Dear Teachers, Please Go Home

go home


There is one thing every teacher can and should do if they want to be less tired and use their time at work more efficiently:

Quit working shortly after the kids have left. Go home.

There are many reasons teachers stay late at school. Some feel a sense of pride at being one of the last to leave. They believe their late nights reflect greater dedication to their students. They enjoy their reputation as a hard worker. Others feel guilty when they leave quickly. They keep working out of a misguided sense of obligation. They worry what others will think of them, fearing they’ll be thought of as lazy and apathetic. Many teachers act as if they have no choice in the matter. They’re on committees, run after-school clubs, or just have so much to do that they have to stay after work to get it done.

No matter the reason, all believe that staying late after school makes them a better teacher. But they are wrong.

Quitting, for lack of a better word, is good.

Quit for Your Health

I was jogging the other day when my back started to hurt. I tried to keep going, but it got worse. So I quit running and my back instantly felt better.

Restaurants have gone crazy with the size of their nachos.

I mean, will you look at this thing?

I get full about halfway through. So I quit eating them.

Smart people quit when their body tells them to. No one feels bad about it. But when it comes to work, we suddenly start believing we’re Superman and that no matter how tired we are we can and should just keep going.

Teaching is a unique job. One of the reasons it’s so exhausting is that we have to be “on” all day. To do the job properly, you need to be well-rested. You need to be enthusiastic and observant. Going home will help.

No matter when I get home, I want to maximize the time I have for myself.  On nights when I’m home by five o’clock, I’ve got six hours to do whatever I want. That’s a nice balance. Ten hours for preparing for work, commuting, and working, six for my personal life, and eight hours of sleep. Because I value my personal time, any day I get home late leads to a late night and a lack of sleep.

Getting home earlier also means you can eat earlier. Your body will have longer to digest dinner before you go to bed, and eating early gives the food enough time to settle so you can exercise without discomfort.

Quit to Be a Better Teacher

A lot of teachers stay after school because they have work to do, but they’ve chosen the worst possible time to get it done. By the end of the day your willpower is exhausted. Willpower is limited, and once it’s gone only eating and sleep can restore it. Willpower is what you need to make yourself check papers, read essays, plan lessons, and respond tactfully to emails. A lack of willpower means your after-school efforts are going to be inefficient. You’ll be more easily distracted, more tempted to check Facebook or gossip with colleagues, and more likely to head to the lounge to eat whatever you can find because your body needs fuel.

Parkinson’s Law is also working against you. It states that work will expand to fill the available time. I wrote and published my first two books, The Teacher’s Guide to Weight Loss and Happy Teacher in two months each. I was able to do that because that’s how long I gave myself to complete them. Because of the topic of my next book, I planned an October release. I started working on it in May. The book is taking me longer because I gave myself more time to do it, so many days I don’t write much and on some days I don’t work on it at all (I write long blog posts like this one instead).

This is Parkinson’s Law at work, and it will strike you as you sit at your desk after school. Instead of working until you complete a certain amount of work, give yourself 30 minutes. You’ll be more focused, your work will be of better quality, you’ll cut out any distractions or cute but unnecessary extras, and you’ll get it finished. Give yourself less time, and you’ll get more done.

Quit to Be a Better Person

Psychologists discovered something they call the morning morality effect. Basically, you’re a better person in the morning. Your body needs glucose for pretty much everything, including willpower and decision-making. Since teachers expend a lot of willpower and make a ton of decisions, we burn through glucose pretty fast. When it runs out we’re tired, cranky, impatient, have stronger cravings for sweets and other junk food, and we experience stronger emotions. All of which lead to bad decisions. The morning morality effect explains why you’re more likely to ruin your diet at night than in the morning, and why people are more likely to commit immoral acts like lying, cheating, and stealing in the afternoon. School is not a place you want to be when you’re more likely to make bad decisions. Go home.

Quit Because Science Says To

Many teachers reading this will still stay after school because they believe it’s the only way to be effective at their jobs. They’ve fallen victim to the culture of overwork. So a fair question to ask is:  Do longer hours make you more productive?

The research is clear. More work doesn’t equal more output. In one study, managers couldn’t tell the difference between employees who worked 80-hour weeks and those who just pretended to (which actually sounds worse). Numerous studies have shown that overwork leads to stress that causes health issues, sleep deprivation, depression, heart disease, memory loss, and greater alcoholic intake. Researchers have also found that working too much impairs your abilities to communicate, make judgments, read others’ nonverbal language, and modulate your emotions.

Also, your cat will miss you.

So go home. Eat dinner. Hit the gym. Kiss your spouse. Watch Netflix. Play Uno with your kids. Leave work at work. Detach. Live your life. And when you’re tempted to choose more work over all those things, remember this Arianna Huffington quote:

“Have you noticed that when we die, our eulogies celebrate our lives very differently from the way society defines success?”

You can read more here: Stop Working More Than 40 Hours a Week.

For those of you who would love to spend less time at work but just aren’t sure how, check out Angela Watson’s 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club (affiliate link. )It’s the best resource I know of for stressed out, exhausted, and overworked teachers.


Related Content:

Why American Teachers Should Work Less

Stop Complaining About Your Teacher Salary If You’re Working for Free

Why Teachers Are So Tired


I am, once again, partnering with Angela Watson to help promote her 40-Hour Teacher Workweek Club. It’s an online professional development program that has already helped more than 32,000 teachers take control of their time and stay focused on what matters most. The next cohort starts in July, and the Club has been updated to cover emerging best practices for the changes ahead. Click here to join!

