TM4T NQT - A Teachers Guide to Leaving Work

So. You've had a busy day and now it's time to leave. But... the department meeting over-ran. Again. Then you realised that you haven't prepared that marksheet that you promised. What else have you forgotten? Better check your e-mails to be sure. And before you know it, you're stuck at your desk again, when you should be half-way home.

For busy teachers, the route from their teaching room to the car-park can be an obstacle course lined with distractions, disruptions and delays. All the good intentions that you made - cooking the tea, going to the gym, a bit of reading - are often undone right at the end of the day. One thing leads to another, and before you know it, the school caretaker is starting to lock up and you're still there...

If this has happened once too often, then you need some advice on the simple art of leaving work on time. Here's the key TM4T tips for making the Great Esape.

Analyse before action
. Before doing anything, figure out exactly what the problem is. On which days do you get stuck? Are other people disrupting your planned departure? Is some scheduled event (like a meandering meeting) spoiling your exit? Or are you yourself the cause of your own discomfort? One useful approach is to keep a simple tallylist to suss out the scale and pattern of the problem:

Depending on the answers, some or all of the following ideas may be relevant.

Choose Route One. This doesn't mean avoid the staffroom or hide from your students, it just means choose the most practical and direct route between your place of work and your means of transport. Don't feel obliged to say 'goodnight' to everyone - at least one person will want your opinion on something.

Establish a routine. This means that you have a standard time of departure, and a standard set of activities leading up to that departure time. Don't do anything new, demanding or different at the last minute - just standard stuff like marking, lesson preparation, preparing to-do lists - activities whose durations you can predict.

Set time-shift deadlines.
Time-shift deadlines are set before any last-minute rush. If you are leaving school at 17:30, stop what you are doing at 17:00 sharp, shut down your e-mail and review what needs to be done before you leave. This should ensure 'no surprises'.

Get tough.
Tell people in advance - especially your Head of Department, mentor, and anyone else with work-authority - that you will be leaving at a particular time each day. It sometimes helps if you make it an unusual time: 16:50 instead of 5 o'clock. Make sure expectations are clear by using formal language: you have 'appointments' and 'commitments' which require you to leave on time. The fact that the appointment is with your family and the commitment is to cook tea is no-one's business but yours.

Get mean
. Prepare yourself in advance to be assertive; to excuse yourself from badly-chaired meeting, interrupt meandering discussions, re-prioritise over-running tasks. Rehearse in advance what you need to say.

No actually... Wow, those last two sound great, don't they? Get tough!! Get mean!! Well, a preferable approach is not to do either, but to discuss your problems openly with your colleagues and explain that you'd appreciate any help or advice they can offer. Only do the tough-guy/girl routine if all else fails.

Confront problems. Be prepared to discuss real problems with the people involved or the people responsible. The most common example of this is the over-running meeting which disrupts everyone's plans and mealtimes.

Schedule a different meeting.
This means that you treat your journey home as an important meeting, including it on your timetable, preparing for it in advance, and reviewing afterwards how it went. Punctual? Productive?

Get in early.
If working late is a problem, make sure you start early, and that your Head of Department knows you start early. You can vacuum up as much work as you can before school starts, and automatically claim the moral high ground, in leaving 'on-time'

Be realistic. Leaving school on time may be important, but it is rarely the most important thing in a teacher's life. As long as your rights and needs are being respected, you should be prepared to be flexible and work later than your standard time if asked.. The main issue involving a teacher's work-life balance is rarely working late at school; it is doing so routinely without any acknowledgement or appreciation..