I don’t know about you, but Sunday nights were the absolute worst when I was in the classroom. I used to get major anxiety worrying about the unknowns from the week ahead. It wasn’t good for my mental health, and it sometimes leaked into my home life. My wife was also a teacher, so multiply the stress level around our house by two.
A recent thread in the Kesler Science Facebook Group about this topic led me to believe I wasn’t the only teacher out there having this unnecessary stress.
I’ve put together a list of some of the best strategies to combat the Sunday evening blues.
Set Clear Boundaries
I enjoyed all of the extra-curricular things that came with being a teacher. I wanted to be on committees and serve my campus where it was needed. It wasn’t until later that I realized every time I said “Yes” to something, I was inadvertently saying “No” to something else. You only have a limited amount of time every week, and if you’re carrying too big of a load, something is eventually going to drop.
Take a look at all of the things on your plate and ask yourself if there are things you can get rid of. We all do spring cleaning and organization around our houses, and we can do the same things with time management. Stop what you’re doing right now and think about work tasks you can cut back to give you more time. Pruning will ultimately help your mental health.
Make the Weekdays Work to Your Advantage
I was terrible at prioritizing my time on campus. During my off periods, there were times I just wanted to shut it down and take a mental break. Other times, I would go into other teachers’ classrooms and find myself talking about who knows what for 45 minutes. Not only did I waste 45 minutes, but I wasted someone else’s time too. This block of time could have been used for prepping the next week not to have to worry about it over the weekend.
A practice I implemented in my last year was that I wouldn’t leave school until I had my objectives on the board for the next day and all my files and supplies ready to go. This cut down tremendously on the anxiety overnight. I hate to admit it, but there were years where my philosophy was just “I’ll worry about the details in the morning.” Argh… looking back, that was such a total failure mindset.
Procrastination is like fast food. It sounds like a great idea at the time but will almost always come back to haunt you. What ends up happening when you procrastinate is that you spend more time worrying about the actual task than it would take to suck it up and do it.
My suggestion is to work from a to-do list every day. Never underestimate the power of scratching something off a list. The goal is to have a pre-prepared list of tasks that can be worked on daily. Once they’re completed, you’re done for the day, and you don’t have to feel guilty. If you’re constantly adding to your current list, you’ll find yourself drowning in tasks, and this is when the stress sets in. New items need to get added to another list and worked on at a different time. If you have too much on one list, then you never feel the sense of accomplishment of getting things done.
Taking Back Sundays
One of the most important things I did as a teacher was to leverage someone else’s time to gain back some of my own. Back when I was in the classroom, Teachers Pay Teachers was a great resource, but it wasn’t even half the resource it is today. You can now find a lesson on any topic you want, and better yet, you can see what other people have said about it before making the purchase.
As you likely know, I also have my own TPT store. I encourage you to give a few different lessons a try. Heck, you can even download $50 in FREE middle school science lessons at the bottom of this page. The point is, you don’t have to re-invent the wheel here. There are some amazing wheels already built for you!
I’m the last person to be giving you advice that you need to exercise. I struggle with this too. I’m writing this to remind myself that you will feel better both mentally and physically if you get out there and get some exercise. I won’t belabor the point. You (I) know what you (I) need to do!
Turn Students into an Asset
The last tip is something I did rather well in my classroom. I had the motto of, “Don’t do something in your classroom that a student would love to do for you.” There are plenty of mundane tasks that can be done by students. I used to let them write objectives on the board, prepare stations for the next day, move lab tables around, re-fill supply stations, and so much more. Students love doing this kind of work.
There’s a secondary benefit that happens as well. Students learn that you trust them, and it goes a long way in building solid relationships. The next time you find yourself doing a task on campus, ask yourself if a student could help you out.
We All Struggle
I struggled with every single one of these things in my classroom at one point or another, and I’m certainly not going to be writing a book anytime in the near future on making the most use of your time. That said, being aware is half the battle. If you can take one of these suggestions and implement it into your classes, then you’re already a winner!