94 Replies to “Dear Teachers, Please Go Home”

    1. So let me get this right: you get home at 5:00 and have until 11:00 for yourself. You get a full 8 hours of sleep meaning you don’t wake up until 7 am. Ten hours of work suggests you work from 7 am-5 pm.

      When do you eat? When do you drive to work? When do you get dressed in the morning? How does this schedule work?

      I wake up at 5:30 because it takes me 40 minutes to get to work. With 5 classes to prep and only 50 minutes of prep time in the middle of the day, I make sure I’m at work an hour early. I get to my building around 6:45. I have to be at my assigned post in the hallway by 7:30. School gets out around 2:45 but we aren’t allowed to leave until 3:00. At least once if not twice a week I have to stay after for some sort of meeting until 4-4:30. I don’t get to my home until 5:00 or after. Usually I have grading and such for the next day on top of taking care of my two kids. If I’m lucky, I’m in bed by 11.

      Your timeline is unrealistic and unbelievable. Stop putting down teachers who do the required work based on the required time of thei school! And stop assuming no one drives more than a minute to this dream job with no meetings.

      1. Alphie,
        Why are you being so mean. She’s trying to help. She didn’t put down any teachers. Obviously, your job is a lot of work. Obviously, you’re quick to anger. Hopefully your communication tactics are different with your students. Get some rest or change jobs. Honestly you sound like you need a hug. Good luck to you.

        1. But seriously, if you go to bed at 11, and get 8 hours of sleep, you aren’t getting up until 7. I also have to be in my classroom at 7:30, so even if I didn’t have the 40 minute drive I do, and lived right next to my building, I’d never make it if I got up at 7. A more realistic day is to attempt to leave by 4,home before 5,and around 4 and a half or 5 hours for your evening.

      2. You misread. From the article:

        “Ten hours for preparing for work, commuting, and working, six for my personal life, and eight hours of sleep.”

        Schedule: Get up at 7 am
        Arrive to work at 8 am
        Students enter: 8:50
        School day: 8:50-3:51
        Leave work: 4:30
        Arrive home: 5 pm
        Go to bed: 11 pm

        Staff meeting once a week starts at 7:45, which only adds 15 minutes to the week. I don’t join other committees unless it’s something I want to do.

        Not unrealistic. Completely doable.

        1. Get Up for Work 500am
          Leave for work 615-630 am
          Get to work 715-730 am depending on traffic and weather (flooding, fog, snow, rain determines my route and increases travel time past the 730)
          Mandatory Work Time 745-345
          Classes with students 805-335 often cover on plan not a complaint, reality
          Leave from work 400-500 pm if lucky because of mandatory paper work for the day and prep for next day
          Home 500-600pm
          Bed and asleep 10-130 depending on insomnia
          Single and no children
          NOT a morning person so I accomplish a GREAT DEAL MORE IN THE AFTERNOON.
          Not everyone is the same while one schedule works for one, it won’t necessarily work for another. Choosing the schedule that works for me makes me a better teacher, a healthier teacher, a “better person.” Knowing me and my limits and my abilities and what works for me and fits my lifestyle is what makes me a better teacher, a healthier teacher, a “better person,” not the choices that you make for you. Understood each person, not only teachers, have a schedule that fits them, their needs, their wants and their lifestyle please do not imply that because I choose to complete my work after the kids and others leave the building, as most do by 400, that it makes me less effective, that staying late makes me less than a better teacher, I don’t value my personal time because I choose to work after the kids leave, that my willpower is exhausted, I lack focus, my work lacks quality, I will be distracted, I will make bad decisions working after school instead of before school, I am overworked and that I don’t live my life! Really it sounds to me like you are avoiding writing a book that you agreed to write, by writing a blog based on misguided information that promotes said book. I feel your book discounts individuals that have discovered a life and schedule that works for each of them. But that is just my perception based on the information in your blog.

          1. That’s a good question!!
            Iteach language arts, and if I didn’t bring home papers to grade (almost everyday), and I don’t grade everything my students write, I would never have 145 essays, reader responses, etc completed.

          2. I teach third grade. This is my 18th year. Here’s my schedule:

            6:45 Get up.
            7:15 Leave house. Take daughter to school. Drive to work.
            8:15 Arrive at work.
            8:50 Students enter.
            8:55 45-minute planning period.
            I then teach all subjects with a 35-minute lunch.
            3:51 Dismissal.
            4:15 Go home. (Every once in a while, 4:30.)
            I spent about an hour most Sunday mornings checking papers, and that’s usually it. I will grant critics this: What I recommend is much easier for experienced teachers than new ones. It’s also easier for everyone who doesn’t have to read and grade student writing. However, Catlin Tucker has some very good advice about how to stop taking student writing home.

        2. When do you grade papers, do your data analysis of test scores, annotate your teachers guide, respond to admin emails call parents and do lesson plans?,

      3. Thank you Alphie! I too am distressed by this OPINION piece. When is this magical teacher grading? How many preps do they have? I teach 3 different classes. How and when do they contact and work with parents and colleagues to help students with unique learning challenges?
        But, the bottom line is the tone of this article should be about work-life balance and self-care and supporting teachers NOT shaming teachers.

      4. Agreed, and this article begs the question; when do you grade, and plan, and set up labs or stations in your room, or do required professional development? This is an insult to all of the hard working teachers who do what they HAVE to do in order to provide their students with the education they need and deserve.

      5. I too don’t understand how teachers get everything accomplished during the contractual time. There is no way to get finished, unless I would do mediocre planning and grading.

