So, here we are, another year begins! On Tuesday I will be back at school after being on maternity leave for the last 6 months. I’m pleased to be heading back to work (although part of me has never been away-I’ve always had part of my head, literally, in the books as I’ve been exam marking and text book writing most evenings) but of course I’ll miss my little man and I will definitely want to make the most of my family time.
I will have two new starters in my department (welcome!) and we said goodbye to two valued colleagues in the summer, so there’s plenty of change to deal with, not withstanding the impending GCSE and A Level reforms, plus our own school-wide assessment and reporting changes.
Keeping all this in mind, it’s prudent to consider how to maintain a work-life balance. Unsurprisingly I am a very connected person, with my phone or iPad permanently by my side, so I find it easy to communicate quickly (for the most part), and I always try to deal with emails as soon as possible (or they’ll get lost in the ether of my inbox).
I’ve always been pretty good at keeping a good work-life balance, and the key has been two things:1) doing work at work and 2)ensuring that I leave school with the following day completely planned. Inevitably things get in the way in the morning-my form members need me, I have to arrange cover work for a colleague, or simply a traffic jam, so knowing that I’m good to go from the moment I walk in is very calming for me.
I tend to stay at school as long as I need and rarely take work home. Typically I end up doing the odd bit of marking or HoD admin, and I always set aside time in the holidays to do school work, but for the most part I manage my time well. Lists are my best friend! I used to have post-it upon post-it of lists but last year I started to use an app instead (Wunderlist) which has been great as I can set reminders for tasks, and I always have agendas for meetings and set times for the end of meetings, particularly with colleagues.
I’m feeling okay about returning to work, and I just want to wish all of my teacher colleagues good luck with the new term, and I want to give my top 5 list of advice for new starters:
- Plan, plan, plan – plan everything! Meetings, jobs to do at the end of the day, folders for each class, when you are going to do marking etc.
- Set yourself time limits-for marking, planning, for dealing with admin etc.
- Don’t reinvent the wheel-being creative is important, but plenty of other people out there may have already done a lot of the leg work for you when it comes to planning so use what you can and tweak, tweak, tweak!
- Make time for yourself. Lots of teachers (including me at the beginning!) use evenings and weekends to sort themselves out. That’s ok (to start with), but as you get more adept at planning you’ll find it easier to leave the work at work and to ensure you get time for you. Regardless of how much work you may end up doing at home, ensure you build in time for you: treats, R&R, dog walks, a glass of wine, a film, a good book. You deserve it.
- Smile :) It can be a stressful time at the beginning of term. Try to smile at colleagues and students as it’s easy to forget! A smile can go a long way and it might even make you feel better.
Good luck everyone!