I’m also a secondary teacher, and it is a very, very hard balancing act. So much depends on where you work as a teacher. It’s always a full on and demanding job, but there are some places that just work their staff like dogs until they burn out and then they replace them with NQTs and go back to the start of the process.
I trained in a multi-academy trust and they absolutely worked people to death (I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out that was literally true). It was quite common to listen to staff talk about how working there affected their marriages and their families. All the policies that you’d imagine with that - written lesson plans for every lesson, marking every book from every class every two weeks with leadership militantly enforcing that it was done and bullying anyone who hadn’t (which was everyone, obviously). By sheer dumb luck, when I got my job for my NQT year it was at a school where the culture was totally different and there was trust in teachers to do their job.
It’s still bloody hard though, when you work at a school like mine, you want to do as good a job as you possibly can. Trying to keep on top of everything is a struggle. Marking has always been the crux of the workload issue for me, and even with policies in place to manage this, it is hard. I’m not naturally a really organised person, but I’ve learned to keep a routine that keeps me on top of most of the job.
For me its about making sure I work from the minute I arrive at school to the minute I leave (I arrive at 7:45 AM, leave somewhere between 4 and 5). I try very hard not to get involved in the standard chats about how much work everyone has to do whilst everyone sits around drinking a coffee not doing that work.
I don’t work after school on a Monday because we normally have meetings, I always do most of my out of hours work on Tuesday evening because that’s when I’ve got the most patience with it - I get in, have some dinner, watch an episode of something and then work till about 9. Wednesday I either go to the gym or work depending on how much work we’ve got on, Thursday evening I normally work, although I try to make sure I down tools by half 8. I never work after school on Friday because that’s ludicrous.
On the weekends, I never work on Saturday, that’s when I see Katherine (my daughter), and it’s maximum 3 hours on a Sunday.
I used to work literally all the hours in the world. In my training years, including sleep, I worked out at one stage that I was at work, travelling between work, or working at home for 2 out of every 3 seconds per week. A combination of a bit more experience and more importantly, working at a better school has allowed me to kick that. I utterly refuse to go back to it.
I am, weirdly, lucky as a single Dad that I can ringfence my time with my daughter and refuse to let anything touch it. People with young families at home, I have often wondered how they do the job as well as many of them do. I can completely understand your move towards getting out. I have no idea what your school’s like, but I would say have a look at what’s out there before you give up on the profession altogether.