Setting Boundaries To Save Your Sanity

by | Jan 4, 2022 | Back to School, Teaching Strategies | 0 comments

Teaching is a profession that is taxing both mentally and physically. I always enjoyed the mental challenge – coming up with new ideas to teach a concept or pivoting on the fly when things didn’t go as planned. Other stressful aspects of the job I did not enjoy – dealing with disrespectful students or parents, the emotional load I took home with me each night, having to continue to work long after the work day ended, and more.

I have told my friends that, although COVID has been hard, I believe some good things have come from it. Parents, students, and teachers are all dealing with a lot – some have lost loved ones, others are having a hard time with changes in or lack of routine, and still others are suffering financially. However, I see people beginning to set healthy boundaries as they realize and redefine their values. Instead of allowing work to overtake the rest of their lives, people have begun to draw a line in the sand and drop work at the door. 

Now, I am not going to preach to teachers that they should not ever take work home. I know better. Although I don’t believe teachers should have to work beyond their contract hours, I know it is nearly impossible to get everything done during that time. However, it is time teachers start to say enough is enough. Working hours past the end of the day, weekends, and holidays is ridiculous – and often it isn’t necessary, other than we just want things to be perfect.

How Can I Set Boundaries?

Take time to decide where you can set boundaries between your work and personal lives. I don’t have all of the answers, but I have some suggestions that may help you:

  • Save your lessons and reuse them next year. Maybe you don’t use them all, but you don’t need to recreate the wheel every year. (I was terrible at this because I liked coming up with new lessons. However, it took time away from my family.)

 

  • Set firm hours for finishing work and stick to them.

 

  • Same with answering emails – or take the work apps off your phone to reduce the temptation to look at them.

 

  • Be clear to parents and students when you are able to communicate with them and your grading turn-around time. Make it reasonable.

 

  • Stop grading every little thing. I was actually taught to do this in my teacher education program, and, quite frankly, I think it is unhealthy for both teachers and students. See my blog series on Mastery-Based Grading to learn why.
  • Share lesson-planning with a teammate (if possible.) Your teammate could plan one subject or unit, while you plan a different one. This does take some communication and learning each other’s teaching styles, but it saves a lot of time in the end.

 

  • If you can’t share planning, analyze your budget and decide if you have some money that you could use to buy lessons. (You could also try asking your administration or Parent-Teacher Organization.) As they say, time is money. If you can spend $20 and have a unit planned, you save a lot of time searching for resources and writing lessons. For the most bang for your buck, shop during sales (TPT has one every three months or so.)

 

  • For essays and projects, consider moving to a single-point rubric that focuses on 1 – 3 specific skills or content instead of trying to grade students’ work for everything. I really like this post on using those rubrics.
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  • Have students take on classroom chores that they can do. Even primary grades have students take on responsibilities, so why can’t older kids? I bet you have some artsy students that would love to design a bulletin board or another that would happily hang student work up. Quite honestly, unless it deals with student privacy, any non-teaching task that could be done by an assistant could probably be done by a student. Erase your boards? Change the calendar? Put out books? Ask a student – or make jobs part of your classroom routine.

 

  • Say NO. Don’t want to be on a committee? Say something like, “I am so honored you thought of me, but I can’t give that the time it deserves.” or just “No, thank you.”

These are not the only ways you can set boundaries and save time, but they are a great starting place. What have you done this year to separate work and personal time?

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Over twenty plus years, my educational career has spanned four continents and two states, as well as eight grade levels!

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