Beginning with balance

During the summer, I live on my own time and bask in that luxury. I wake at 11am, sleep at 2am, fix myself something to eat when I’m hungry, read when I feel like it, and so forth. But from September through June, my schedule belongs to the DOE…at least 7 hours of it. The rest becomes a chaotic and never-ending game of catching up.

It’s been four years since I started teaching fulltime, but I’ve always felt like I’m flying by the seat of my pants to get everything done all school year long. I don’t manage to eat at the right times, sleep at the right times, get things done in advance, or leave the house on time. I take my job very seriously, but the truth is, I still wake up at the last minute, leave the house without eating breakfast, arrive to school almost as students are arriving, or in time to wait in a hectic line at the copy machine at school, have to run out during lunch to buy food and waste half of my precious 40-minute period. I spend an hour unwinding after school, picking up the loose ends of the day, debriefing with my colleagues, and then bring home a pile of student work to grade. But I’m exhausted when I get home and have to figure out what I’m going to eat for dinner and make sure my plans are ready for the next day. Right before it’s time to go to sleep, I might pull the papers out and start reading through them, so I know where my students are with the material. But I’m too tired to grade, so I bring the pile back to school the next day, still un-graded.

This dysfunctional lifestyle was something I never gave much attention because I’ve always been a person who prefers to focus on “big ideas”. The details have now become a new big idea for me. I’ve realized that managing time is a necessary part of life, and managing my time well can make me a happier person and more effective teacher.

I went on vacation this summer with my best friend from college, who is also a teacher. I told her I was still struggling with waking up on time in the morning, even though it’s been my new year’s resolution numerous times to stop getting to work at the last minute. On the other hand, I knew I didn’t I didn’t have any actual sleep disorder because I never overslept so late that I missed a class or anything I considered essential. I made sure that the only person who suffered because of my lack of discipline was myself. What I was really struggling with was taking my own personal needs seriously.

My friend and I compared notes on our schedules, which largely had to accommodate the same kinds of activities. It turned out she had a very different routine from me, which allowed her to do all of her teaching related work and still have a satisfying personal life. She helped me to create a new routine for myself.

The New Weekday Routine

5:45 wake up, stretch, shower, dress, eat breakfast, make coffee for the road, bring lunch bag

6:30 drive to work (beat morning traffic, cutting 30 minutes off my commute)

7:00 arrive at school, full hour of prep time

8:00 school starts

3:00-3:30 school over; unwind, debrief with colleagues

3:30-4:30 grading

4:30-5:15 drive home

5:15-6:00 check email, unwind

6:00 cook dinner Tues & Thurs

Mon & Wed my boyfriend cooks, and I can go to yoga class or work on blog and other writing

7:00 eat dinner, put leftovers in plastic container for next day’s lunch

8:00—10:00 relax (or prep, depending on need)

10:00 pick out next day’s outfit; go to sleep

Note: Grocery shopping for the week must be done on Sundays.

Friday evenings are for happy hour and/or dining out and/or collapsing from exhaustion

I don’t know why it’s taken me four years to reach this point, but I am proud of myself for owning up to my weakness and doing something about it. Of course the real work starts now when I put my plan into practice. Just like with my middle school students, I have to be relentless about my routine. If I give myself an inch, I’m likely to take a mile! On that note, it’s 10:00 and I have to go to school tomorrow for meetings and classroom setup. So…goodnight!

[image found at www.nowandzenlodi.com]

Related categories: