To think that YES, you can have reasonable hours and a good work/life balance as a teacher

(520 Posts)
WistfulForTravel Sun 04-May-14 20:21:19

I'm 22, a 3rd year Primary Education BEd student, I love my degree and every assignment and placement cements the fact that teaching is my vocation and is what I want to do as a career.

However, I've been getting a lot of negative comments from my aunties and neighbors about how I'll never have a life again, how most of my waking hours will be consumed with thoughts of work, how I'll never even have one day to truly relax during the 13 weeks off, how it'll be a 7am - 9 pm job, etc.

I know teaching is more full on than some jobs, but is it really this intense? I am friends with a few teachers and they seem to have a healthy work/life balance (time for guys/sports/hobbies, at least one full weekend day off, out 1-3 nights a week) They have no kids though. I imagine it would be very different when you have kids.

Is it possible to practice effective time management + work very hard during the week so you can have the weekend off?

As much as I've enjoyed my course and look forward to my first class in September (eek!) my philosophy is more a 'Work to Live' not 'Live to Work'

NoIamAngelaHernandez Sun 04-May-14 20:24:43

Yes, it is possible.
But you have to be very efficient and ruthless at time management, and be a natural teacher.
You have to make sure you are totally on top of it all, all the time ( otherwise the stress eats into your time at home).
And thee will be occasions when you need to work all weekend too.

Hmm, the first two years IME were very very tough - my dh felt he only really saw me in the holidays and that was it.

Once I got more experienced I could wing lessons a bit more and mark more efficiently then things did get better.

I gave it up to have kids though and still haven't gone back - I don't want to miss every sports day, assembly and trip my boys do because I'm watching other people's children instead sad.

AFishCalledBarry Sun 04-May-14 20:32:28

Before I had DD I found it perfectly manageable, although my working day was long and I didn't have nights out like your friends. My weekends were one day working and one day off. Half terms have always for me been about working rather than time off.

Now I've got DD I'm completely rethinking my career. I still want to be in school but there's no way I'd go back to classroom teaching because I know damn well there's no way I'd make it balance.

odyssey2001 Sun 04-May-14 20:33:27

Even the most ruthless will struggle at less than 8-5 plus a few hours a night and a good half day at the weekend. I would say it is a 60 hour week once you have been teaching for a while. Add 10 hours when you are new if you want to be working towards being a good teacher. On top of that, there will be an extra 40 hours a year for report writing, 10 hours for consultations and then about 5 to 10 days preparing for new terms / years. If you have management / other responsibilities, you can add an extra couple of hours every week. This is my honest opinion after teaching for 8 years. I consider myself to be a natural teacher and I don't have to meticulously plan. Teaching is not for the feint of heart and those expecting a healthy work life balance for the first few years. Sorry.

WooWooOwl Sun 04-May-14 20:34:50

I know quite a few primary teachers, and it seems to me that some of the time they can have a reasonable work/life balance, but there are times when they eat sleep and breath whatever's going on at school. Like when there's a big play or production coming up or something.

But only one of them has children below secondary age and works full time, she is frazzled to be honest. To the point that it's actually a bit worrying. The others all work 3-4 days or have older children or no children, and they are fine because they enjoy what they do.

From what they tell me the only time they do get to switch off at all is over the long summer holiday, the other breaks still get filled up with work.

noblegiraffe Sun 04-May-14 20:39:42

An awful lot of teachers I know have recently quit, or are thinking about quitting, or are moving schools hoping desperately that the working conditions will be better elsewhere.

I work a 40 hour week including every evening except Friday and Saturday. I'm part time on a 0.6 contract which is three days equivalent, in a department that isn't particularly stressful (no regular marking scrutiny, very few observations, I'm mainly trusted to get on with my job because we get good results). There is no way I'd consider going back to full time teaching, I'd have no life.

spanieleyes Sun 04-May-14 21:00:54

I work 7 til 4.30 in school and probably an hour or so every evening, plus one day at the weekend. Holidays, I work 4-5 hours every day in a week long half term, but only the first week of a 2 week break, the other week I have off. During the summer I work 2-3 hours a day apart from weekends and a weeks holiday.
I've been teaching primary for 10 years though so have plenty of shortcuts!! ( and my children are older now, it was rough the first few years!!)

HalfSpamHalfBrisket Sun 04-May-14 21:13:30

I'm planning my escape! (might take me a year or two, but I am working on a tunnel).

