Teaching Truth #4: Don’t Take it Home With You

I am guessing that this Teaching Truth might set off some debate, but here it is, as I see it.  One of the things I hear from fellow former educators is how different it is to actually get to spend time on the weekends and evenings doing things for themselves, rather than planning lessons, or grading papers, etc. Although I agree that it is great having this time to myself, I don’t believe that it takes leaving the education profession to get it.

About my third year of teaching, I finally figured out that it was actually possible to manage my time so that the amount of time I spent at home working was minimal. I did this by taking one “marathon weekend” and planning out the next two weeks of lessons. During the next few days of school, I spent my entire planning period making all the copies I needed (or I sent them to copy volunteers), and then the remaining planning periods for those two weeks could be utilized for grading papers. I imagined that if I had remained in education a few years longer, I’d have a nice set of plans which could be adapted and enhanced to each unique set of students each year and built upon.

I also began to analyze exactly how many papers I needed to grade. Being a student of the school of thought that grades are really not necessary, I began to reduce the amount of graded assignments I gave my students. Now, I am not saying that I didn’t hold them accountable for everything they did in my classroom. I managed to hold them accountable in the form of a “portfolio” in which they kept their work. They turned in this portfolio at the end of each six weeks and I had a checklist of things that should be in it. Some of the work was things that I had already looked at to give them immediate feedback. Others were things that could be checked off and forgotten.

I began to focus most of my “grading” efforts on watching my students as they did their activities in class. Verbally questioning them to assess mastery. At the end of the six weeks, their grade was not only an accumulation of their ability to complete homework assignments, but more substantially my assessment of how well they had mastered the content. I had rubrics I would follow to keep myself consistent with all the students.

I guess what I’m trying to say here is . . . your job really is what you make it. You can choose to manage your time and make a pact with yourself that you will not take it home with you. Or you can work long hours at school and spend all your “family” time contemplating what you are going to do the next day with your students. You decide.

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2 responses to “Teaching Truth #4: Don’t Take it Home With You

  1. The third year is the key here — I can hardly remember the blur of my first year and the slightly less blurry second year! I tell every first year teacher that I know to hang on to the second year. I almost quit (really, I was days away before a wonderful Asst Principal told me to take a day off and took over my classes for me … I owe her my teaching life) my first year, and now I can imagine no other job. I still spend too much time at home thinking about and working on work, but I manage this with many of the tools you describe. The main one for me is planning. By preparing lesson plans more than just day by day, you are actually preparing free time for yourself. An even greater benefit results — your students start to see the big picture and learn even more.

  2. Managing time and maintaining a balance in life …. that is always so tricky for us teachers. Thanks for the post that is making me think about it anew.
    Kevin

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