      6. I know it has been over a year since you have posted this, but really- are you happy with what you are doing?? I totally agree that the timeline presented in the article is unrealistic. I feel like I work all of the time. However when I read your comment I relate and feel resentful and depressed. Are you happy with this situation? I am not.

  1. This is all well and good, but teachers are salaried employees. We are expected to get a certain number of things done, and time is not added to that equation. Unfortunately, if I walked out every day before completing my work, I’d put myself at a major disadvantage during the school day. I wish it was as simple as “walking out”.

    1. I agree. The reason I stay is two-fold. First, I want to have my room in order and ready to walk into and start teaching. I like to be totally prepared for tomorrow before I leave. Secondly, I dislike having to take work home. Home time is my time. I finish, put it away, and walk away knowing there is nothing that must be done when I get home.

      1. Right on! When I went home I wanted to be free of school work; so, I stayed at school until all papers were graded and the classroom was ready for the next day. To impress someone? Never!!!

      2. Those are my thoughts, exactly. Get it done at school so that time at home is dedicated to you and family. I did this over a 40 year period from 1965 to 2005.

    2. Heather South, I could not agree more with you. I retired after 28 years of teaching. I taught 1st grade 19 years and 9 years (Music). Music was not as intensive as teaching 1st grade. There was no way that I could get everything done in the 7:30-3:30 (sometimes, 7:00 – 4:30) time that I was required to be there. I often worked 16 hours a day and very seldom finished all the paperwork that needed to be completed. And, yes, it does cause health problems. My last few years of teaching I was diagnosed with diabetes…..I am sure the the stress caused this to come about. But Quit working late….was not an option. ….. At least that is the feeling that I had.

      1. I agree with you. Personally My schedule is from 7a.m to 1p.m from Monday to Friday except On Thursdays that we have to stay until 15h00. I usually leave school at 1h45. On Thursday I leave at 15h00. Unluckily most teachers criticize me negatively. They say “don’t you have home or family?”. ” I do have somebody who loves me so I can’t stay here for one more minute”. They say they don’t have to get work at home. In Ecuador 🇪🇨 the low allow us to work in the school for 6 hours. Then go home where we can work for 2 more hours to complete 8 hours. It is uncertain they complete their work at home.

      2. I don’t agree with your statement about music. We see numerous grade levels each day with a different set up for each class. With a student population of sometimes over 1,000 students music teachers are responsible for knowing every child’s name, following IEPs, preparing for big programs, planning engaging lessons, and assessment for every single student. It is just as if not more intensive than the regular classroom.

        1. Donna, have you taught a subject or grade level other than music? Margie is basing her opinion on her personal experience having taught BOTH music and first grade. I would be interested to hear if you have taught general education before, or just music. It helps to look through that personal experience lense before disagreeing…

    3. It’s is that simple if you make it important to you. I stayed late, worked and worked, was over weight, and had no social life. I wanted to stop teaching all together. Then I started leaving but taking work home. That helped me relax. Eventually I found a way to go home all the time. I started using the gym as a reason for my health. I have lost 65 pounds and started doing body building competitons. I was a happier person because work did not consume me. My test scores went up that year too for my whole class.

      1. I agree! You have to make yourself…..your physical and mental health a priority. Nobody else will. I think I am a better teacher because I have a life outside of school that balances out the work I do in school. Teachers’ work is never done, so we have to find a balance and get done the most important stuff, and leaving the rest for another day.

      2. Drive YOUR plane first, is my wellness mantra for the coming year! It sounds like you are positively balanced these days. Congratulations.

    4. You are so right. This paragraph made me cringe…

      “Many teachers act as if they have no choice in the matter. They’re on committees, run after-school clubs, or just have so much to do that they have to stay after work to get it done.”

      Teachers have TOO MUCH TO DO! I believe the author is a school superintendent. Take some of the load off your teachers…cut the unnecessary meetings, paperwork, and above and beyond expectations. Free up their time during the school day to do what needs to be done. We don’t CHOOSE the end of the day (“worst possible time”) to do work that needs to be done because we like it…it’s because there is no time built into our day to do it! We are on all day…teaching, managing, engaging, and educating.

      1. Exactly; I left work at 8 today. I promise you I wasn’t doing anything extra… scarcely the bare minimum of what I’m required to get done to stay afloat. I’m not staying because I want to at all; I have 20 minutes for lunch if the lunch attendants are there on time. My preps usually get cut down to 3 days a week; I am expected to plan 6 different subjects (and mostly all differentiated in some explicit ways); I have 26 first graders and no aid at any time for help in the classroom. Printing for the upcoming week alone takes 2-3 hours. I am printing morning work, homework packets, newsletters, reading listening journals, reading exit slips, math exit slips, phonics, word work, writing center paper, guided reading books, math interactive notebook, lesson plans to post for observations, etc. etc…. I am doing everything and nothing. I can’t go off script and focus on two or three things because I have to get through a certain amount in a certain time. My kids feel rushed, I feel like I cheat them out of fun, and the most learning imthat gets done is when I secretly do things my own way. I’m at a loss for how administrators think things are going to work out… pretty soon teachers are going to stop trying altogether. I feel bad for people who are going to stay in this profession long term; there is no time to stop and breathe and the kids will only suffer more because of our beaurocratic regulation.

    5. I fear advice like this could give license to lazy teachers. “Knock off as soon as the students do; you’ll be a more balanced person and a better teacher for it.” When should I assess student learning and provide feedback for improvement? When should I prepare and adjust for upcoming lessons? When should I contact parents to provide an encouraging word or share concerns, or collaborate with colleagues, or respond to questions students send me as they’re completing an assignment? When should I fulfill any of the myriad other duties that come with the job?

