I had an incredibly difficult school year last year, which is part of the reason why I disappeared from the internet, blogging, and reading. There were many factors-among them: a tense relationship with a co-worked turned toxic, too much grading, and too much pressure put on myself. I was also horrible at managing my time and giving myself the space and time needed to focus on myself.
By the time school ended in June, I was ready to leave. I was exhausted in a way that I haven't been in years, and I was done trying to keep it all together. I walked out of there on the last day of school ready to get back to myself and make a better plan for a healthier lifestyle overall.
The truth is, I'm a workaholic. I love working, and I love being busy. And with teaching, there is always something you can be doing-grading, lesson planning, writing emails, volunteering for committees, hosting clubs, and the list goes on and on. My problem is that I solely focus on these things September-June. And I use the rest of June, July, and August to recuperate and rest up before running another marathon.
And last year, it caught up to me. Perhaps it was the stress of teaching two hours of an AP class and the immense amount of grading that came with it, or perhaps the tense working environment, but I felt overwhelmed for a majority of the year. In October (nearly a year ago), my grandmother passed away and I was out for a week. And I felt that I was playing catch-up after that all year. For months. It also put me into an incredibly bad place, that was only amplified by conflicts at work. For months I felt I was skating around tension, barely keeping my head on straight...and I lost all sense of myself.
I'm trying really hard to fix that this year. I'm no longer teaching AP history, and while I miss it, I'm grateful for the change and the reduced workload. I didn't start out my year with 70+ essays on the first day. I'm not spending hours preparing lecture notes and finding historical documents, and putting it all together to fit into a week's span of classes. I feel a lot lighter letting go of that course, and the tension it brought with my co-worker. I feel free. And much more like myself.
I'm also working to be better about creating a division between work and home, especially with grading and lesson planning. I brought work home with me every night last year. And grading every weekend. By March, I was tallying up the hours I was working at home (which I am in no way compensated for), and it was reaching ridiculous numbers. It was not uncommon for me to spend 12+ hours every weekend grading and planning. So, this summer I decided I needed to figure out how to grade smarter.
It starts with making the determination that I don't need to collect every thing I assign. I've known for a few years that I needed to stop doing this, but I think it finally sank in. And after talking with colleagues in both my departments, I realized they were collecting and grading far less than I was. I also decided I needed to utilize the kids more-let them grade short multiple choice quizzes in class, so I would just have to scan and enter them. And, by being more selective of the assignments I collect, it puts more pressure on the kids to make sure they are keeping up.
I also made the decision to set aside my weekends for myself. For the most part, I'm going to try to NOT grade on the weekends (Unless I have essays). If I bring home something, I can set a time limit. Otherwise, it can wait. This hopefully allows me to be an actual adult-to clean and do laundry and not feel like those chores are taking away my work time (that's an unhealthy thought, you know?).
I'm also setting aside more time for myself on weeknights-leaving school at a reasonable time (4 instead of 5 or 5:30), and leaving work there if I know I won't get to it. Allowing myself to go to the gym afterwards to decompress and feel better. And letting myself read a little. Because I went 4 or 5 months without reading last year....and it was horrible.
Truthfully, I'm only 2 weeks into the year and while I've failed at some of these things, I'm making strides and feeling better about the balance I'm making between my work and my home. I can still be a great teacher without killing myself and pushing my body to the brink of exhaustion. And I can still have me time and be a human without it hurting the quality of my work. I still have a ways to go to get it down, but my routine is better and I'm feeling better about the changes I'm making.
How do you make a balance between work and home? Can you give me any other tips?