I left school on Friday half an hour after my students, walking out light and free with just my purse and lunch bag. I picked up my own kids from their after-school activities and hit our favorite frozen yogurt spot.

Both kids had plans for the weekend with friends, and instead of frantically working while my kids were away, I focused on myself. I met friends at Starbucks for coffee, got a pedicure and popped into the bookstore. I picked up a book that looked light and fun. I tackled a bit of laundry here and there while blasting Lizzo. I had lunch with my mom and got to share funny stories from my classroom. I got to reflect on all those amazing moments with my thirty-five kids at school, and how grown-up my own two daughters have become.

You see, I’ve started something new this semester and wish I adopted it years ago. I leave all school-related work at school on Friday afternoons. That big pile of tests and assignments that need grading? The behavior logs, IEP evaluations and dozens of various forms? They stay right there, on my desk.

Teachers are leaving the field due to burnout at an alarming rate – 8% a year.

Teachers are leaving the field due to burnout at an alarming rate – 8% a year. That is roughly 125,000 teachers who are too exhausted, frustrated and overwhelmed to stay in the classroom each year. I love teaching but felt myself burning out. I was working constantly, both at school and at home. Neither my students or family were getting enough of me because I was spread too thin. I was physically ill because of stress and exhaustion. There was no way I could continue working every waking hour.

Leaving school behind on the weekend – yes, even those delicious three-day weekends- has changed my life. I no longer feel like I’m on the verge of becoming one of the many teachers forced to leave the field. I’m no longer torn between my job and my family. Best of all, I feel like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders.

I feel lighter, I feel more accomplished, and I love my job again. Nothing in those paperwork piles is worth more than the quality of my life. The days of me working all weekend and neglecting my family and my own wellbeing are over.

Here’s what really happened since I decided to leave work at work:

1. I became more focused at both school and home. 

I’m no longer feeling guilty when I’m at school that I don’t have more energy for my family. And I feel zero guilt for leaving school work there. Because I’m no longer guilty and distracted, I’m able to concentrate on my students when I’m at school and focus on my family when I’m home.

2. I feel more accomplished than ever before. 

Sure, the piles of paperwork are bigger than ever, but my children feel connected to me, my laundry is mostly caught up, there’s actual food in my fridge and I sleep more than four hours a night. I’m more organized now that I’m not so frazzled so I’m able to stay on top of the most important tasks at work much better. 

3. I’m able to prioritize better. 

Not all paperwork has the same importance. I do what’s most important first and then just do the best I can with the rest. One of the things that didn’t make my list of priorities? Cutesy, Pinterest-worthy bulletin boards. And I’m fine with that. Do you want to start leaving work at work, but don’t know how to get started? Check out this comprehensive guide.

4. My teaching performance has improved. 

I’m more patient and engaged with my students. I’m able to pay better attention to their interests and adjust my lessons accordingly. 

5. I feel like myself again. 

I’d lost myself in trying to be both an amazing mom and teacher. I was so consumed with guilt feeling like I wasn’t doing either job well, I forgot who I was as an individual. Getting to know myself again is pretty cool.

6. Everyone gets a healthier, happier version of me. 

This is a win for my family, students, administrators, and coworkers. Most of all, it’s a win for me.

Nothing in those paperwork piles is worth more than the quality of your life.

But what about all that work you may ask?

Yes, the piles of paperwork will still be there on Monday morning, just as you left them the week before, but it will be fine because you’ll get to start a new week: rested, relaxed and refreshed. Your health comes first.

Check out these 8 clever tips to learn how to finish your grading while at school.

I Stopped Taking Work Home, and It's Made Me a Better Teacher and Parent