      The fact is that good teaching is hard work. I’m not saying it should consume every waking moment or endanger either your health or that of your family life, but a teacher who’s cruising through the year is almost certainly not as effective as s/he might otherwise be.

      Finally, teaching amounts to professional giving. The idea that we are justified in putting ourselves ahead of our students seems antithetical to the very nature of our vocation.

      1. I agree. I teach high school English and I have 212 freshman this year. How am I supposed to grade 212 3 page essays in a timely manner? It is impossible to do. I’ve done the math and I usually take 7-8 minutes per essay. That’s about 26 hours give or take. HOURS! With lesson planning, committee meetings, coaching girls volleyball and having 4 kids there is no choice but to stay late.

        But that is what it takes for our profession. I understand this, my family understands this and my students understand this. We’re not looking for medals or trophies. I do it because there is no better way to ensure a better life and future for my kids when I’m gone than helping prepare my students to become contributing, ethical and empathetic members of society. I do it because it is my calling no matter what the cost. I learned this from my father who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the Army. There was no quit in his vocabulary….and there is none in mine.

    6. Amen! We wish it would work to just leave, but things don’t get magically done when you do! The pain that follows the next day isn’t worth it.

    7. I agree. The only way to help is to stop changing my curriculum every year so I have to stay after and develop new material and give us help to do all the paper work that needs to get done. I can’t do it during class time so I HAVE to do it after school. It needs to get done.

  2. The point is relax and enjoy your life while creating a balance. Yes sometimes I bring work home usually lives in the car though. I go to Pilates twice a week, walk daily, go to art class every other week, the beach on weekends, and meditate in the morning. I am enjoying my life before I retire and cutting down on stress.

  3. I learned this the year I lost my dad to cancer. The memories I made with him mean far more to me than staying late. I now leave every day on time to care for my own child. I know that time with her is more important than getting things done after school. I would rather she know I am there every day than staying late. If you don’t put your own family and self first no one else ever will. They are the people that truly need to matter the most in your life. The ones who will be there in your old age. While it is important to do the best you can for your students during the school day, it is important to put yourself and your family first.

  4. It is just that simple… Working longer has nothing to do with work ethic. If I work “smarter” and can manage my time better so that I can leave timely most days that means I’m not dedicated? My family and children come first. Professionals have to set boundaries. Teachers tend to be their own worst enemies because they won’t say no, manage time effectively or set meaningful boundaries.

    1. I’ve found b in my 16 years that the teachers who left close to the time the students left received better evaluations. They managed to get the kiss to help set up for the next day. They found ways fir the kids to mark the work, even in the lower grades by making the test more succint. They delegated the work and followed up. Wish I’d done this beforeview I was deemed ineffective.

  5. This works for teachers that actually have planning time where they can plan. I am fortunate enough this year (4th year at this school) to have three to four days a week where I plan. I stay thirty min to set up for the next day some days but that’s it.

  6. One reason teachers might feel guilty about leaving is because of administration. You’re judged on how much extra time you put in on evaluations. Principals want you to be coaching, sponsoring a club, or working with struggling students for 1-3 hours after school. Even when I worked all day, including not taking a lunch, I was reprimanded lightly for leaving every day at 3 (even tho I had children of my own to pick up).

  7. My only response to this is…I do go home but then I have a million papers to grade there still. Just because I leave work doesn’t mean I don’t take it home. Our county has a policy that assignmentgrades must be in 3 days after the assignment was due. Well, may as well get those graded that evening because if I wait for the three days I’ll have two more days backed up. I have around 70-100 students normally. Tell me how I can let that happen?

  8. “Many teachers act as if they have no choice in the matter.”

    Many schools act as if teachers have no choice in the matter.

    The problem with teacher burnout in our education system today is not about efficiency, and certainly not about teachers choosing to spend more time than they should at work. I understand the intentions of this article, but it is a slap in the face to those living in reality.

  9. This is my 25th year. My best were ones that I could leave confidently at 3:00 or 3:30 ( 7-:30-3:30 duty day). I always take work home but don’t always get to it. I just know….we have the whole school year to get to it. There is one thing I’ve always done faithfully, I always leave lesson plans on my desk each Friday for the next week (early on it was two weeks) in case I’m not there Monday. That will never change.

  10. Earlier today, my daughter, who doesn’t start school until next week, said to me, “Mom, you have about five more hours before you go to bed, so you should spend it with me. You know tomorrow, it’s going to be all about your students.” Reading this article and hearing that from her made me think about the importance of just coming home and focusing on family and self. It is sometimes necessary to work late or at home, however, at other times we teachers do need to walk away as the writer said.

  11. I retired after 46 years of teaching. I probably would have stayed longer for the joy of actual teaching. What I couldn’t take anymore : meetings about nothing; contracts that stipulate teachers have to stay x amount of time after school; monthly meetings until 5; paperwork and more paperwork; team meetings, grade meetings, faculty meetings all take away from the pleasure of actual teaching. Administrators from superintendents to building principals, more meetings do not mean better test scores. What will happen is no one will want to become a teacher.

    1. I taught the last year and a half in two different counties. My last experience was so bad, I didn’t go back and now doubt I will teach again. Way too much extra work and disrespectful students. It just wasn’t worth the extreme effort and dedication that is necessary.