I've done 5 years and enough is enough. I love the actual teaching but I am permanently knackered. I can never 'switch off' - even if I am not working I am thinking about what work I should be doing and what I have forgotten or am getting behind on. This is not healthy, so I am looking to find an alternative before I damage my wellbeing.

Prior to teaching I had a successful career in industry so I am not someone who is workshy, or has no idea of what a professional workload is like.

4 out of 6 teachers at my school are looking to leave the profession at the moment and the head is taking early retirement, as is the main administrator.

But look on the bright side...there will be lots of vacancies.

Euphemia Sun 04-May-14 21:20:23

I'm going part time next year as teaching has taken up too much of my life.

I'm excellent at time management, but one of the problems with teaching is that there is always more work to do. You're never finished!

Having a primary-aged DD has been really hard - some weeks I've spent more time and energy on other people's children than on her. sad

NeedaDiscoNap Sun 04-May-14 21:26:42

Sorry OP but I think you're being a little bit naive. I've been a secondary teacher for 13 years and I'd say it's only recently that my workload has eased up, primarily through experience meaning I can duplicate planning etc.

I don't work at weekends because I choose to work weeknights and spend a significant proportion of my holidays working too. I'm about to have a baby though so I'd imagine that's going to change and I'll have to start working weekends!

I think in the early stages of your career in particular you have to be prepared to work long hours, and there are times of the year where working weekends is unavoidable because of pressure points around assessments and reporting.

Sorry, not trying to put you off, just being realistic. I know secondary and primary are quite different, and if anything I'd say primary is more demanding. It is a very rewarding job though and I do look forward to going to work. However I am bloody knackered most of the time! grin

gamerchick Sun 04-May-14 21:27:25

Well the only thing I can go off is online.. I have a pal on xbox live I play with and he teaches teenagers.. by the hours he puts in alone tells me he's pretty comfy.. he tells me he loves the school holidays.. especially in the summer when he does straight 4 weeks off work before going back to work related stuff before term starts.

On another large forum I was on.. one of the most prolific posters was a teacher.. how she found the time since she was on there a lot was beyond me. i could go on with online life but obviously that isn't a proper set in stone thing for RL.

I wouldn't do it mind.. I admire good teachers and think they deserve everything they're entitled to.

AllabouttheE Sun 04-May-14 21:31:11

I know teachers who do 8-4 during term time and bugger all else. Glad my kids aren't in their class

lechers Sun 04-May-14 21:44:16

Sorry, but there is a reason why 50% of teachers leave within the first 5 years. They really are the hardest.

I think the amount of work you're expected to do varies greatly depending on the age / stage / subject and expectations of your head. For example, in some schools the lesson plans / sow are written for you (along with all your resources), in others, you are expected to prepare from scratch. Obviously, this makes a huge difference.

However, I would say my average (over 16 years teaching) would be a normal days work plus 3-4 hours every evening. I choose not to work on the weekends (but I do Sunday evenings from 4pm in lieu of Friday evenings) and I don't do much in the holidays - mostly reading around my subject or light work such as making new student resources (which I tend to do in the evenings). Others juggle it differently.

That said, I still love my job, and love working with the students. I feel very lucky to have the job I've got. But, if you want to be good, ime you've got to be prepared to work fairly long hours.

Lovelydiscusfish Sun 04-May-14 21:49:30

I am a teacher, now in slt, and have always found work-life balance fine. I am just pretty ruthless about time management in work (I work my lunches, multi-task, and eschew random staff room chat mostly). Please don't be put off by the horror stories - there are also many of us out there who fucking love the job. Give it a try and see if it suits!

Eebahgum Sun 04-May-14 21:49:59

I found it manageable before ds, but since having him completely impossible to the point where I've now resigned and am looking for a career change. It's a job for young free and single IMHO, not a career for life.

Pipbin Sun 04-May-14 21:54:27

One thing I do is work most evenings and stay at school until 6pm so that come Friday evening I am in a position to not leave school until I am set and ready to go for Monday morning. That way I can get away with not thinking about school too much until Monday.

I found the first couple of years to be very very hard. I had a dear friend who was a teacher and we used to go over to her house for dinner about 1 day a week. I couldn't understand how she had the time to cook food!

I am worried about next year though when I look like I might move year group. I'm going to have to change my thinking and work pattern moving from EYFS to KS1

Euphemia Sun 04-May-14 21:55:15

I know teachers who do 8-4 during term time and bugger all else. Glad my kids aren't in their class.

Why should they do more?

