bound·​ary | \ ˈbau̇n-d(ə-)rē  \plural boundaries
1. something that indicates or fixes a limit or extent

I checked my teacher dictionary and I didn’t see that word. Just kidding, but it’s sort of true, and in the age of quarantine, distance learning, hybrid and other things we’ve adapted this year, the questionable boundaries we had for our teaching lives and personal lives seem to have been completely obliterated.

We’ve got emails all hours of every day with kids and parents mad when we don’t respond at 10pm on Saturday night, we’ve opened our homes to cameras, we are bringing home MORE school stress. I say ENOUGH!!! You are like 90’s phone plans. Nights and weekends free. Here are some boundaries you can set with your work life that most professions take for granted.

Set a Timer

Just because you have infinite things to grade doesn’t mean you have infinite time. When you were younger and you had deadlines, you got it done and turned it in. By giving ourselves as much time as we need to lesson plan, grade, practice, mark music, make centers and everything else we do, we aren’t prioritizing ourselves.

Instead, tell yourself, “I have 1 hour to write my lesson plans for this week.” Then hold yourself accountable. Put money in a jar, dock yourself a trip to Starbucks or something else that will make you work a little harder. It’s so much easier to hold others accountable, but not ourselves. If you really struggle, see if you can find a teacher pal to hold you accountable, ask a friend who wants to go out (or these days zoom) with you or something else. “Infinite” time means we will always be working.

Declutter

Don’t bring school home. If you need to leave every day at 4, then leave it at work. Lots of professionals leave their work there. At work. Chances are half of it will sit in your bag untouched (or more) and you won’t do anything with it anyway.

Make your home space your home space only and leave your work space your work space.

Likewise, you can also declutter your school space to make things easier to get done. Use file folders for different things you have to do and labeling them (Ex: festival, field trip, recorders, musical) and stick them in a file box on your desk. Don’t leave stacks and stacks. If you’re like me, you won’t find it and then have an oh shoot moment while you scramble because the paper was buried on your desk. Set aside 30 minutes during your planning time to tackle things out of different folders.

PRO TIP: Keep ONE file on your desk labeled “urgent”. Only put in what absolutely has to be done that week. Clear it out before you leave on Friday.

Your Phone

Delete the work email. Period. Do not check it from your phone during off contract hours. If you really need to set aside a half hour a before you leave school to deal with stuff, do it, but then be done. Include an email signature that let’s people know you will respond during the work day. Unless it is an emergency sort of conversation with a parent/guardian, it can wait.

Don’t let your students email you all hours of the night and expect a response. TELL THEM that you only respond during school hours. Multiple emails on the same question (unless they are saying they got it and never mind) will result in points being docked. Help them by setting a strategy for them with questions. Don’t let them learn helplessness in your class. Post the strategy somewhere prominently in Google Classroom, a website, or even a laminated card for them to tape to their computer if need be.
Check “this week” folder, read the directions again ask a family member, ask a friend, then you can email me. It will cut down on emails.

Ask for Help

Lots of teachers have great parent volunteers. We have their kids for more than one year and we somehow don’t make great use of them. Let’s change that. What can parent volunteers do for music teachers?
Copy
Cut
Laminate
Type concert programs
Booster groups
File work, pass back work
Set up centers, materials
Sets for musicals
Costumes for musicals
ANYTHING for musicals
Sharpen pencils
Check supplies – crayons, glue, markers
Clean
Stuff handouts for things like field trips
Read a music book (those 5 minutes still give you 5 minutes)
Bulletin boards
Be another adult during written work (write the rooms, worksheets, composing)
Chaperone
Librarian
Organize fundraisers, uniforms
Folder pass outs

Your Computer

Your school computer is not for home life things so your home computer is not for school work. Leave your school computer at school. Shut off and locked up.

Say No

Other professionals are allowed to not take on something that will overwhelm them. So are you. Don’t take on an extra project if it is going to mean you need an extra three hours a day to do it. But if it’s something that’s going to bring you lots of joy, and the idea make you excited and energized, then by all means, go ahead. But what can you stop doing in it’s place?

Along these lines, if you are someone who never uses all their sick days for physical sickness, take a mental health day. Some people take the day after the concert off. Some people need a day a week before. Stay home, catch up on laundry and use that day to do things for school you need to catch up on. Or sit on the couch and do nothing while you take a mental break. Mental health is just as important as physical health, if not more since mental health issues can cause physical issues. You have sick days. If you can’t do it for that, then use a personal one.

Start and End the Day

It’s ok to give a little extra time if you are trying to not bring work home. And by that I mean like…a half an hour, not 3 hours. (EX: Melissa used to get to school at 7 and leave between 5 and 6. I’m Melissa. I had issues.)

Get there 15 minutes before your contract time so you can get an extra cup of coffee, set up and be ready to go.

Take 15 minutes at the end of the day to put away things, send a quick email, set your desk up for the morning and wash out that cup of cold coffee.

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