher Bag
Our favorite fourth grade teacher lugged her bag down the hall and out of the school. Just as she reached her car, she heard it. Riiippppp. Oh no. Another bag bit the dust.
Ms. Sneed’s plan book, several textbooks, and piles of student work lay on the asphalt. As she let out a loud sigh, the teacher bent over and began gathering all of it.
Her mentor, Mrs. Brown, hurried over to lend a helping hand. “We talked about this before,” she admonished. “Don’t take work home!”
Ms. Sneed bent her head. “But I can’t get it done otherwise.”
The veteran teacher smiled. “Let’s talk during lunch tomorrow,” she said, handing her mentee a handful of red pens. “In my humble opinion, you need to improve your work-life balance.”
Don’t Take Work Home
The next day, Mrs. Brown plopped down next to Ms. Sneed at the lunch table. “Okay,” she said. “Let’s get started. I’ve asked some of our colleagues to explain how they get their work done at school too.”
Ms. Sneed grinned sheepishly, bit into her sandwich, and nodded. “Thanks,” she whispered.
Protect Your Plan Time
“First,” Mrs. Brown began. “You must protect your plan time. Can anyone give a strategy for this?”
“Sure,” said Mr. Frank. “As you all know, I can’t resist a doughnut or cup of hot coffee. For years, I spent my before-school plan time in the teachers’ lounge. Pastries, cafe au lait, and lots of good teacher gossip. Unfortunately, I took piles of work home every night – and something had to give. Last year, I decided to give up mornings in the lounge. Instead, I use that time to catch up on grading. Now my teacher life is more balanced, and I take less home.”
Mrs. Cordova laughed. “To balance my life, I had to quit socializing too. My problem occurred during the mid-day plan time. Every day, my next-door teacher friend, Mrs. Price stopped by to chat. Such fun! Unfortunately, neither of us finished our work at school. Finally, we agreed that it had to end. We made signs for our doors to remind one another.”
“Signs?” asked Ms. Sneed. “What did they say?”
Mrs. Cordova laughed again. “Planning in progress. Can’t chat now.”
Assign Less, Grade Less – Don’t Take Work Home
“Those tips should help,” said Mrs. Brown. “Now let’s talk about grading. Sure, you must grade assessments, final projects, and reports. However, the remainder of kids’ work does not necessarily need a formal grade.”
Ms. Sneed’s eyes flew open. “But —“
“No buts about it,” said Ms. Ivers. “If it’s something you’ve discussed or done together, there’s no sense in even looking at it. For everything else, you can do a quick check or self-check.”
“Right,” Mr. Frank agreed. “The word assessment tells it all. If it’s not assessment, you do not need to read the entire paper.”
Ms. Sneed sighed. Old habits die hard. But she didn’t want to take work home.
Batch Lesson Plans & Prep
“Next, we’ll talk about plans and prep,” Mrs. Brown continued.
Mrs. Cordova jumped right in. “I have a life-changer for this! You know how Mrs. Price and I wasted so much time chatting?”
“So much that you had to make signs for your doors?” Ms. Sneed winked.
“Yep. Well, we found a way to make planning social. Now we meet together three days a week during our plan time. But instead of just visiting, we plan collaboratively. To streamline it even more, each of us plans some things separately. Then we just share the plans with each other. It’s a win-win situation. We can even squeeze in a little non-school talk as we work.”
“That sounds perfect,” Ms. Sneed said. She looked over at her teaching partner, Mr. Frank.
“You betcha,” he said. “I would love to do some collaborative planning.”
Ms. Sneed began to relax. Maybe changing would not be as hard as she originally thought.
“Have you heard that you shouldn’t use last year’s plans?” Mrs. Brown asked.
“Well that’s a bunch of garbage,” Mrs. Brown remarked. “I say use what you’ve already done – and make it even better. Don’t try to recreate the wheel each year. Your life will be easier, and you won’t take work home.”
The others looked around in surprise. What Mrs. Brown said had a lot of merit.
Don’t Decorate; Display
“Finally, let’s talk about your classroom. Don’t decorate; display. That’s my motto. When I first began teaching, I changed all my bulletin boards every month. Unfortunately, I got burnt out. In time, I learned that kids would rather see their own work on the walls. And administrators would too. After all, evidence of high quality student work makes for a great evaluation.”
Don’t Take Work Home – It’s a Good Decision to Make
Ms. Sneed let out a slow sigh. “Thanks, everyone. You are the world’s best cheerleaders. Starting today I’ll use these strategies and use a new mantra – ‘Don’t take work home.’ Then I know I’ll enjoy teaching so much more.”