MsFiremanSam Sun 04-May-14 22:00:16

I'd agree with the comments already made. Sorry, but I think you're unrealistic to expect this much free time when you're starting out. For the first 5 years I worked 7am-5pm at school, went home for dinner then picked up work again around 8, stopping around 10:30. I always worked Sundays and for at least half the holidays.
I have 2 DC's now so I have to prioritise much more, and have just gone to 4 days. But, I still get to work for 7, work every evening and at least a quarter of the weekend.
In my experience the type of work you do changes (I'm an advanced skills teacher so I find I spend less time planning now but more time sorting out staff training etc) but the amount doesn't.
Nearly every teacher I know has either left teaching, is thinking of leaving, or has gone part time because of the lack of work-life balance. I keep doing it because I genuinely love it - but it is incredibly stressful, and more so if your school is under scrutiny.
Sorry to be blunt - but you'll find if tough if you 'work to live'. If you want to be really good, you have to make a lot if sacrifices.

Noodledoodledoo Sun 04-May-14 22:04:51

I have copious amounts of books on how to improve my time management but don't have time to read them!!!!

I am secondary and for example this weekend I have bought home with me - 3 sets of Yr 11 past papers to mark, 120 Year 8 Exam papers to mark and a class set of books.

I can say I struggle to switch off - it is something I am working on as it can cause me a lot of stress.

I have an amazing husband who does the lion share of the work at home - which also causes me stress as I am not being fair on him.

I absolutely love my job - this is the end of my 5th year and no plans to quit but also switched to teaching after a previous job.

It is not an easy job but I know plenty who seem to have cracked the time management side of things - might be better if I got off this site sometimes!!!

cece Sun 04-May-14 22:05:29

I have an excellent work/life balance now. Probably because I am only contracted to work 2 mornings and 1 afternoon. grin

I get it all done at work with about half a day more at home. Then the rest of the week is just taken up with kids stuff, housework and keeping fit. smile

littlesupersparks Sun 04-May-14 22:07:53

I worked in school literally 7-7 for a LOT of my first 3 years of teaching. We would be chucked out at 7 by the caretaker locking up but I would go home and work more.

My next few years I still like to be in by 7. I found that 7-8.30 period great for planning. The lesson HAD to be planned by then so it got done. Believe me, planning and making resources will take up as much time as you have.

I have now been teaching nearly 10 years. I am in the same school. I know all the schemes of work backwards, I've written many of them in earlier years. I can knock up a good lesson and resources in 20 minutes or so - I have a wealth of strategies stores away. I am very well organised. I have all my term's lessons planned in advance and create resources weekly for the following week's lessons. Books of class work get marked every 3/4 lessons. This is where I cut back a bit. Exam papers, coursework drafts, assessments are marked usually by the next lesson and within a week.

I work 8.30-4.30 3 days a week. I get 2.5hours PPA in school. I will take home a couple of hours marking each week - at the moment more, as there are lots of a level practise essays to mark. I find it pretty manageable. I think I do a good job, but not a perfect one.

MyGoldenNotebook Sun 04-May-14 22:10:12

Hmmm ... some of these work patterns sound very unhealthy.

Well for the past five years I have had some of the best results in my department. My timetable is very exam heavy as I'm always given a lot of A Level due to my success. My most recent observation was outstanding and I've never been rated less than good with outstanding features.

All you 8-5 plus extra hours at home and working all half term types ... what are you doing?

I work 8-5 plus maybe 2-3 hours on the weekend. I'll work a couple of days at half term and perhaps 5 days of the summer holidays. When I get home at 5.30 my time is for my children.

My books are marked up to date, my reports are thoughtful and I have good relationships with parents and colleagues.

It can be done. Maybe secondary is a bit less time consuming than primary?

littlesupersparks Sun 04-May-14 22:10:30

Oh and my career is on hold mind you - I gave up lost of my responsibilities and I'm basically just a classroom teacher.

fairylightsintheloft Sun 04-May-14 22:15:57

I teach secondary and yes it is perfectly possible. You have to be a VERY good classroom practitioner, able to wing it with minimal planning while still ensuring a good lesson where learning and progress happens and you have to make good use of your PPAs. You can also (at secondary level) stagger the kind of homework you set so not every class is handing in projects or essays at the same time. It is harder now I have two young DCs but am still holding it all together, just have cut back on extra curricular stuff (which I did by not taking stuff back on when I returned from mat leave) and negotiated hard on my timetable. It does vary from primary to secondary and subject to subject but on the whole, its up to the individual. Had a colleague once who always went on about she is up marking til the small hours but I was staying with her once and her "marking session" consisted of wine, and texting and the TV on so yes, it took her three hours to mark a set of books that would have taken me one.

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