3 Questions I Ask Myself Before Taking Work Home That’ve Changed my Life

3 Questions I Ask Myself Before Taking Work Home That've Changed my Life

“Just don’t take work home.”

“Stop working outside of your contract hours.”

“Set boundaries on your time.”

While that advice is well-meaning, it just doesn’t work for all teachers. For many, there simply isn’t enough time in the school day to accomplish all of the grading, emails, lesson planning, etc. required to successfully teach the next day. We’re told we have to set boundaries on our time to avoid burnout, and then beat ourselves up because we can’t figure out how to make it work.

Well, I realized it doesn’t have to be black and white. Never taking work home just isn’t practical for me. However, I can chose boundaries that work for my life. I’ve shifted my focus to being very picky about the work I take home. 

How to determine what work to take home:

#1 What will happen if this isn’t done before the next class?

Sometimes chaos will ensue if I don’t finish the lesson, prepare the materials, or access previous work to see if my students are ready to move on. Other times, it won’t matter at all. If I realize it isn’t going to impact my class much if I don’t do it, I consider if I can skip it altogether…forever.

For example, I used to make crosswords and word searches with vocabulary words every weekend for students to do as bellwork. I switched to having them create their own as the bellwork. It gives me back hours of time, they don’t miss my handouts at all, and their vocab scores have actually improved from doing it themselves!

#2 Is it worth giving up my personal and family time?

Is cutting out laminated letters and graphics for my spiffy new bulletin board more important than playing Uno with my own kids? No, it’s really not. I’ve gotten a lot pickier about what I sacrifice for work.

However, sometimes my job has to take priority. I don’t attend every soccer practice. This gives me time in the evenings to catch up on work priorities and prepare for the next day. Then I’m able to spend time with my family with less stress when they get back from soccer. And I’m able to be present at the actual soccer games!

#3 If I don’t do this work tonight/over the weekend, will I spend my downtime worrying about it?

I’d much rather spend some time answering emails (even from that one parent), reviewing documents for an IEP meeting, or grading papers before the pile gets too big to carry than spend my off time worrying about it. Most of the time, actually tackling the task takes way less time and energy than stressing about how I don’t have enough time to do it. I’ve also relaxed my standards on evening and weekend work. For example, I’ve switched to just checking off work as completed when possible and then going over the correct answers as a class. 

Will this method work for everyone? Nope. But it works for me and it just might work for you, too. While it’s crucial teachers set boundaries on the amount of work they do outside of school hours, boundaries aren’t one size fits all. They also don’t require an all or nothing approach. Start small if that makes you more comfortable and adjust as needed. 

What boundaries have you set on taking work home? Come let us know in the Empowered Teachers community!


Setting Boundaries: 3 Questions I Ask Myself Before Taking Work Home

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Rachael Moshman
Rachael Moshman, M.Ed., an editor at Bored Teachers, is a mom, educator, writer, and advocate for self-confidence. She's been a teacher in classrooms of infants through adult college students. She loves pizza, Netflix and yoga. Connect with her at rachael.m@boredteachers.com
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