A Rebel Teacher's guide to not working all the timeAug 09, 2022
Some people might call me a rebel because I don't agree with the traditional mindset that says teachers should work all the time. I disagree because I think there is more to life than just teaching. Of course, teaching is important, but it's not the only thing in life. There are other things that are just as important and can be just as fulfilling. By taking some time for yourself, you can recharge your batteries and come back to teaching refreshed and reinspired. So, if you're feeling burnt out, here are some tips on how to take a break from teaching without harming your career.
Take regular breaks - even if it's just for five minutes
I know that when we are teaching it can be hard for us to find time for a break. We have classes back to back and things like that where we have to run from a class to lunch duty, shove food in our face, and then teach another class!
But we need to take some time to slow down even in the midst of all of that. Even if it is just for our sanity! And sometimes I do this with my students! In class, I’ll take 5 minutes to do some stretching, breathing, mindfulness, coloring, or anything that isn’t actually work-focused. It is actually a great break for the students too!
Set a specific end time to your work day and stick to it
This is going to sound crazy to many of you, but this is a non-negotiable in my life and has actually made it easier for me to get things done when I am at work. Because I know it will end eventually!
I recommend that you set a timer for when you want to leave AND one for 10 minutes before. That way, if you are in the middle of something and the first timer goes off, you’ll know you only have 10 minutes to wrap it up as best you can and make it more likely that you will actually leave on time.
Avoid working weekends and evenings
Every day, I am out the door at 4pm. AND I leave my computer at school! In addition to leaving right at 4pm, I refuse to do work at home that I don’t enjoy. So, sometimes this means I am not doing work at home at all!
There are aspects of my job that I really and truly enjoy, so there are times I do things at home, but it is my choice and I don’t feel a sense of urgency or stress about having to do it.
The way that I can do this is by setting clear expectations with my students and their families about communication and grading. I let them know that I grade on certain days and late work goes to the bottom of the pile. They know that I don’t respond to emails after work hours and that they can expect a response the next day. (although usually, I respond before that) These are boundaries I have, and I make them clear and this allows me to spend time with my family and friends and enjoy things outside of my job.
Make a list of things you want to do outside of work and create a plan for your free time that includes both relaxation and productivity
Obviously, this business is something I do during my time outside of work so that would be part of my productive activities along with cleaning and taking care of my household.
And I will be the first to admit that I don’t always take the time I need for relaxation but I have come to see that this is the most important part. Without taking time for ourselves we are constantly working on things that will never be “done” like dishes or cleaning or work-related tasks. So, we never take the “me-time” that is really going to rejuvenate ourselves!
And when we aren’t taking care of ourselves, we are not the teachers that we truly want to be and that our students need us to be.
Say no to extra work projects
This is something that I have had to learn to do over the years. And it is not always easy! But, I have realized that if I want to have a life outside of work, I need to say no to extra work projects.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should never do anything extra or that you should never volunteer for anything. But, it does mean that you should be choosy about the things you say yes to.
Think about the projects or tasks that you are being asked to do and ask yourself if they are really necessary. If they are not, then say no! It is okay to put your own needs first and to say no to things that are not going to help you or your students.
Take care of yourself - get enough sleep and exercise
If you are not taking care of yourself, then you are not going to be able to do your job well.
It is so important to get enough sleep and exercise. I know that it can be hard to find time for both, but trust me, it is worth it. If you can, try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise each day and make sure that you are getting enough sleep at night.
You will be amazed at how much better you feel when you are taking care of yourself. And your students will benefit from it too!
Make time for friends and family
This is another important one. It is so easy to get wrapped up in work and forget about the people who are important to you. But, it is so important to make time for your friends and family.
They are the ones who will be there for you when you are having a tough day or when you need a break from work. So, make sure to schedule time for them in your life.
It doesn’t have to be a lot, but even just an hour or two each week can make a big difference.
Find a hobby or activity that you enjoy outside of work
This is one of the best ways to prevent burnout. When you have something to look forward to outside of work, it makes work feel less like a chore.
So, find something that you enjoy doing and make time for it in your life. It can be anything from reading to hiking to playing an instrument. Just find something that you enjoy and make sure to schedule time for it in your life.
When you work, work hard, but make sure to set a specific end time and stick to it. Avoid working weekends and evenings whenever possible, and include both relaxation and productive activities in your plans for outside work hours so you can enjoy your free time guilt-free. If you're looking for more ways to improve your productivity, join us at the Design Your Digital Classroom Summit! This online conference is free for educators worldwide and will include sessions on teacher wellness, command centers, and using Google Apps to be more efficient!