4 Ways Teachers Can Be Out the Door By 4:00

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Why Leaving School ON TIME is Vital for Your Sanity

Leave school by 4:00? I’m sure you read the title of this blog post and immediately thought, “Kim is crazy!”

(Well, yes … I am. But that’s a story for another day and another blog post!)

Bear with me … because I’m trying to save your sanity here, Teacher Friend!

I work with educators in many capacities. And the one thing I hear from them consistently is that that they are worn out. They’re barely surviving. They’ve lost their joy, and they feel like they can hardly breathe through all the stress.

Worse, they feel SHAME about it. They tell me how they went into the education profession because they believed they could make a difference in students’ lives. And now—even though they’re working themselves to the bone—they feel like they’re failing those students, failing to keep up with the never-ending tasks and ridiculous expectations.

I get it. I really do because I’ve been there. But I’m also a happiness coach, and that means I have a unique perspective on this. And it means I’m going to share some hard truths with you.

You’re probably never going to change the system. Or the expectations. Or the number of kids you teach every day, or the behaviors you have to deal with, or the overbearing parents.

You are never going to get it ALL done. You will never place that final checkmark on your to-do list … because that list never stops growing.

And I know that this lack of control is scary. But there is something you DO have control over:

YOU!

Change Your Mindset, Change Your Life

If you want to get out of the school door by 4:00, it’s gonna take a little commitment. You have to be willing to change … but I promise the payoff is so worth it!

These four steps can help get you started:

  1. Take responsibility! You—and only YOU—can make the changes that will impact your life in a positive way. You have to decide if your family, your personal interests, your mental well-being are worth it. There will always be the random day that you have to work overtime. But you need to promise yourself that these will be the exceptions, not the rule!
  2. Replace instead of pile on. New initiatives, new teaching practices, new engagement methods, new curriculum, new standards … the list goes on and on. And that’s the problem. There’s always something new to add to your plate, but how often do you REMOVE anything? Most teachers have that Type A personality—we want to do it all and do it all well. That’s a recipe for madness! Instead, every time you add a new item to your to-do list (or your wish list), take one thing off. I know there are things on there that are outdated, irrelevant, or unimportant!
  3. Embrace the undone. With a to-do list that’s always growing, you’re never going to have a clean slate. There’s always going to be a last-minute request, an unexpected change … and that means something else on your list will suffer. What to do? Make like Elsa, and LET IT GO! Will it be uncomfortable? Probably. But that’s when real growth starts to happen!
  4. Get the hell outta there! The clock hits 4:00. LEAVE! That’s it. Not “just one more thing.” Not “I really should get this done.” Not “What will the other teachers think?” Just LEAVE.

Making It Work In Real Life

I know what you’re thinking. “Just leave” is easier said than done. But it CAN be done. (I did it myself when I was a classroom teacher.)

I recently interviewed a former principal, Adam, who almost always left school at 4:00. He was in charge of 550 kids and numerous employees. So if this guy could do it, anybody can!

Adam and I found that there were a lot of little ways to ensure you’re managing your time appropriately. For starters, if you’re accustomed to regularly staying at school until 6:00, try backing up your quitting time to 5:45 for a week or two. Then back it up to 5:30 for a while. Then 5:15. Before long, you’ll be heading out the door at 4:00 consistently!

You’ll probably even find yourself becoming more efficient during the day. Knowing that you’ll be leaving school at a specific (non-negotiable!) time will keep you focused and productive. You’ll start doing a subconscious audit of your time and become more selective about your “have to” list.

Think about your weekends. I’ll bet your Saturdays, like most people’s, are jam-packed. Your kid’s soccer game, grocery shopping, random errands, a birthday party, family time, maybe some exercise.

That’s a lot to get done. But you get it done, don’t you? Because there’s a sense of urgency, and you focus on the stuff that NEEDS to be done. If you had endless time, you’d probably get sidetracked by tasks that really make very little impact.

Bottom line: You have to put your time where there’s a high rate of return. Do the highest leverage things—and let the rest go.

P.S. Administrators, you need to hear this too. If you want your teachers’ brains set to positive (and therefore, more productive, efficient, and creative), then you need to start modeling and encouraging this behavior!

2 thoughts on “4 Ways Teachers Can Be Out the Door By 4:00”

  1. I wrote a book on the teaching called “Answers From the Teacher’s Edition,” and one chapter I wrote on the value of rest. We need it as much as our students. Respect our need as well as theirs. Rest is undervalued, underrated, and vital. I agree with leaving at 4:00 and I also agree when I get home, I don’t take my work home with me. Home is my family time and time for me outside of school. Only on rare, rare occasions will I bring grading home. Otherwise, I stay at work a little after school and do it there.
    This was a very relevant article for teaching!~

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