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Steve Haberlin's picture
Steve Haberlin is an assistant professor of education at Wesleyan College in Macon, Georgia. He holds a Ph.D. with a specialization in elementary education from the University of South Florida. His...
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Pacing Yourself (as a Teacher)

I think this might be one of the least discussed, possibly most important, aspects of teacher preparation: learning to pace yourself on the job.

Student teachers study curriculum, classroom management, and other basics but how much time is dedicated to helping future teachers manage time and manage themselves? We know burnout in the profession is high; working on your feet all day, keeping up with students, planning for lessons, handling the pressures of paperwork, parents, school district and school-level policies and bureaucracy, test scores; just reading the list can be exhausting.

Whenever I work with student teachers in their final semester, I always have a heart-to-heart talk with them about learning to pace themselves. This is the right time since, in the program where I serve as a supervisor, the student teachers are required to spend five day a week teaching under the mentorship of an experienced teacher. They quickly see the need to discuss managing time and their own health and well-being.

During this conversation, I touch on the following:

  • Individuals have different endurance and energy levels. Some teachers can continuously pull 10-12 hours a day; others are wiped out after 8 hours.
  • It’s not how long you work but rather what results you produce; some teachers stay until 8 o’clock each night. Others leave shortly after the students are dismissed. The question is: what results are they producing (test scores, student gains, parent communications/relationships, completed paperwork, etc.)?
  • Teachers must find schedules that work for them. Some teachers have young children and need to leave early to pick them up, therefore, they arrive earlier in the school day to get work done. Other teachers may be able to stay later at school, and thus, don’t have to rise so early.
  • No one is going to look after your health and well-being like you. Schedule time to exercise (this will help with energy and endurance levels), time for the family, hobbies, etc. Have a day where you leave right after the dismissal bell (when teachers are officially allowed to leave, of course). This might be a Wednesday to break up the week or a Friday to get together with friends.
  • During the school week, watch what time you go to bed. Make sure to get at least eight hours of sleep. Teaching can be a physically demanding (as well as mentally demanding job).
  • Work smarter rather than longer. This could mean working through lunch, at times, and working during planning and any other time you can make copies, return parent phone calls, and plan lessons. Learn to get more out of each hour.

Pacing yourself, in essence, is about finding a schedule and work style that personally works for you and your teaching position. It’s not about trying to work longer hours and keep up with colleagues. It’s also about taking care of yourself, staying rested and healthy, so that you are fresher and brighter for your students each day.