Instead of a resolution, I started off the New Year with a 30 day challenge. You can see the details of my challenge and start your own here: http://www.storiesfromschoolaz.org/setting-resolutions-30-day-challenge/
Now that my 30 day, no email challenge has finished, the question is was I successful? I would argue yes; it was a positive experience despite a few hiccups.
I did check my email at home a few times (about 4), but in each case it was because I needed to access something in there. The few times I did open my email up, I told myself (out loud) that I did not have to read anything and was just getting what I needed. Deleting the email app from my phone and taking the bookmark off my personal laptop helped a ton because I was not constantly bombarded by those pesky email notifications. And, really, I did not feel guilty ignoring my email because I was not looking at it constantly. At the moment, I am staying committed to not adding the app or computer bookmark back into my life.
The other thing I discovered during my challenge was I actually enjoyed checking my email when I got to work in the morning. It was a simple way to ease into the day; I got some small things checked off my to-do list and had a sense of accomplishment before students showed up in my room. Because I was not answering emails at home, I usually had a few to read in the morning- enough that I could justify focusing energy on emptying my inbox. I also got into the habit of finishing my day answering emails, so I made sure I was never overwhelmed or tempted to keep emptying my inbox when I got home.
For me, the biggest success of my 30 day challenge was that the compulsive need to check my email at home went away. Prior to this month, I checked my email more than a lot, so even my few slip-ups were a vast improvement to the norm. There is not a rule telling me I have to be accessible to student 24/7, and studies have shown just how much stress and anxiety people can have without a clear boundary between work and home life. As teachers, we are constantly bringing work home with us. Even if we leave the papers at school, we bring our student’s stress and problems into our homes; we can never really separate from our work. I know I am going to keep bringing my planning and grading home with me (it is inevitable), but not answering email at home is a boundary I can continue to set for myself. I am hopeful I can keep up the habit I started these past 30 days. I will be a happier and healthier teacher if I do.
My outside reading:
A Principal’s Guide to Work-Life Balance: https://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2018/10/17/a-principals-guide-to-work-life-balance.html
Employer expectations on off-hours email: new study shows adverse health effects on workers and families: https://vtnews.vt.edu/articles/2018/08/pamplin-employer-emailexpectations.html
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