Saving Weekends for Yourself — 5 Tips for Teachers
The boundaries between work and home have never been more blurry. With such easy access to technology and email at everyone’s fingertips, passionate teachers can find it all but impossible to hit the “off” switch at the end of a busy week. There always seems to be another email to respond to or another task to complete.Well, you need to take the time and pay attention to yourself and your life outside of the classroom. Otherwise burnout, disillusionment and plain old exhaustion are just up the road for you. As someone who enjoys work but has a hard time leaving it behind, I do the following to save my weekends:
Set aside 48 work-free hours
As much as I wanted to, I couldn’t get to bed on Sunday night in anticipation of the work-related emails awaiting me on Monday morning. Rather than obsess about what was there, I began to check my email late on Sunday nights. This helped me to get a better night’s rest because I wasn’t worrying about what challenge would be waiting for me on a sleepy Monday morning.
To save my weekend, I would carve out a solid 48 hours of time away from work: 5 p.m. on Friday to 5 p.m. on Sunday. During that time, I wouldn’t check email, do any work-related writing or text my colleagues. This gave all of us a necessary break.
Don’t give parents your cellphone number
As convenient as it may seem, do not give your personal cellphone number to parents (this applies all the time, and not just weekends). You’ll find that boundaries vanish when the convenience of texting presents itself. You’ll be getting text messages from parents at all hours of the night, and often over the weekends.
You deserve your time off — don’t get pulled into the trap of fostering connections at the expense of your personal time. Many teachers send a polite and direct message on Friday afternoons telling parents their email has been received and will be returned on Monday.
Tell parents the rules at the beginning of the year
In your beginning-of-the-year parent communications, clearly outline when you’ll be available to speak. Regardless of the times and days that you choose, make sure that you are reasonably available, and stick with that schedule.
Don’t break your own rules by reaching out on a weekend to speak to a parent. Do your best to have that time be for you and you alone. Of course you also need to avoid the reverse of this: never being available or ignoring parents’ requests to speak with you. Don’t burn through your credibility and goodwill by letting those situations dangle.
Reward yourself on Saturdays and Sundays
Make it a point to use the weekend to unplug, get out and do something completely for yourself. Regardless of what that may be, the “deep breath” of the weekend will go a long way to prepare you for a busy Monday morning.
The interesting thing is that the more time you spend away from work resting and recharging, the stronger your attitude and the more present you feel at work. The children will see the difference in you. They can sniff out an overtired and cranky teacher a mile away.
Send yourself reminders
A friendly little service that I’ve found to help manage weekend workflow is www.followupthen.com. This free website enables you to send an email to yourself and set the exact time when it will be delivered. Therefore if you want to email a colleague on Saturday with a great idea but don’t want to bother them on a weekend, you can send it to email@example.com. Many different combinations — hours, days, months and up to a year — can be used. This is a solid way to not only remind yourself, but also to help save your weekend.