Why You Shouldn’t Stay Late After School

Why You Shouldn't Stay Late After SchoolThere are those rare teachers, perhaps one or two at every school site, who pride themselves with how late they stay after school.

It gives them a kick, a buzz from feeling that they’re going above and beyond for their students. They like the planning and prep work of the job—a hobby like any other—and the resultant reputation their long hours give them among their colleagues.

It’s a choice they make, and it’s right for them. They go about their work unhurried and unstressed, with no particular urge to get away from it.

For others, though, toiling away after school isn’t a choice. At least, it doesn’t feel like one. It’s something they believe they must do just to keep their head above water, despite how stressed and unhappy it makes them feel.

But the truth is, for most teachers, staying late is a mistake.

Here’s why:

You’re not your sharp-minded self.

After a long day of teaching, a long day on your feet talking, making decisions, and managing your classroom, your mind won’t be nearly as sharp and clear as it was when you arrived in the morning. You’ll have a harder time concentrating and a harder time visualizing what needs to be accomplished. Thus, everything you do will take more time.

It’s a primary cause of teacher stress.

It’s natural to want to exhale after shooing your students out the door. It’s another day in the books, another day giving it your all. It’s only normal to want to straighten things up, organize your room a bit, and then get away—to go read a book, exercise, or get home to your family. Denying this need day after day will tear you up inside and cause a great amount of stress.

There are too many distractions.

Parents show up at your door, colleagues need to talk about this and that, former students stop in to say hello . . . The truth is, planning and preparing after school can be an exercise in fits and starts. Add to it the fact that when your mind needs a break, you’ll look for every excuse and every reason not to buckle down to work. It becomes a daily, unhappy battle of willpower.

You’ll burn out.

To be the best teacher you can be for your students, to have patience, calmness, and likability, to have spot-on classroom management and a passion for teaching, you must get away from it. You must afford yourself a daily mental and physical escape hatch. Otherwise, you’ll burnout. You’ll be uptight, short-fused, dissatisfied, and not very good for anyone—friends, family, or students.

The Alternative

Teaching is unlike most professions in that you have to be ‘on’ every day.

If you’re feeling stressed, overworked, and unhealthy, if you can’t get away from your classroom and take care of yourself and your home and family obligations, then you’re not going to be very effective.

The ability to prepare efficiently is an important key to effective teaching and classroom management. It also affects how much you enjoy your job and how successful you are balancing your home life.

There are many strategies you can employ to become more efficient, and we’ll cover them in future articles, but one in particular can alleviate the problems above in one fell swoop.

So what is this miracle strategy?

It is simply to wake up earlier. Do the bulk of your planning and prep work before school when your mind is focused and you have fewer distractions.

Now, I realize that for some teachers getting to work earlier isn’t so easy. You may have other responsibilities to take care of. But if you can carve out an extra fifteen minutes, just fifteen minutes, you’ll save yourself a half hour in the afternoon.

That’s right. You’ll get double the work done before school.

Use the afternoon to organize, visit with parents and fellow teachers, and close up shop in a relaxed, unhurried pace. Save the heavy lifting for the AM—when it won’t feel like heavy lifting.

Go home and take care of the ones you love—or go rock climbing or walking or surfing or snowshoeing or knitting or whatever soothes your soul.

Get away from teaching.

Leave school at school.

And you’ll catapult out of bed every morning, refreshed and excited about what you have in store for your students.

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23 Responses to Why You Shouldn’t Stay Late After School

  1. Roderick Woodard April 27, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    There are some schools I know of that offer morning tutoring for their students? Is this a good idea for teachers to do?

    • Michael Linsin April 27, 2013 at 6:38 pm #

      Hi Roderick,

      The short answer is that depends on the teacher. As long as the regular classroom doesn’t suffer in any way, I think it’s fine.


  2. Barry Mernin April 27, 2013 at 3:22 pm #


    Thank you for this. Here are my CM reflections. expatteacherman.com/2012/03/18/guest-post/

    It is a passion of mine.

  3. Charmaine April 27, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

    Good advice! I finally started getting up earlier and getting my work done before school just this school year. It only took me 35 years to figure it out! I do still have to stay late once it twice a week because of meetings or heavy prep work ( I teach art), but whenI get home, my time is my own and I love it!

    • Michael Linsin April 27, 2013 at 6:40 pm #

      Great to hear, Charmaine! Thanks for sharing.


  4. Ginger April 28, 2013 at 5:17 am #

    This post seems to think that all humans are the same and have the same needs, when by research, some of our brains are much better in some circumstances than others. See Dr John Medina’s “Brain Rules” and note lark vs owl. slideshare.net/pearpress/brain-rule-7-sleep

    And some have deeper family needs in the mornings than the afternoons.

    I have a feeling that if I walked into this teacher’s classroom, all kids would be treated the same as well, regardless if their personal learning styles or abilities and preferences. I’m guessing if not see a differentiated environment at all.

  5. Renee April 28, 2013 at 5:22 pm #

    Hey Michael

    I wrote a blog post about your article tonight. I am definitely one of those teachers!

    Here is the link to the post!


    • Michael Linsin April 29, 2013 at 6:59 am #

      Great Renee! Looking forward to reading it.