    2. Yes! Meetings are what we all cannot stand! Quit making us meet all the time to TALK about what we need to do. Let us use our planning time to actually IMPLEMENT it! Administrators need to understand that constantly wanting to meet with us affects our ability to meet the needs of the most important people there–our students! Give us TIME to give our students our very best. Quit stealing our time on useless meetings. Unnecessary meetings really deplete morale. Murphy is right-we have to find a way to do this without burning out.

  12. I retired after the 2013-2014 school year with 38 1/2 years of teaching. I taught Pre-K through Junior College and I NEVER did get “burned out” !!! I went home at 3:30 (except for the rare faculty meeting) and spent time with my family! I believe I was more successful and “pumped up” because of leaving when I did!!

  13. Not possible to quit and go home at the end of the ‘teacher’ day. Have to attend meetings several days a week, plan and prep for teaching, for the kids, for the teaching assistants, for testing, for subs who ‘cover’ when testing, and have a myriad of ‘unseen’ building, district and state mandates (involving much paperwork) to comply with in order to do my job. Not to mention social work and parent contact. If only I could go home at the end of an 8 hour day. There is no 8 hour teacher day of you are a classroom teacher. If you want a shorter day, become a sub, an assistant, or go into a different line of work.

    1. Im not a teacher but i hear SOOOO
      MANY COMPLAINTS from teachers
      You should come working in my shoes for one week
      Im a pediatric nurse on a cancer floor
      Stress comes on a daily basis. 8 hour days? Havent seen one. More like 12-14 days. We deal with children too…on a DAILY 24 shift. Do most of nurses complain? RARELY! I get tired of hearing teachers complain about hours and students and long days
      At least you know youll see your students the next day. Many times we come back to work after 2 days off just to find our little pstient has lost his or her cancer battle. Thsts stress teacher.
      Yes i chose this profession and id choose it agsin
      Stop complaining about the trivial thongs. Every profession has its downfalls. Venting is one thing….burned out is another

      1. Suzy, just like a teacher may not know the stress of your job YOU do not know the physical exhaustion of teaching 25 kindergarten kids for a full day of school. This post wasn’t meant to prove that teaching is more difficult than other professions. No one had claimed that being a pediatric nurse was an easy job. If the point of the article was not something that you could relate to, it is because the article was not written to be directed toward you. I feel sorry for your friends who share their feelings with you while you probably insist that you work harder at your more difficult job. I would choose to avoid a friend like that.

        1. I have a family member who once worked as a labor & delivery nurse. Now she is a school nurse. I asked her which was harder, she said being a school nurse was MUCH more difficult because she has basically 400 potential patients versus a few at the hospital. I was shocked. I really did think she was going to say the hospital was a much more stressful environment. She hates it. She feels pulled in 20 directions all day long-just like teachers do. I’m not saying nursing is easier. I’m sure it’s just a different type of difficulty (which would be MUCH harder for me). I think it’s safe to say that one never knows what it’s like until walking in his/her shoes. My mother had NO IDEA how difficult teaching was until she started substitute-teaching.

  14. I work in a private preschool where they overload us with more tasks than they allow us time for. And since I’m an employee-at-will, prep work that isn’t completed gets hung over my head as grounds for disciplinary measures or firing. And my prep work involves things I can’t take home with me – like washing paintbrushes and putting up bulletin boards and and setting up projects for the next day and clearing the drying rack and filing work into cubbies and reorganizing centers and emailing photos to families from our school computer (desktop, not a laptop). I wish I taught a grade where I could just take lesson plans and student work to grade home, in the comfort of my bed and/or couch. That sounds nice. Sigh.

    1. I hear you as I am also an at-will employee in a private TK-8 school and need to be on my A game as I would like to stay employed. I am trying to leave earlier one or two days a week so I can get out and walk before dark, but it’s not easy. Hang in there!

  15. My health is the exact reason I leave as well…. my health was suffering…. my marriage was strained and my little one felt like we were on a rat race….. wake up call! I change into work out gear right after the bell and head to my 30 minute boxing, twice a week…. and strength train twice a week. A better me makes a stellar teacher! I give my students everything I have when I am there…..but after school belongs to my first loves…. me and my family…. learning to work smarter…. not harder.

  16. Hers my thought. If I go home at 3:45 which is contract time , then I will have 2-4 hours of grading at home. That doesn’t work. There is supper to fix and cleanup, laundry, shopping for house or school stuff , cleaning, etc .etc. It’s quiet at school when the kids leave. I drink something with caffeine in it, have a healthy snack and I go to work. I can get twice as much done at school then home in half the time. . 21 years and this is my last. I’m sick of meetings, the horrendous amount of time to edit their writing promotes, only to do it all over again the next week! Staff meetings! Professional development! Typed lesson plans. Copying papers! Finding resources needed to teach. Some after school tutoring so a student doesn’t fall behind!!! I have no life when school starts. I’m real tired of that. I will be 67 when I finally retire. Joy!

  17. The children you meet at the clubs after school are not the same children in the classroom during the day. So from September to December I meet my school footballers (soccer) after school and I love it!!

  18. It’s difficult to believe I could get everything done within my contract hours. Oh I could do the minimum, but the extra time spent makes my teaching experience more enjoyable and ensures strong relationships with my students and their families. As another preschool teacher said, classroom maintenance is also quite time consuming-updating interest areas and the materials, preparing small group materials so they are accessible and organized when needed, and general tidying. I have my students be as self-sufficient as possible-cleaning up after themselves and being responsible for their own materials, but that’s not even a drop in the bucket. Striking a balance and still maintaining quality of life and quality in teaching is a true challenge.

