Being a teacher is a job where you can work 24/7 and still won’t have enough time to get everything done. Truthfully, the work load is never going away. Here are my tips for balancing home and teaching the best way I know how. I am not perfect, but I strive to become a better person/mother/wife/teacher everyday.
Keep in mind that this is just my perspective from my stage in life. I am entering my 17th year teaching. I have been married for 18 years. We have a 7th grader who is now in middle school as well as a 3rd grader who is at the school where I teach. Additionally, my husband works out of town 80% of the work week. (He has been working from home with the pandemic which has been an adjustment. I don’t know when he will be allowed to travel again.)
Put Your Family First
The most important tip for teachers to balance home and teaching is to put your family first. This is easier said then done but it is true. Your job will replace you tomorrow if needed. You are irreplaceable to your family. This means that you will have to make sure to put your family first. Your family needs you to be there for them.
Yes, I have taken days off work to go on field trips with my personal children and I have gotten my pay docked for it. Then, I have taken off to take personal children to the doctor or special events. I try to schedule annual appointments after school hours or on days we don’t have school, but illness happens.
One year, my school was having a huge accreditation review. But, my spouse had to have an important surgery on that day. You better believe I was at the hospital with my spouse to support him and to be there to make important medical decisions. I don’t regret that choice.
I am not great at taking a sick day for me. My guess is your are not great at that either. Instead of preaching to you about this, I will remind you to take time to be present for your own personal children’s events. You will never regret the moments you are present for.
Leave at a Set Time
Leave school everyday at a set time. Set a timer on your phone that says “Leave Work.” And actually leave at that time, even if your work load is not done. (My timer also reminds me to clock out for the day since we are suppose to do this.) Remember, everything is never going to be done. Knowing I am leaving on time tends to make me more productive during the school day as well. This means that there are times I have to pick and choose between what things to do for the classroom. It happens because you can never get everything done. But, you can’t keep a balance of home and teaching if you are never home.
This also means I say no to things that I can’t handle with my schedule. I do not take on extra responsibilities at school that take away from my family. Many times extra responsibilities do not come with extra pay in my area, so they may not worth my time or effort. This does not mean that I am not dedicated to my classroom or my school, it means it is just where I am at right now.
Let me give you a big idea here. There is no award for the hardest working teacher in the world. But there is a huge reward being a present parent and that is time with your children.
Keep a Schedule
I have two children, so I know how parents’ schedules can shift as your children get older. This means how I have to evolve around their schedules. How you handle “all the things” needs to evolve as your family needs evolve.
When I had younger children, I knew they go to sleep early. I left work on time and hurried to get my child from childcare as soon as possible. We would typically come home to play together and have dinner regularly. Then, night time prep for bath, books, and bed. I was 100% with them during this time. Then, once they were in bed I could do laundry, dishes, and finish any critical school prep that I must do. I also reset for the next day with lunches, clothes laid out, and car loaded for the morning. Essentially, I was with them while they were awake but into prep mode while they were asleep.
As my children get older, they have more activities afterschool and they go to sleep later. This means I need to keep up with their schedule and plan out times efficiently. I have schedules in my iPhone and I share that info with my spouse. Our music lessons are set every week but sports practice and schedules are a constantly changing. We limit our children to music lessons and ONE sports activity at a time. We have had to say no to travel sports that limit our family time as well. Regardless, we are rarely home after school consistently during sports seasons.
For this stage of life, I write the schedule out on the side of the fridge for my children to see since they don’t have electronic schedules. My older child goes to a different school than I do now, so this helps keep her up to date with our events. Our schedule includes our activities and events, lunch choices at school, and our dinner schedule.
Now my children do not go to bed as early, but now they are responsible enough to help with regular household tasks like dishes and laundry. We typically do these household tasks together as I am teaching them how to be adults. We still do homework, dinner, and reading before bed together. They do see me work now, but they are also helpers. I still pack the car for the next day the night before.
All the Checklists
I feel like organization is the key to allowing yourself to be efficient to balance home and teaching. For me, this means that I constantly use checklists to make sure all the things are being done. I have a checklist of school lunch options on the fridge. Then, I have an “out the door” checklist for my children. They check off they things they need for that day. I have found that this saves us from forgetting things at home, like instruments or shoes. We make a new list for every school year as their PE days, school schedules, and such change each year.
I also keep a teacher checklist inside Google Keep. With this free platform, I can have the same list on my home computer, school computer, and even on my phone. I use Google Keep to keep up with my Weekly To Do List for school.
My Google Keep Breakdown
For those who will ask, here is my breakdown on Google Keep to help balance home and teaching. One note, I reset phonics and ELA small groups daily.
First, on Monday, I work on homework packets and enter data for MTSS that I gathered from the previous week. I have to leave on time on this day, so I do not plan a lot for me to do during planning time.
Next, on Tuesday, we have our grade level meeting, so I make sure I complete my needs from that meeting or I add those things to a future to-do list. Additionally, my grade level works on lesson plans. This means I have a good outline of what I am teaching the following week ready on this day.
Next on Wednesday, I reset math small groups or I get everything together to reset the next day. We typically have faculty meetings on Wednesday as well. If we have any copies to make for the upcoming week, I can make them this week. We typically do not use many copies at all, maybe 2 a day max.
Thursday, I use our data from this week to reset weekly centers for next week. Additionally, I prep the newsletter and print ESGI parent reports if needed. Our grade level has a newsletter we all use, but I edit it for my class if needed. I share my newsletter via email or Class Dojo.
Finally on Friday, I do weekly resets of standards and calendar. I email our newsletter to families. I also have to put away files from this week. When I leave school on Friday, everything is ready for the next week. This is a HUGE HUGE HUGE way I balance home and teaching.
You can read more efficient Tips and Trick here, including more on Google Keep.
This is my struggle. To save time and effort, I try to schedule out our meals for the week that work with our extracurricular activities. This means some days we eat at home or we may eat out if sports require it. With a plan for our meals, we can free up precious evenings and effort. After I write down the lunch schedule at both schools for my children, I make a meal plan for the week. I try to leave one open day for leftovers. And you guessed it, I write the plan down on the weekly schedule.
Next, I shop on the same day of the week each week. I love shopping where I can drive up and they load the groceries into my car. Sometimes, if I am super behind, I do the grocery shopping where they deliver to my house. I don’t like to spend money on this if I can save it, but sometimes it is worth the price tag if it saves me time and sanity. If I miss something, we do without. I do not go back to the grocery store during the school week because it is at least 20 minutes out of the way one way for me. I don’t have that time.
It is Okay to Rest
Doing all the things is exhausting. Since I am typically the first one awake each day and the last one asleep, I am exhausted. But I am a happy exhausted. I love my family and I love teaching. Sometimes I give to much to others and I find myself in need of a good crash. I try to sleep in on Saturdays because I have older children but when I had younger children, I use to nap when they napped.
If I don’t take care of myself, I crashing down. This is not good for anyone.
How and When to get the School Stuff Done
First, remember I have a checklist of what I do everyday. If I do all of these things each day, then by the time I leave school on Friday, everything is done. When I leave Friday, I have everything prepped and ready for the entire upcoming week. I do not work on weekends. I have a big fear that some illness would happen to someone in my family and I would not be able to get all my school stuff back to my school for a sub on Monday morning. So, it all stays at school