Healthy work habits is a topic near and dear to my heart. When Angela Watson asked me to read her new book, Unshakeable, and write about one of the chapters, Establishing Healthy Habits for Brining Work Home and Decompressing was a no-brainer.
When it comes to your work habits, it’s often hard to “win” no matter what you do. It seems you get the side-eye whether you’re the first to leave after the dismissal bell or the last car in the parking lot each night. You either care too much or not enough, judged by the size of your “teacher bag” each evening. You know… the one you often take home full of papers to grade and then back to school the next morning without touching anything inside. Let’s face it, some nights mine didn’t even make it out of the car. Other nights that same teacher bag felt like a ball and chain, and I’d sit for hours with a pen glued in my hand grading papers, begging my husband to help with the math fact sheets. So.much.stress.
But as I went along in my career, I realized it was all about balance. As a new teacher, I lived at school. I was one of the first ones in the building each morning, spent evenings at school planning, and still took papers home to grade each night. I remember locking myself in a bedroom at my grandmother’s house one Thanksgiving, grading animal essays before dinner. No fun.
Fortunately, with a little experience and limit-setting, that didn’t last long. Whether you’re a new teacher or a veteran, it’s all about the balance and you DESERVE time to decompress. I personally found that I resented the paper pushing less when I could do it from home. This meant I left school shortly after my students with a slightly full teacher bag. I was able to enjoy time with my family and then work on “school stuff” in my pajamas while catching up on the DVR or listening to music. This was SO much better for me than sitting at my desk under fluorescent lights at school. I also had fewer distractions and interruptions. And when it was time to put it away, I put it away. Your job as a teacher is never finished and there is always something you can do. It’s okay to leave some of it for tomorrow.
Another way I managed to keep a better work-life balance and decompress was making the most out of my commute, something Angela also recommends. I can be really good at beating myself up. I’ll replay moments in my head over and over and am a pro at the should/woulda/coulda game. I wrote “Artic” instead of “Arctic” on my whiteboard during a guided reading lesson while I was being evaluated. Seriously?! I’m a great speller, what was I thinking? Then I have to remind myself that I am human, I make mistakes, and my teacher brain was just running faster than my teacher hand. Plus, my students ignored my mistake and all spelled it correctly on their poster for the win! Was this worth stewing over? Absolutely not. I taught myself to do my mental work in the car so I didn’t have to rehash it with my husband when I got home. Little things like that can make a big difference!
For more advice on bringing a better balance to your life and gaining more satisfaction from teaching, I highly recommend Angela’s new book, Unshakeable. It’s packed with 20 easy-to-read chapters that will help you get more joy out of teaching.
You can follow along with us and download a printable poster of the 20 ways over on Angela’s website, The Cornerstone. Here’s a link to grab your own copy!
Thank you so much Christi for some great ideas! I have almost an hour commute home after school and I continue finding myself rehashing the shoulda/coulda/woulda's, however, I find myself more down in the pits and really loosing sight of why I'm doing what I'm doing. This is my 3rd year teaching (with a 2 year break between the 2nd and 3rd year) and would love to know what are some things you may "self-talk" about to lift your spirits and become positive through all the negative and stress. Thanks!
I usually focus on what went right. "Okay, maybe I misspelled Arctic in my hurry, but my students rocked those text features and showed what they've learned!" or "Wow, that parent was super upset. But I did the best I could have with the information I had and really was looking out for the student's best interest by offering that logical consequence."
At the end of the day if our hearts and intentions are in the right place and we've done the best we can, we have to let the rest go. I focus on that and all of the ways I'm helping my students and our classroom every day.
Christi, I really enjoyed reading your reflections. I love that you've gone through the same battles as me in terms of training yourself not to mentally rehash the low points of the day, or insist on sharing everything with your husband. (Mine is reallllllly happy I stopped doing that! LOL!) Thanks for sharing your thoughts on trying to keep balance–I think that's something every teacher can relate to!
Thank you so much for writing this!
Kovescence of the Mind