Lately, when I’ve been talking to other teachers about the blog, I have heard over and over again the question “How do you do it?!” Meaning everything from how do you find the time/have the energy/come up with ideas to how do you work full time as well as have an outside life? Now in no way am I an expert time manager, and in no way am I stress free (just ask pretty much anyone in my life), but I have been finding some tips and tricks that have worked in finding balance in my life.
So this is probably something you have heard your whole life whenever you have felt overwhelmed, and it is probably pretty annoying that I have just said it again. But when I say prioritize I don’t mean every task that you do or the order you do things in, I just mean to make time for the things that keep you sane. For me, this means making time for workouts/running and packing a healthy lunch. Organization is also something that helps me stay sane so I make sure that I spend a bit of time at school and home every day keeping my desk and schedule organized. I also make sure I have organized time with friends, time with my boyfriend, and some time to just be by myself (something I discovered I needed during this period of my life) each week.
Now as you could probably guess teaching is the number one thing on my brain at almost every point in the day and it takes a decent amount of effort to turn that part of my brain off. So how do I do this to keep some balance in my life? I have some “strict rules” with myself when it comes to balance. I spend recess in my classroom prepping, getting ready, and sometimes chatting with students but at lunch I always make sure I leave the classroom and have a break (whether it’s the staff room, a walk, or going out to grab food or tea). Thanks to Rebecca, I also have a good system to follow when it comes to my hours that I work each day. I get to school between 7:45 and 8:00 every morning and classes start at 8:40 (students are allowed in starting at 8:20 though so I don’t get too much done after that). After school I have made it my goal to leave by 4:30 (okay in all honesty this is 4:45 most days but I feel like that’s okay because without the 4:30 goal I would probably stay all night) – this gives me an hour and a half for rearranging things in the classroom and getting ready and prepped for the next day. One day a week I allow myself to stay later in order to get a large amount of prep and/or marking done because this gives me the satisfaction of being on top of things and reduces my stress – I usually don’t stay past 5:30 or 6:00 though! And this late day allows me to have one day where I get out of there as early as possible: usually on Fridays I make sure I’m prepped for Monday and then get out by 3:30-4:00. I also never take marking home with me and rarely take planning home unless I need to use some of my supplies that I keep at home – this means home time is home time.
This has been one of my biggest struggles since practicum, planning trumps marking every time! But it is necessary to keep up on my marking so I’ve found a few ways to keep it under control. First off, I don’t mark everything! Sometimes I just read through assignments to see where students are at and what we need to work on and sometimes I give a check mark if they are on the right track and circle or write notes about things that they need a little reminder of. Projects I mark with rubrics or checklists so they don’t take as long (plus I try to only give projects that I’m interested in marking). The new trick I’ve figured out this year is making sure that I schedule time to do my marking – by project or division I write down exactly what I will be marking in the morning, my prep or after school.
Karley and I have a pretty good system going this year with how much we blog. We each do one post a week that we write about whatever we want and then we each do a second post that is either a “Teach it Tuesday” (we alternate who does these) or we choose from a book review, travel post, find a guest post, or organize a joint post for both of us to respond too. Personally, I have become relatively comfortable writing since my work on the research project and I don’t find it that difficult of time consuming to do the actual writing. Plus I usually do my blog posts on Sunday afternoons when Ryan is at soccer and I’ve already finished my long run for the week – relaxing on the couch with my computer feels great then! As far as finding ideas and energy for blogging? Blogging has become one of the very best things I have done for my teaching practice because I am now constantly reflecting on lessons and my feelings/mood in different situations. I find blogging energizing in itself and I really enjoy doing it so I rarely struggle with ideas or finding the time. My life is pretty consumed in teaching right now anyways so I think it makes the ideas part way easier!
I’ve cut down on the amount of “second job” work I’m doing this year. I usually tutor/babysit about twice a week and I only do it because I really love it! The kids I spend time with are very special to me and it’s not something that I want to give up (nor do I feel the need to give it up). If I’m really stressed out or tired than the families I work for are very understanding about that. I’m not doing research this year as I’m really focusing on my teaching and I miss it like crazy but I know that it was the best choice for my stress level – even just making it across town in time for a meeting was difficult last year.
And when all of that doesn’t work…
Sometimes this system doesn’t work. Sometimes I forget about a blog post, sometimes I get sick, sometimes I skip a workout. I have had cereal for dinner a few nights in a row because we forgot to grocery shop when we had time. I have to buy my lunch usually once a week because I forgot to pack something or there is no food left in the fridge. Sometimes I stay later than I mean to and sometimes I just need to leave early for sanity’s sake even though I have lots to do and sometimes the marking piles up… Does any of it really matter? I have become excellent at letting things go and not getting mad at myself. I pick up that stack of marking and head to a coffee shop to burn through it before going home or I work extra hard at my next workout to make up for the missed one. Maybe I get home and do absolutely nothing productive for the whole evening except talk with Ryan or a friend? That’s okay! Forgiving myself for being late on a blog post or missing whatever it was I thought was so important is just as crucial to me as having the balance in the first place. As long as I’m generally on top of things I feel that I’m doing okay and sometimes okay is all that matters.