Make a plan, and then throw that plan out the window...just kidding. I know that ends up being how we feel most of the time :(. But do make a plan. I don't mean a lesson plan, a classroom management plan, procedural plans, RTI plans etc. (we really plan a lot as teachers!) You will be making many of these plans...BUT don't forget to plan for yourself and your family.
When I was a new teacher, I found that school consumed my every waking thought (which was not healthy). I had to realize that sometimes I needed to take care of myself and spend time with family and friends rather than have the greatest most engaging lesson plan. It took me a long time to come to this realization. I sacrificed my life to seek excellence in my classroom. I thought if I worked really hard the first couple years, then after that teaching would not require so much of my time. While teaching does get easier with time, the magnitude of work does not change much with teaching experience. I burned myself out very quickly. While it might be admirable to give all your life to teaching, it is not a sustainable way of living nor is it worth your life. People are important. You, your family, and your students are important, BUT a good lesson plan is not that important.
Now, with all that in mind the next question is ....HOW???
All the expectations of the school are there...How do we not let school consume our lives???
I recommend you make a plan or rather set boundaries. For me, I would look at the school year, what I needed to accomplish, my class schedule etc. I would plan when to arrive at school and when to leave. My goal was to accomplish ALL (yes...I really just said all) my work within these hours. One school year, I stayed after school one hour on some days and two hours other days. Another school year, I only stayed after school one hour but arrived earlier in the morning. Keeping school work at school within these hours was the goal to which I aspired. In reality, I knew that despite my best intentions my Achilles heel in following these goals would be test time. I would never in a timely manner be able to grade all tests with this schedule. With that in mind, I decided that while I would attempt to leave school work at school within my set hours, I would allow myself to bring home - only bring home - tests for grading. My recommendation is that you make a plan like this. Make your plan - your ideal plan. Then, be realistic and admit to yourself where your Achilles heel will be in following that plan. Then, make an adjustment for that specific area.
Your goal should be to set a plan that provides a barrier between school work and your personal life. If nothing else, at least try to have a personal life! It is important to leave time to invest in family and friends as well as rest for you. While I tried to stay at school longer so as not to bring work home, I know others who left school on time and took work home. That is perfectly fine. I have heard of teachers setting aside a couple hours on a Saturday or Sunday to grade at a coffee shop. Pick what works for you! Set aside school work time, do not work outside of that time.
Once you have made a plan, follow your plan to for three weeks. If the plan doesn't work, toss it. Make a new plan or adjust as needed. The goal is to make sure that you have guilt free time to live life with your friends and family without the burden of grading or lesson planning hanging over your shoulders all the time.
Be aware that setting boundaries will mean you cannot accomplish everything you would like to accomplish in your classroom. I recommend you accept that nothing will be perfect. Then, pick one or two areas to improve each year. For example, as a chemistry teacher, one year I might work on improving all lab instructions. Another year, I might spend time reading about better classroom management, and another year, I might update and improve my teaching notes.
Take my advice! Set boundaries between your school life and personal life. In the end, it will make you a better teacher.
Happy Teaching :)
- Founder of Chemistry with Confidence