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As teachers, we all know that we work far more than our 40 contracted hours per week. This is especially true at the beginning of the school year. Even if your students walk into your classroom at 8:30 and the dismissal bell rings at 3:30, the job never starts and ends there. As nice as that would be, it’s just not the reality. There’s grading, planning, classroom cleanup, parent phone calls, data input, and team meetings.
This never ending to-do list feels all consuming. It’s incredibly overwhelming to start a new week wondering how in the world you’ll manage it all. I know that the magnitude of this responsibility can feel really, really heavy for you. How are you supposed to continue to show up for yourself and your students when your brain is constantly running through all the tasks that need to be done? You can't.
So, what do you do? All of these things need to get done, right? Maybe they do, but maybe they don’t need to get done all at once. I want to let you in on a little secret. You have to accept that your to-do list will literally never end. There will always be something else to do. You’ll never reach the end of it because the moment you’ve crossed off one thing, ten more will appear. We have to learn to choose what’s essential, and let the rest go.
While many people live by their to-do lists, I believe that it can be one of the biggest sources of our overwhelm if we look at it every single day. It’s just a constant reminder of ALL the things we haven’t completed yet. Instead, I recommend learning how to prioritize your tasks and giving yourself a strict cutoff time at the end of the day so that you have mental space to have time for yourself, your family, and your friends.
Prioritizing and streamlining your planning takes practice. It also requires a shift in your mindset. It truly is an art, and I am determined to help you master it! Being committed to making this practice will gradually give you the confidence and self-control to leave school at a decent time and rest up for the next day.
You deserve to have a separation between your work and your life. You need that separation if you want to avoid burnout and take care of your physical and mental health. I promise you that the sky won’t fall if you don’t get everything done today (even if it feels like it will). Your responsibilities will always be there waiting for you tomorrow. ;)
I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.
Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor
Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at drlorifriesen.com and at howdogshelpkids.com.
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