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  • Writer's picturejordenpearce

Anything but an 8.30am-3pm day



"I feel guilty for leaving school after the bell…"

"Other teachers are staying at school until 6pm, so I feel like I’m being slack…"

"If I don’t stay late I have to come in early tomorrow…"

 

I cannot count the amount of times I have thought these things to myself and heard them from my colleagues. It’s a sad reality but the workload and ‘to do’ list just never seems to reduce in size, which is causing teachers to resort to ridiculous hours. I have been in a position of leaving right after the bell, and arriving/leaving at crazy-o’clock. Let me tell you, I felt like a better teacher and human in general when I put limits on the amount of time I spent in the classroom.


Did I still get my work done? Yes.

Was I considered a good teacher? Yes.


At the beginning of my career, the workload was insane. In your first year you are learning how to manage behaviour, create resources, familiarising yourself with the curriculum, working on your confidence to approach parents (with little-no experience teaching and in my case, looking very young), forming relationships with colleagues, trying to learn how to delegate jobs to other staff members (aides, assistants), record EVERYTHING, meet deadlines for data and assessment, marking (this is even a slow process in the beginning because you are not familiar with the curriculum and what it means)… the list goes on. In my first year, everything took longer than it should not only because it is was new, but because I am a perfectionist. I was starting from scratch and to be honest, I am not one to simply use what’s already there. I like to be creative and make new things. I had an extremely challenging class and I felt somewhat unsupported. That year was A LOT to say the least. I worked around the clock, arriving early (7am), staying late (5pm) and then would continue to work on things at home. The next year, I’m happy to say it got a little easier because I was on the same year level and the curriculum stayed the same. I was able to do things in a more timely manner, I was more confident in my abilities and I was a familiar face to staff and parents. The next two years I remained on the same year level and it honestly felt like a breeze. At this point, I decided I would limit my hours in the classroom. I started leaving straight after the school bell. Come marking time, I would take my work home and do it there as I just felt exhausted and needed a change in scenery after a day of teaching. I would always go above and beyond no matter what, I just found a better balance and a way of juggling tasks that worked for me. I much preferred taking it home than staying in the classroom for the whole day. I definitely received some unwelcoming comments from other teachers, however, most were ‘banter’ as I knew the staff well and we had a great relationship. Comments such as:


“Just on time.”

“First one out the gate again, hey?”

“How do you do it? I’ll be here til the cleaners leave.”

“I bet you’re counting down the minutes until the bell goes so you can get out of here.”

 

Why did these comments feel ‘unwelcoming’? I started to compare myself to others and question if I was doing a good job. I was never late handing anything in or getting tasks done, I was still delivering lessons and creating resources to a high standard, yet the comments and actions of others made me feel as if I wasn’t doing my job.


Two years later, I accepted a position at a high socioeconomic school which is quite reputable in my home town – naturally, the expectations and standards of teachers were quite high. I automatically felt an added pressure of being the ‘perfect teacher’. This is where my routine became very unhealthy again. I was arriving between 6.30am and 7am every day and leaving between 4.30pm and 5pm. I would then also take work home and continue working after dinner until bedtime. I was drained, exhausted and confused about my career path. I knew I couldn’t maintain these efforts, but if I didn’t work these hours, the workload would pile up and I would be more overwhelmed. This is when I decided to switch to relief teaching which was exactly that in terms of work – it was a relief. I then gave contract work a try after buying a house, as I thought I wanted to go back to full time teaching. It was a great reminder of why I left in the first place. I was again, showing up at 6.30am and feeling exhausted by the time the kids got there. I had set myself a goal at this point to leave by 4pm every day. I made this very clear to my colleagues that this was something I needed to do as I worked better in the mornings and could not maintain the hours I was doing. Of course the workload didn’t go away just because I decided to leave earlier, most of the time, once again, I would take work home… but, I preferred that. I made the classroom a place where I could exclusively enjoy my students’ company during school hours whilst also getting things done in the morning – a time where I felt most productive and present.


What we need to remember is our schedule is just that, it is ours! Your working hours and conditions are your choice and no one else’s. You know what you need to do to manage. No one has the right to judge you for leaving after the bell, no one has the right to question your commitment. I loved my job most when I was limiting my time in the classroom space. At the end of the day, as long as your are getting everything ticked off, it doesn’t matter what time you arrive and leave school and it certainly doesn’t matter what others think of you.


In short I recommend the following:

·       Take note of when you are feeling most productive – do you need to come earlier or leave later?

·       Decide if you are keeping your home a work free zone, or if you prefer to take work home and complete tasks from your space.

·       Set yourself a time to be out of the gate each day and have a limit on the number of hours you work on the weekends – this is your time.

·       Seek support from your line manager / leadership if you are drowning. They are there to support you and you can only do what you can do.


-Jords xx

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