One perk to teaching internationally is the chance for a better work-life balance.
At my school in Malaysia, our early Friday finishes are just one such way that this can be achieved.
Our usual school day runs from 8am to 4pm from Mondays to Thursdays, with time for co-curricular activities built into the timetable. On Fridays however, we finish at 12.30pm. The original reasoning for this early finish was to facilitate attendance to Friday prayers as Malaysia is an Islamic country.
However, there are many different ways this gained time can be utilised, creating a positive impact on teachers’ wellbeing.
Of course, finishing early on a Friday could have a knock-on effect for parents and childcare needs. However, for many students, Friday afternoons are occupied by tutoring, sporting activities or music lessons, while parents remain at work.
For teachers, the benefits of this early start to the weekend are numerous:
1. Easing of workload
For many teachers – and particularly those with young families – they choose to continue to focus on work on Friday afternoons.
They use the time to catch up on admin tasks, plan lessons for the following week and to provide feedback to students.
Having a dedicated afternoon with no students in school means that they can complete tasks with a focus that can be hard to find during a lunch break or non-contact time, when the hustle and bustle of the school day can cause unexpected interruptions.
Completing this work on Friday afternoons can help to ease the workload during the school week, and avoids the need to have to take work home over the weekend.
2. Time to relax and unwind
For other teachers, the early Friday finish facilitates an opportunity to celebrate the end of another busy week by going out socially for lunch, heading for a manicure, or spending time at the swimming pool with friends or family.
Some groups head off to play in a local football league, while others spend the afternoon at the golf club. On some occasions, people will make a dash for the airport, touching down by a beach in Langkawi before 4pm for a long weekend trip!
This additional time for relaxing activities leaves everyone feeling much more refreshed when they return to work on Mondays.
3. Additional CPD
Once each half term, the school dedicates Friday afternoons to twilight CPD sessions. This can involve whole-school, departmental and/or specialised CPD workshops.
By placing training sessions into usual working hours (1-4pm), it does not eat into the evenings – when staff are already exhausted.
With no need to spend a long evening in school for training, staff are more engaged and enthusiastic about their continuing professional development, which has a knock-on positive effect on its impact.
Finishing early on a Friday can certainly help to maintain a positive work-life balance and improve teacher wellbeing and satisfaction.
Obviously, there are some caveats to the success of early Friday finishes – it may not be feasible for all schools because of timetabling restrictions and other considerations, and the benefits outlined here may not work for all teachers.
However, the extra half-day to my weekend each week has definitely had a positive benefit on work-life balance and overall wellbeing. So, if it can work, perhaps it is a perk worth investigating!
Caitlin Gray is a secondary English teacher and extended essay coordinator at an international school in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia