How to not take your work home with you

Ahhhh…. It’s my favorite time of the day. Late afternoon after a hard day’s work. My students are on the right track. We worked our butts off today learning about the something-or-other and I couldn’t be happier about my day. I’m just gonna sit down on the couch, put my feet up, crack open this beer, turn on the TV, uncap my red pen and start grading for the next three hours. Well…that took an unpleasant turn!

Raise your hand if this sounds like a normal night to you. (Don’t worry, I may be pretty savvy with technology, but I’m not tapping into your webcam right now to see if you raised your hand.) First things first: You’re not doing anything wrong! This happens to all of us, including many of our non-teacher friends. There just isn’t enough time in the day for us to do everything we need to do to be the teacher we want to be.

Or, is there?

No, there isn’t. But, I digress.

There are ways to limit how much you bring home as a teacher. Well, I suppose I should say as a good teacher. If you were a bad teacher, you just wouldn’t bring anything home ever. If that last suggestion sounded good to you, you can probably stop reading now. And just leave. You can’t sit with us good teachers.

So, here are some basic strategies that I have developed in my early years as a teacher that have helped me immensely in this arena. I mean, I want to have a social life. I want to have personal time. I want to have some semblance of sanity. If you agree, read on.


Strategy #1: Find creative times to grade things.

I have found that with a little forethought and creativity, almost everything that I would normally take home can be graded at school. It really helps to be able to multitask while doing this, but it’s not a requirement. Some examples:


  1. During morning tutorial. Have your room open for students before school. I find this immensely helpful in so many ways that I cannot even begin to list them all here. Students are able to come in to ask questions, parents appreciate my willingness to put forth the extra effort, and my colleagues know that I am one of the good ones. But, when it comes down to it, I don’t have a kid in my room every morning. So, I can usually punch out a dozen or so tests in the time I would normally be sitting down with a kid to explain that thing that I spent an hour explaining the day before. (It’s not her fault though; she was having a really important text conversation with her friend about something that her other friend tweeted that made her mad so she retweeted it with a snarky hashtag and then her other friend thought it was mean so she defriended her on Facebook AND unfollowed her Instagram. Sorry…PTSD moment.)
  2. During lunch. On those rare days that you get to sit at your desk or in the workroom and actually eat lunch, why not get just a few tests out of the way? I suggest pulling up Pandora and rocking out a bit while doing so, of course, but it really does help later to have those extra few tests done. I also grade while eating and talking with colleagues. Trust me, students don’t actually care when they get their papers back with cheese on them. They just throw them away, anyway.
  3. While helping students with classwork. Ok, this one has the most potential to make you look like a bad teacher, so be very careful while trying this one out. The key here is to not ignore your students. What I do is walk around—like I normally would—answering questions and checking for understanding, but I do so with a clipboard full of items to grade. While I’m walking from one student to another I can grade a paper or two. You’d be surprised how many papers or tests you can grade by doing this! Plus, it kinda looks like you’re writing down vital statistics about the kids or something. Bonus!


Tip: That last one has the potential to be a bit dangerous, unless you have more than two eyes. Ask students to make sure the space between their desks or tables in completely clear of backpacks and other items. After all, you don’t want to be that teacher that wears a neck brace. That’s social suicide.


Strategy #2: Find a planning buddy.

Ok, for those of you that are the only one that teaches a particular class, it sucks to be you. Don’t get me wrong! You’re probably awesome at it and all, but us folks that teach the same classes as others really have an advantage. We get to work together!

So, this is my second suggestion that will enable you to go home unburdened with manila folders: Find a planning buddy. Work together with someone to plan your curriculum and write lesson plans. I know this is probably a no-brainer for most of you (and in some circumstances it is mandated by the administration), but it really does need to be said! You can cut your planning time in half if you let someone else lend a hand.

The way I suggest is this: You plan a unit, they plan a unit, and keep alternating in that fashion. You get to use the same materials, the same project supplies, the same labs. You even can take it a step further and make each other’s copies. That would really save time.

The key thing here is that you have to trust each other. That coworker you pissed off on the first day by asking when she was due? Yeah, probably don’t ask her to be your planning buddy. And return those green booties.


Strategy #3: Live in the Clouds.

Ok, disclaimer: This one isn’t so much a time-saving strategy as it is a convenience one. It’s more about not physically taking stuff home.

I have never taken my school laptop home. Ever. It’s not that I don’t need the files that are on it to work on at home (from time to time). I just don’t like the strain on my shoulder from the brick that is the school-issued machine. So, how then do I get all my files home? A flash drive? Not likely, with the 15GB of files that I have in my school folder. Plus, I always break those things.

What I do instead is keep everything on my school laptop synchronized in a Cloud service. That way, I can access my files anywhere, even on my phone. There are many great services out there, like Dropbox and Google Drive, but I prefer SugarSync. SugarSync keeps all my files in sync, without ever having to think about it. Very cool. Very smart. Here is a link to sign up for a free account (which gives you 5GB of space!): SugarSync


The real point here: be creative! Find times during school to do what you would normally do after school. Also, share the load. If you are a perfectionist, try to let loose a little and let others help you out a bit. You will be happier because of the adult interaction and the lightened workload. I cannot tell you enough how much my coworkers help me keep my sanity on a daily basis. And when I lose it, they are there to explain my craziness to others by making up some story about me eating a bad egg roll or something.


I have a unique perspective on teaching. As a young guy, I still have that “world is my oyster” perspective on life, so I am more than willing to try new things in the pursuit of happiness. I have always been a naturally happy person and don’t shy away from trying to make others see that it’s easy to be happy! Thus, the blog you’re reading. The main impetus for actually putting all the work in to getting this blog up and running? A coworker stopped me in the hall one day and actually reprimanded me for being so smiley all the time. They actually said that I shouldn’t be so happy as a teacher! My response? Screw that! I SHOULD be happy. I now smile at that coworker EVERY time I see them…and usually say something like, “Isn’t this such great day to be a teacher?!” They don’t usually smile back… Don’t be like them.

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3 comments on “How to not take your work home with you
  1. Mr Becket says:

    Hi there. I’m an NQT and I’m refusing to fall into stereotypes.

    I get in for between 7:30 and 8am every morning and leave at 5:00 every evening (I’d stay later but the caretaker kicks me out).

    I’m just getting to grips with what’s expected of me and I’m a long way from understanding half of this. I mark work all lunchtime and as soon as the kids leave, roughly assessing as I go, so as to inform my planning. I have Thursday afternoon for my PPA time, and in this I plan and make next weeks homework, set the spellings, plan and resource a week of English and a week of maths. I’ll also plan my afternoon lessons – maybe some science, PE, history, geography or computing. I’ll make notes of anything I’m yet to do. I have Friday morning as NQT time in which to mop up any of the things I haven’t quite achieved on a Thursday. I’ll also use this time to update any wall displays.

    It all means I don’t get to the staff room, but my time at home with my family is more valuable than an hour listening to colleagues moan about work load. I do very little at home. I’ll maybe have a night in the week when I feel a little overwhelmed, so will look at the structure of the next day and make sure I’m on top of it but generally not for long. I may have a look at the schedule and plans for the week briefly on a Sunday evening but again, not for long.

    Am I a bad teacher?

    • Josh says:

      Mr. NQT,

      To answer your question: Absolutely NOT! You are not a bad teacher in any sense of the term. As a newly qualified teacher (I have to admit, we don’t use that acronym across the pond, so I had to look it up!), you are simply in what I like to call the “survive” phase of your career. The first few years are always the worst. You will always feel inadequate, unprepared, and lacking just about every resource you need (supplies, time, sanity, you name it). Although this sounds a bit hopeless, hang in there! I’ve noticed a pattern in my colleagues (I was too stressed my first year to notice it in myself) that really helps new teachers come to terms with what they are feeling: The worse your first year is, the better at teaching you become. You are simply getting all the hard lessons out of the way.

      I’m going to write a full post about this (Can I have your permission? I can?! Thanks!). You are not alone in your feelings, and I feel like unpacking your feelings more completely will help a lot of people understand what is happening to them in their new career.

      Thanks for the comment! I hope you keep reading (now that I’m back to writing!).


  2. Liz says:

    Thanks for the info. My second year of teaching, when I was getting super burned out, my mentor told me not to take work home. When you’re a new teacher, it is always going to be more work so I hope Mr. Becket is feeling a bit better…and has learned you can’t do everything!

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  1. […] an entire day. I mean, I’ve never been a fan of bringing home actual work to do, like grading (obviously). But, I don’t feel like an entire day should go by that I don’t advance myself as a teacher. I […]

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