  19. I tend to disagree. As a special educator in a self contained class, where I taught 3 different grade levels of the 4 core content areas, I did not get a planning period as the general education teachers did, where they could plan and create materials as a team for the only 1 subject they taught. Additionally, I had to differentiate the materials for students who ranged from moderately intellectually disabled to moderately learning disabled. On top of preparing for the academics, I also had to maintain special education paperwork and prepare for IEP meetings-the forms can take 3+ hours per student to complete. All that paperwork stuff had to wait until the students left because I was teaching all day. In my new position I go in to support general education teachers and have to spend the prep period with them, so once again all my legally mandated paperwork has to be done at the end of the day. Plus, I have one period I teach, and somewhere in there I have to write my lessons and grade assignments as well. I stay after not because I want to, but I HAVE to get the paperwork done.

  20. This is Singapore. We get to school before 7am. School ends at 2pm or 3pm or 4pm. Meetings until 5pm… working until close to 7pm is a norm. I spend at least 11 hours in school everyday and I haven’t included the hours spent marking at home. I either mark until midnight or wake up at 3am to mark.

  21. I am starting my 26th year. I know I am way more productive in the early morning, so I get to work an hour early as soon as the doors open. I am so tired in the afternoon that I don’t get much done even if I do stay late. I wish that I could leave my job at school every day and just relax with my family. The truth is that no matter who I am with and what I am doing, those little first graders are always in my mind. I’m mentally planning how to reach this one or how to get those parents in for a conference. I love teaching, but I don’t love the amount of work teachers need to expend to assure that all students are successful. Reality does not allow me to get much planning done at school while surrounded by my students all day, so that has to take place on weekends. I envy those that are truly able to leave work at work. I just don’t seem to be able to do it.

  22. Totally disagree with this entire article. It is a good plug for his books though I suppose. Teacher 32 years..elementary… staying after school.. only way to wrap up a day and ready for the next and go home with a clear conscience that you can relax. Also and most importantly..when do you add emails and assignments and how the day went to your kids who need constant motivation and assistance… when do you call the parents with a positive moment? Heck when do you respond the the multitude of emails ? It sure isn’t during the day when the little faces are in front of you and you are setting up your next subject on your 20 minute prep that you “might” have that day… And exactly when do you get to sit and think through your day with friends (fellow teachers)… after school. I get to work at 7:30 an hour early for the kids and leave late..for the kids. It is work ethic plain and simple. No hidden pride… avoidance… etc. fantasies created in this article.

  23. I would like to see a study done on different parts of the US and how long teachers stay after school. I am originally from PA and did my student teaching there. The majority of schools in PA spend money to buy study based and standard based curriculums that have everything laid out for them. When I was student teaching, I would stay about 30 minutes after school checking the plans and pulling the book that was provided by the curriculum. After graduation I moved to NC to teach because jobs were limited in PA. There I found out quickly they don’t use curriculums that are standarded based instead the teachers start with the stardard and plan everything from scratch. Any books you need, you have to find them (I now work in a school with eight 1st grades so finding 8 copies isn’t easy). Any materials you need you have to make it. This makes a teachers job take so much longer on top of all the other responsibilities you have. I spend countless hours with my team writing lesson plans, discussing details, and finding materials. I now teach in a district that is respected in TN and once again it’s the same deal. No curriculums to use (well we have an expensive curriculum sitting in the closest but it isn’t acceptable for “Read To Be Ready”) and everything is done from scratch. I think unless districts and states start providing teachers with the materials they need then our jobs are going to continue to be time consuming. Our school has teachers that start at 6 and work until the buses pull out and teachers that walk in the building as the buses are pulling in but stay until 5 everyday. We all easily put in 10 hours everyday but it goes back to some schools in the south (maybe other places as well) don’t have duty free lunch or recess and their planning time during the day is consumed with meetings where we can’t get work done in our classrooms so putting in hours before or after school is the only time to get plans done in our classroom. I would love to go home early but I also must be prepared.

    1. What the hell Tiffany… your school asks the teacher to find out their own books? Don’t they have some admin people who can liaise with families to carry out the necessary purchases before the year starts? Sounds like a nightmare to me.

  24. That’s all fine and well and good…
    …unless you work in a school where you never get to have your plan because someone is sick and subs won’t work at your school.
    …unless your boss expects you to CALL every parent instead of emailing them, but since you already lost your plan, you have to do it after school.
    …unless you are expected to be on campus and monitoring children until the last one leaves, which can be as late as 6:00 because their parents work three jobs. And God forbid the admins do this part.
    …unless you teach four different subjects and need to plan for every single one of them.
    …unless your boss walks the school to see who is still there at 5:00 and treats them better.

    And the comments about feeling like we “have to” do after school activities? I am expected to. Like, I would not have my job if I had not agreed to that. And you know what? It is the best part of my day, spending those few hours with my super passionate kids and just getting to learn skills and enjoy things without the stress of grades on us.

    This list of reasons is probably FABULOUS if you work in a functioning suburban school. I work in one now and I love it. But, most of my career has not been that way. Leaving at 3:30 (the end of my day), or even 4:00, would have resulted in my termination, and fast.

    1. Used to be at one of those schools that worked teachers like dogs. Again the advice was great but not helpful if you don’t have a choice if you’re want to keep your job.

  25. I tried. I got 3 hours of sleep/night. School gave more and more preps until I was at 8-9 every day (in a 7 period day). Begged for relief but got none so I QUIT literally.

