Teaching Trenches: Working Late Nights

If you’re on schedule with the teaching roller coaster, you’re still pulling late nights trying to keep your September pace. After five years of teaching the same curriculum, I still work fairly late and have mastered the late night routine more than say, dating. Here are some tips for making the evening hours more pleasurable when you’re stuck at school.

1. Pack lunch AND snacks AND dinner.  If you know you’ll be at work beyond 6:00 PM, pack dinner the night before. This keeps you from scraping up quarters for the vending machine that dispenses stale animal crackers and Cheetohs.  Also, you’ll skip out on trips to the closest food joint that you’d probably dodge if you weren’t working late nights.  Just like you would’ve dodged that pizza in college, right?

2. Equip yourself to prepare hot beverages in your classroom (if you’re allowed). I’m not talking about buying one of those ridiculous single cup servers. I’m talking about a simple electric tea kettle.  One of these will do.  In addition, store plenty of tea (or instant coffee if you prefer) and a favorite mug. I rely on my tea kettle to get me through the night and to get me going the next morning.  My colleagues don’t mind having it at their convenience either.  It’s also a good way to avoid morning coffee club in the teacher’s lounge.

3.  Bring comfortable clothes.  Once 4:00 hits and my last student is out the door, I’m in comfy clothes.  Usually, I bring my gym clothes so that I’m ready to work out before I leave the building, or I put on a pair of yoga pants and sweatshirt. Make sure you’re properly dressed because you never know when Rico Suave will come back for his forgotten homework.

4.  Store slippers.  I keep slippers (among other shoes) in my desk at all times.  They’re not the obnoxious kind with teddy bears sticking out from my feet, just a simple cable knit slipper that could even pass as a ballet flat.

5.  Listen to music well.  There’s nothing worse than the garbage quality of your laptop speakers.  If you don’t already have a set for teaching purposes, invest in a $30-$50 pair of speakers.  If you have a door, shut it, or at least keep the volume down.

6.  Take a walk.  Literally.  Get up from your computer and take a walk around the building inside if its dark, outside if its light out.  We have a gym equipped with elliptical machines and bikes.  Sometimes I make a visit if I need a brain break.

7.  Prioritize, make a list, and set the timer.  There are only 24 hours in a day.  Use them wisely.  I tend to take the backwards approach and work from the end of my lesson to the start so that I don’t skip out and say, “I’ll finish the rest later.”  This way, your most pressing issues get addressed and you work until you’re first item is complete.  I use the Kagan Timer on my laptop and get busy.

8.  Invest in a few lamps.  So maybe I’m known for sitting in the dark into the late hours of the evening, but there is nothing better than turning off the classroom lights and turning on a few lamps.  It just makes things seem that much more at home.

9.  Always be classroom ready.  I still envy the teachers who are prepared, copied, and ready to go weeks in advance.  Is that even real?  I do however, never leave my classroom until I’m 100% ready for my students the next morning.  That includes:  groupings made, tabletop cards displayed, copies made, homework on the board, agenda posted, and materials easily accessible.  You never know what can happen during the 9 hours you actually aren’t in the building.

10.  Befriend your custodians.  I’m serious!  They will be your only human contact when you pull those late hours, and you will develop a mutual respect for each other’s work.  Additionally, you never know when you’ll need more copy paper or the key to the laminating room at 9:45 PM.  You’ll be happy you befriended them and you’ll set a good example for your students as well.

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