  6. Tashia April 28, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

    I honestly tried the before school arrival for a while, but inevitably students (high schoolers) assumed I was ready to communicate and assist in whatever they had going on if they too arrived early. There are certain tasks that I do better in the morning when it is quiet such as paperwork and organizing or running copies. I stopped coming in early because I could rarely get the things I came in early to do. I was getting so frustrated waking up early to go in only to get thwarted by someone else’s agenda and students immediately occupying the classroom just because I am there early. Further, there’s no polite way to really tell a student to wait until later when they want and expect you to be 100% on when you are visible at school. Then it also gets loud in the classroom because I feel horrible policing before school behavior such as listening to head phones or talking to friends (This is the only time they truly have to be loud without academic purpose).However, I just want peace and quiet when it is early because it is the only time it is quiet until I go home again. How do you create boundaries while letting students know that you are indeed there to help them as well.

  7. Mary April 30, 2013 at 9:00 pm #

    When was the last time you were a teacher in a real classroom? You are so totally out of touch. I’d like to see YOU spend an entire school year in a classroom at any grade level and implement your liberal one size fits all ideas. Unbelievable.

  8. Chuck May 1, 2013 at 7:33 am #

    I come in very early every day, and during this time I make copies, set up table if necessary, and most importantly just sit and relax and tell myself today will be a good day because I’m all prepared, and I won’t let anything get under my skin. Inevitably when I complete this morning ritual the day usually turns out good, or at least a day when I’m confident I’d done my best, and I usually leave feeling good.

    If I don’t have that time in the morning, and I forget to get my head in the game, my day often goes awry.

    I set a goal to leave by 4:00pm, which still makes it a 9 hour day, but some days I simply can’t leave until 5:00. I also am finding that I have to do a lot of work at home. My school computer simply can’t handle even the simplest of tasks before dying of outdated technology failures. But it is my first year, and spending a large amount of time planning every day and writing materials is necessary for me.

    • Michael Linsin May 1, 2013 at 8:03 am #

      Hi Chuck,

      I think you have an excellent morning routine, and there is nothing wrong with needing to stay late after school. The key point of the article is that if you don’t want to stay late, if it causes you stress and makes you unhappy, then getting up earlier will allow you to get more done in less time–and be a better teacher for your students.


  9. Doug Campbell May 4, 2013 at 12:12 pm #

    This is a great post, Michael .I totally agree. Teachers would be wise to guard their stress levels with extreme care, and in a proactive way.

    • Michael Linsin May 4, 2013 at 2:15 pm #

      Thanks Doug! Good to hear from you. Hope you’re doing well.


  10. Aubry October 26, 2013 at 8:27 am #

    This clearly is coming from a “morning person.” Let’s just say that I don’t accomplish much in the morning..

  11. Sally November 25, 2013 at 1:25 pm #

    I completely agree with balancing your life otherwise stress will make you dislike your job. However I think each person must find their own way to ‘leave’ school mentally as we’ll as physical. But a break is a must! For your own sanity as well as your family’s.

  12. Melissa sokol December 7, 2013 at 10:54 am #

    I am a convert to early morning arrival al school. My use of time includes early workout at the gym and reflection on my own interests . I arrive early enough at school to check I am prepared. I end up leaving around 4:00 every day. I don’t mind doing paper work in the comfort of my home.

    • Michael Linsin December 7, 2013 at 12:10 pm #

      Wonderful! Thanks for sharing, Melissa!


  13. Josh January 1, 2014 at 11:52 am #

    I highly recommend getting a couple hobbies that have absolutely nothing to do with teaching. That will help keep you sane as well.

  14. Anne April 25, 2014 at 6:38 am #

    I see most of the support for going in early is from male teachers. It may be stereotypical, but most male teachers I know have wives who take care of their children’s needs in the morning. Many don’t understand what it is like to be a teacher and solely responsible for their own children’s schedules. There is no possible way I can get to school early as I have my own children to think of. The mornings are “mom time”, although I do wake up before my kids to read and exercise. After school my children do their homework in my class and play together on the playground with the other teachers’ children. I am able to organize, reflect, and plan for the next day. Only then can I have closure and be able to be a mother and wife after I leave the classroom. Please consider the personal needs and differing styles of teachers before you assume we all stay after school only to satisfy our own pride or because we are overwhelmed. Every teacher is different and their strategies to do what works for them to stay effective will be different as well.

  15. Emily April 28, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    What I mostly took from this article was the underlying message to avoid overworking, which I see way too often in teacher culture–yet not so much in reality. The “good” teachers are the ones who live and breathe teaching. Which is great–every field needs a few of those people.

    But most of us DO have lives outside of teaching, and going in early (or whatever works for you) can help one out.

  16. Lessie October 24, 2015 at 8:34 am #

    With three completely different preps I am always snowed under. Staying late is the only way I survive. Your article however true feels like a whip to the whipped. Thanks.

  17. Anna P October 24, 2015 at 8:44 am #

    I am on my first official year of teaching full time and I do stay after school A LOT. I don’t feel like I have a choice with what I need to get done. Planning takes a while for me since I think through every single detail of my planning so I am doing all the right things. I want all the lessons to be purposeful and that takes time. I want to be that person that goes in early, and have been this year already. I have 5 kids and a husband and life outside of school that I want to live. I’m going to try this earlier arrival to school more often and see how much I get done so I can leave around 4 every day. When I’m planning the time goes by so fast and I feel that I get little done in that time, especially after school when I just want to relax and do things slower. I know my family would love for me to be home more. I would too!