“Well, it’s not going to be as difficult as teaching full time is it?”
That’s what you’re thinking, isn’t it? I knew it, and you’re right. I taught full time for five years and I know exactly what the challenges are.
After those five years, I felt burned out. So in January 2018, I decided that if I was going to continue as an effective teacher, I needed to do less of it.
I had no idea what working part-time would actually be like when I made that decision, however. I just knew I wanted – no needed – to do it.
My situation, I think, is a relatively unusual one. I know a lot of teachers who work part-time – as I’m sure you do – and almost all of them do so because of their children.
I don’t have children and with no plans to have any, that was certainly not my motivation.
I was motivated by spending more time on my life outside of teaching. I wanted to see my family more, pursue my ambition to write and publish a novel and complete a Master’s in education. And after one year of part-time work, I’ve completed these things and enjoyed the process.
Here’s me talking about my novel, Kathmandu:
But there has been a difficult side too. A side which I hadn’t expected and was unprepared for.
“No of course it won’t. I’m cutting my working hours in half, I’ll have time to do everything.”
That’s probably what I would have said if you’d asked me if I thought working part-time would lead to feeling overwhelmed.
Sadly, I didn’t have time to do everything. But then I suppose that’s always going to be true.
I quickly realised that I am as hard on myself to get my own projects done as I am with school tasks. I realized I never expect things to take as long as they do, so I feel like I’m always behind.
I had to learn that ambitious goals are great, but it’s also important to be realistic, plan ahead and relax.
In the lead up to working part-time, I had excitedly written a list of everything I wanted to do with the extra days I’d have. I’d even included random things like: enrol in a music production course and start writing a non-fiction book. Sure, I’d like to do these things one day, but they’re not essential.
I realised that, yes, I do have more time, but it still goes very quickly.
The change here was that I had to choose what to prioritize. Unlike in school where your priorities are chosen by your timetable, a marking deadline or something else, I had to decide what I wanted to create or make progress with that day.
This was a total contrast to the previous year when I had so little time to focus on the projects I loved – like my writing – so every moment had to be used.
I realized quickly in those first few months I had to work hard to keep that laser-sharp focus. Otherwise, any task would fill the time it was given.
I didn’t consider this at all as I’ve always thought of myself as an independent person.
But, whatever you are doing, having people around you to take a break with, to moan, chat and laugh with is so important. It’s something I definitely missed during the days I was working alone.
Of course, in school, I’m still part of the team, but I’ve realised how much I miss that when I’m on my own. Now I make sure to arrange something for an evening during the days I’m working from home, just to talk to another person!
I know this isn’t really something we know about as teachers. We’re always taking work home, it’s part of the job. However, at least there is a difference between the things you do in your spare time and what you do for work.
During the last year, I found it was even easier than before to work every hour of the day because I love what I do. It’s fun work.
Love it or not, it’s still work and I soon realised the importance of time away from the computer.
There have of course been many positives. I’ve seen my family (who live 200 miles away) every few weeks, I’ve completed my masters, I’ve published my first book and I’ve felt as though I’ve done a better job for my students.
Most importantly, I’m looking forward to doing it all again – this time prepared for the challenges.
Would you consider working part-time?
What do you think the greatest challenges would be?