This week, I covered classes at another language centre, far away from my home. I was expecting that the longer classes (2 x 2 hour classes without any break in the middle) would exhaust me.
However, I was pleasantly surprised.
The difference, this time, was that I was staying in a hotel located 100 meters away from the centre. I also made sure the room I stayed in had natural light during the day.
In the morning, I’d go into the centre and prepare for my classes while nobody was there. In the evening, I’d arrive at the classroom ten minutes before class, and leave the centre shortly after classes finished.
What I discovered was that working this way was not tiring at all.
The difference, I think, is that I wasn’t spending large chunks of time in the centre preparing for my classes or doing other things.
Having been exclusively a cover teacher for over a year now, I’ve had many different mixes of classes and working schedules. I’d become aware that some arrangements clearly work better for me than others. While six hours of teaching a day on the weekends was tiring, I’ve found pushing that to 7.5 to 8 teaching hours a day was completely exhausting. Teaching those weekends always felt like completing a marathon. In order to recover, I’d typically spend most of the following Monday sleeping. While it gave me a lot of teaching hours in just two days, it was not an enjoyable or healthy way to work.
What I learned last week, is that there are other factors that I hadn’t considered before that may make my work schedule easier.
For me, one of them is likely not being in the centre as much as I had been. (On weekends, I’d typically be there around 12 hours a day, even if I was only teaching for six.)
Other teachers have different ways of working they have found are best for them.
Some plan their lessons in advance of weekends, while others pile it all onto the day of work. Some teachers swear by the rule of never planning at home, for others, this is okay.
The spread of the hours over the different parts of the day, along with the levels of students you teach can also impact your wellbeing.
It goes without saying that your diet, and how much sleep you get leading up to heavy work days will also have a major impact on your ability to work well.
What I notice is that a lot of teachers haven’t found a way that truly works for them. I think this is reflected by the large amounts of sugar and caffeine they require just to get through the day. That’s certainly something I can really relate to.
I’m grateful for the experience I had last week because I know now that I don’t have to be tired after working long hours, if I make a few extra adjustments to how I approach the whole thing.