  26. What about extra-curriculars? Giving a little bit extra of yourself at the end of your teaching day goes a long way for students. Think back to your high school days…most of your fond memories come from those extras after school. I find that many people getting into the profession today are not choosing to give that little extra at the end of the day. Very frustrating for those of us who do.

  27. I’m so guilty of staying too long for way too many years. I wish I had learned earlier how to get everything done and leave earlier. I made all the reasonable excuses that I read above. Then at the end of my 21 st year I became very sick. I was diagnosed with a rare cancer! Years of taking care of everyone else and giving all my free time to my job had taken a toll on my body. I was off work the following year until March trying to fight for my life. Guess what? School was no longer so important. They could function without me. My family, my friends, my faith and my health became the priorities. Don’t let a life threatening illness became the result of overworking. Take care of yourself and love those around you. We are not promised tomorrow.

  28. It’s sad to see that teachers are ripping the author of this article apart. All he is trying to do is talk some sense into all of us about the importance of wellbeing and self- care. This is my 11th year teaching middle school (public), and I don’t bring work home and I leave very soon after my contractual time ends (ends at 2:35 and I like to leave around 3pm). I structure my days in a way that all work gets done, and the classroom is orderly for the next day.

    If you look at some of the comments, it’s very clear that teachers that work long hours carry it like a badge of honor. Well, you shouldn’t. Just because you stay afterwards to grade papers, does NOT make you a better teacher. Neither does serving on 5 committees. Pick ONE you are passionate about and stick to it.

    Teachers also have this “martyr” syndrome they need to get over. Yes, we work a lot, we are tired, and often underpaid. But WE are the ones who can take control of our days if we work smarter.

    1. I am curious as to how you “structure your day” so everything is done in time to leave 30 minutes after the bell… If you are teaching, engaged and working with students the majority of the time, when do you have time to plan, mark, complete reports and paperwork, do report cards, etc.??? I would honestly like to know as I really don’t see how in today’s work environment it’s possible. What does your day look like that makes you so much more efficient then the rest of us?

    2. I believe most people are pissed of by advice being dishes out, which makes them feel they are being treated like kids or rookies who are unable to understand their priorities in life.

      In fact, this is the very assumption of the article.

      I still do believe the article was written bona fide, but people who read the internet tend to be particularly itched by articles that begin with a strong imperative and try to tell them what to do. E.g. “We should always wear black on Sat night”. What about I dress as I please? That’s the same reaction readers demonstrated after such article.

      I believe that the very same arguments, if conveyed during a training session, would have a completely different effect. Sometimes the argument is not wrong in itself, but it is the medium that matters.

      I also do believe many came across this article while searching for other things. E.g. I was searching ways to make my employer understand he does not have to keep me inside the building to have me work because, as a teacher, I already do my homework… at home. So, I guess many came here starting from the opposite direction: they perfectly know they *should* be at home, but somebody or something is not allowing them to go home early. This pisses them off, they open Google and, guess what?, they find this article that says: “just go home”. Their answer is immediately: “if only…”. And then criticism ensues.

    3. Actually, reading sentences like these is quite triggering:
      “Teachers also have this “martyr” syndrome they need to get over. Yes, we work a lot, we are tired, and often underpaid. But WE are the ones who can take control of our days if we work smarter.”

      Yeah… that is the umpteenth American who is trying to tell us that the burden of self-fulfilment is only hours and that if we are overworked is mostly our fault and, as we do not organise well, we are the ones to blame and yet play the victim.

      Nothing of the above is real.

      My contract, my face time at school… all of that depends on the negotiation carried out by some idiots at a trade union that gathers thousands of workers. Change might happen but it is not happening soon. We fought our battles, we marched on the streets… but certain habits are hard to die out.
      Also, governments keep increasing class sizes… so that teaching 12 kids is now a myth… unless you teach in some lonely mountain village.
      Finally, one of the jobs that is regarded to be the most relevant for the development of an entire country and the future youth… is paid way less than a metal worker — not to say the years of study they required. My blue collar friends inquired about my working day. I tried to paint it positively and not to play the victim, but they do immediately realise we are ploughed, because factory workers have better working hours, working conditions, better insurance and better pay.

      As I speak, the Ministry has removed the compensation for teachers who go on a school trip. So you have to take responsibility of some 20 kids, 24/7, the legal system is going to tear you apart if something goes wrong… and yet you cannot demand a supplement to your ordinary wage. Result is the vast majority of teachers in the country have flat-out refuse to organise school trips whatsoever.

      Does not look to me we need to play victim to see what governments are doing to education systems. And when govs are not responsible, private employers are… and the good ol’ claim that you “can just walk away” was maybe okay in the 70s, when jobs were a-plenty, but surely does not apply to the current times.

  29. I believe this is *so* important! (And I’m emailing a link to my principal, haha) To do deeply compassionate work, you need to renew yourself. I write, too, and ,like you, have found that when I set really clear and firm boundaries I can get my word quota. When I just, oh, you know, guess I’ll write for a while….molasses. Ugh. Have a great school year!

  30. As a special education teacher with students from three grades (therefore 3 schedules) one IA I share with 3 teachers a student in need of toileting help I ended up with a 20 minute lunch and no real planning time unless I came in early and stayed late. Add to that 4 students taking alternative assessments (creating binders of work that addressed the state standards) each one with different criteria ( 3 grade levels and one ESOL) creating IEP’s, doing educational evaluations and assessments in my 1st year in this job and this school.
    There was not nearly enough time with staying late and bringing work home. And you do not fudge IEP timelines without legal ramifications.
    You are right but often just saying I have this much time to get it done is pure fantasy
    Everyone wants to have the lowest taxes, and each time the budget needs cutting education comes first. The myth of the lazy overpaid teacher is still out there. I still hear educated people say ” yes I’m sure the first year is hard but then you can use those plans every year after.”
    Lovely idea. I will probably get better at using my time but it is not mathematically possible to get my work done during contract hours.

