What Happened when I Didn't Take Work Home for an Entire School Year!

by - May 16, 2019

As this year comes to a close, I like to take time to reflect on what was great, what needs improvement, and what straight-up didn't work (like my Interactive Notebook experience a few years ago!).

One thing that I did this year that I am heavily reflecting on is the decision not to take any work home with me.

So what happened when I didn't take any work home with me for an entire school year?

I know you're dying to know, so here's the short answer: nothing.

The long answer is, obviously, more complicated and "nothing" is a vast over-simplification, but here is all of the nothing that happened:

• I didn't get fired
• The school didn't burn down
• No one judged me
• No students were harmed

I used to take endless amounts of work home with me. I would spend evenings grading papers and weekends planning lessons, creating things, filling in endless pages in my Interactive Notebook, and writing lesson plans. My husband and children would be disappointed to see me spending so much time focusing on work and less and less time focusing on them. I justified it by saying, "I knew this was going to be a time commitment when I became a teacher."

And then this year, I decided to stop. Full stop. I made a promise to myself (and to my family) that I would not take any work home with me this year. I was going to let go of some of the control. If it didn't get done in the hours that I spent in the school building, it didn't get done [that day].

You might be gasping right now in horror, but I assure you, I was no worse of a teacher for this decision. My papers still got graded in a timely manner. My lessons were planned. My life was organized.

What the experience taught me was how to be more efficient and how to use my time more wisely. Typically, I get into my classroom about an hour before the morning bell rings, and I am there until about an hour after the afternoon bell rings. That's 2 hours on top of the 46-ish minute planning period that I get every day and a 30-minute lunch. That's around 16-ish hours per week, minus meetings and PLC's, that I have to get things done. I worked through lunch most days, but I had been doing that already anyway. I made lists. I focused on prioritizing tasks. I planned ahead.

What I didn't do was bag up the ungraded papers at the end of the day and take them home. They can wait until the morning. I always had every assignment from the week graded by Friday afternoon, even if it meant grading papers while eating my lunch.

My point is, my work didn't suffer because of this decision.

What did happen was that I had more time to spend with my family. I got more sleep because I didn't stay up until midnight grading things or creating lessons. I spent my weekends hanging out with my kids instead of working. I had less stress, less strife with my husband, and each day was a new day. I actually got to remove myself from work at the end of each day.

I absolutely love teaching, but teacher burn-out is real. Not to mention, teachers do not get paid for the huge amount of hours they put in outside of school hours. I want to have a long, healthy career in this field, and I know that in order to do that without losing my mind and my family, I have to focus on self-care and that means leaving work at work.

Fellow teachers - we are human and we are entitled to having a life outside of being a teacher. Let go of the guilt. Focus on better time-management, decide how you can be more efficient during the day, plan ahead, and then turn your light off at the end of the day and go home. It has made a huge difference in how I have felt this year.

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  1. Love this! I totally agree! I stopped taking home work as well! My family time and my "me" time has helped my overall attitude and I way better for it. I would say it takes more planning and a little bit of "hustle" but it's so worth it!

    1. Yes totally!! It is so important to put a wall between those two worlds or else you will burn out too quickly.