Think back! Imagine your first teacher bag. What color was it? What did you keep in it? Did you ever open it when you got home? I can remember my first one- a blue Vera Bradley tote bag. I was always full of papers to grade, flair pens, random paper clips, my personal laptop, and a few other odds and ends.
For years I swore by the teacher bag. I brought it to and from school everyday and for many years I opened it nightly to keep up with grading. It didn’t bother me too much to grade at night or on the weekends, but as I got older I realized that work wasn’t my life. Sure, I love my job and my students, but I needed to learn to have a healthy work-life balance.
Here’s today’s truth: I do not own a teacher bag.
Yep, that’s right, I DO NOT own a teacher bag. In 2020 I vowed to myself that I would not bring work home with me. We recently purchased a new house and I wanted to enjoy it. Whether I was cooking a new recipe in the kitchen or relaxing with a book by the fireplace, I didn’t want to be thinking about work. And let me tell you, my relationship with my job is so much better off because of this decision. I feel refreshed each day (for the most part) and I don’t dread waking up to go to school. I’m excited for another day of teaching AND I look forward to going home and unplugging.
So how did I do it? Here are a few tips that have allowed me to trash my teacher bag.
1. Plan ahead. I make sure my weekly plans are completed by Wednesday for the following week. I also make all my copies for the following week on Thursday. This allows for a stress free Friday (and weekend).
2. Keep grading organized. At the beginning of the year I take a stack of manila folders and label them with each subject I teach. Then as I collect papers, they go in the corresponding folders. For example, all my spelling papers would go in one folder and all my math papers would go in a different folder. I also keep a running list of what needs to be graded. This helped me immensely! You can even grab a few fun FREE folder covers here!
I should also add in here that in the last few years, I have graded a lot less. Remember that not everything needs to have a grade on it. You can have students self grade, you can look for completion, you can use self grading activities (such as Boom or Google Forms). And remember you can typically tell if a student has grasped a concept with a handful of problems… no need to assign more than 5-6 per concept.
3. Close your classroom door. This is a great tip for when students aren’t in your classroom. Close your classroom door and focus on what needs to be done. Set a task for yourself- I will grade 2 sets of papers OR I will write an email to parents. Get the task done without distractions. Trust me, colleagues are a lot less likely to come into your room if the door is closed.
4. Come in a little early. If you are able to, try coming into school 10-15 minutes earlier each day. These precious minutes are usually quiet and you can start your day off on a positive note. Again, close your door and give yourself a task or two to complete. You can even prepare for that task the day before to make things even easier.
5. Give yourself some grace. If you don’t finish everything you had planned, it’s okay. Remember you’re not a bad teacher if you didn’t finish grading those papers or planning that next project. When you go home, relax and come back to school refreshed and ready to tackle the things on your “to do” list.
There you have it, a few tips for losing the teacher bag! Do you have any tips to add to the list? Let us know in the comments below!