  31. Ok, Murph, I’m starting my third week of school. I’ve attempted to only arrive 1 hour before school starts and stay only 1 hour after (sometimes 1-1/2 hours). I can’t possibly get my work finished. I have a 12-foot to-do list just to get prepared for the beginning of the year, not to mention the time needed to plan lessons for 4-5 preps. Your thoughts are well-intentioned, yet not manageable for me (at least). I would love to have schools provide the time necessary to do our job…let me clarify, PAID time for teachers to do their job. I do, however, appreciate the thought.

    1. The beginning of the year is definitely more challenging than the rest of the year. How many years you’ve been teaching in your grade level and building also matter. The more you do it, the more efficient you get. Still, your time is important and you’re the most important person in your classroom. You need to vigilantly protect your time and energy levels. I suggest this: Cut your to-do list by a third. Force yourself to do so. Decide what’s essential–those things you must do to help students learn–and get rid of or postpone those things that don’t serve that purpose. Communications to parents can wait. Bulletin boards can wait. Instead of putting name tags on desks, slap a sticky note on them for the first day. Go through each item on that list and really think about whether it’s necessary.

      1. This is very good advice, actually. I see things like these happening to me over the years.

        As young teachers, we might tend to overdo things that, in the end, have very limited effect, especially time-wise.

        As I get more proficient with my curriculum, I may dedicate more time to evaluation and less to preparation (but take my remark “cum grano”). This said, the other improvement is that you realise you do not have to do *that much* to deliver something effectively or even impress the kids. As Murph says above this comment, chance is you are already doing too much.

        E.g.: group work? You wish you had those labels and handouts printed very neatly. You can still do that, but all the fine-tuning might go well beyond those 10 minutes in which the kids draw a question from the hat and read it aloud. Guess what? You might as well scribble questions on a piece of paper and tear it by hand. Those 30 minutes spent making your activity “perfect” might give you anxiety relief, but they are not changing the nature of the educational activity *that much*.

  32. I cannot really think that how much on this I should not even understand. Thanks for offering this advice. Almost certainly to go back in this article to get whenever there is any great new content.

  33. The grass is always greener… I’m a preschool intervention specialist (17years; taught K-5 MH prior) and am married to a Superintendent. Administrators have obligations and paperwork as do we. We have four children and surprisingly none want to go into education. Wonder why🤔

  34. This is a gem! Parkinson’s law!!! I love it!!!!!
    This post is fab and so true. No matter how good my intentions are in the morning, after school I am literally brain dead. I have not been staying behind this year to do things, because I never seem to get closer to completion. Now that science backs it up I don’t feel like a failure teacher! Ha!

  35. As a teacher at an elementary school, we (each teacher)were required to serve on 3 committees. It certainly was not a choice!

  36. I find articles like these pretty useless.

    First of all, depending on personality type, people are most energised after classes and not after a break. Risk is the break goes on too long and you end up sleeping your afternoon away instead of preparing for the day after.

    Secondly, as others have pointed out, a lot depends on the nature of the contract. E.g. I am required to stay after hours because my school refuses to pay me *per lesson*. Instead, they want each 14 € to correspond to 1 hour of work. Class or not. The result is easily understood: on Friday, I have lessons 8.30 to 1.15 pm with 15 min break in between and 45 min prep time. Then I have a 45 min break between 1.15 and 2 pm (customary in the country I work in) and, eventually, I have to be back to stay at school between 2 pm and 4.15 pm. Why? Who knows? The employer thinks we are not working if we are not inside the building. Google “face time” to get to know more about this fallacy. The total is, anyway, a 7 hours working day ending at 4.15 pm. Do I really do school work in those 2 afternoon hours? Hell no. I usually work a lot the day before (up to 12 hrs, both at school and at home) and take those two hours for myself… anyway nobody checks and anyway it is their problem if they want to keep me here doing absolutely nothing. I feel like I am privileged. The alternative would be undertaking admin duties and the like, which I am not eager about.

    Colleagues be like: “aw, you spend so much time at school”. Guess what? It’s my contract. They want me here. They wanted me here. Contract is good. At some point I stopped asking questions and entered the routine. Things have gone smoothly ever since.

    So, don’t commit the mistake of thinking just because people overstay they are getting work done (my case is an example, and the article mentions similar situations). Moreover, going back home might be synonymous with problems and issues (the kids, your ever-complaining wife… sexist, huh? Most relationships I have seen in my life are not healthy anyway).

    Bottom line: everyone does as they please. The good point would be to have good time management. Then you get lotta free time and it does not matter where you are carrying out your work.

  37. I have narcolepsy and leave pretty quickly most days. It is sometimes a matter of being awake on the drive home or not. I was blessed with first block planning this year, and, for the most part it has changed everything. I requested this remain my schedule for next year as a “reasonable accomodation” per the ADA. Maybe. but….scheduling/cooperative planning and data meetings with department during planning/not fair to teachers who are on the rotation for 1st planning (we do it by department for the afformentioned meetings). Its very discouraging to me. I want to teach, but if my disability isn’t taken seriously in the one place supposedly focused on individiuality, I am not sure if I can.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *