Life School 4-Day School Week Teachers’ Perspectives

man standing in front of white board

Red Oak, TX, April 2, 2024 – It’s no secret that teaching has become one of the most challenging professions one can endure. Since the COVID-19 outbreak, public education has experienced a mass exodus of teachers not only leaving their schools, but exiting the profession altogether.

Student learning loss, behavior issues, parent disengagement and mental health concerns are among the chief reasons teachers have left their jobs. For school districts, attracting and retaining the highest quality teachers has become a significant challenge.

Life School, a local charter district serving the Dallas area, found a way to create flexibility for teachers that would ensure their students are being taught by the best and brightest in the industry while promoting a healthy work-life balance for staff.

In August of 2023, Life School began its first ever 4-day school week. Students and families have already weighed in claiming the new schedule allows for greater flexibility, less stress and an improvement in mental health concerns. But now, Life School wants to hear from its own teachers.

According to the Harvard Business Review, “Corporate programs that support work/life balance promote productivity, reduce turnover, and improve employees’ mental and physical health.” Based on the feedback from staff and the Talent department, Life School appears to be moving the needle in the right direction.

Overwhelmingly, and not surprisingly, most teachers enjoy the greater flexibility. They are able to use their off day to complete practical tasks such as running errands, scheduling doctor’s appointments, and pursuing higher education degrees. “I really enjoy having an extra day where everything is open to get my errands done! I am able to schedule my appointments for those days and do my shopping without it being so packed!” says one Life School teacher.

Additionally, they make use of the added downtime by spending time with their families, taking long weekend trips, and resting both mentally and physically. “[ I ] can more easily take weekend trips to see family without affecting what I need to do at home; have extra time to relax but still get things done. The work week zooms by, meaning I have more energy when I’m at work, too.” says a relieved staff member.

Notably, teachers are able to take more self-care with the 4-day work week. One teacher tells us, “As a teacher you have to spend one weekend day preparing for all of the things, and last year that would leave no “me” or “family” time. Now that we have four day weeks, I am able to have a day to prepare without rushing and I get to enjoy my weekend. My mental health has totally improved, as well as my motivation and inspiration. It is so wonderful!”

Many teachers find that the extra day allows them to be much more prepared mentally and physically to start their week. “​​The 4 day school week is amazing! I love that I am able to be in the classroom and with the students for 4 days, but able to rest and recover on Fridays. Additionally, as a teacher, this has been such a positive change for me this year, allowing me to feel more prepared and rested for the work week.”

With all that teachers are being asked to do in and out of the classroom, some teachers find this off day imperative to their ability to continue teaching at a high level. “It allows me that extra day to rest and recoup but also plan or prep for the next week if needed. I can leave work on time and not feel burned out by the end of the week and also not feeling unprepared and stressed by Monday morning from trying to squeeze in everything for my personal/family life on the weekend that I couldn’t do during the week.”

In order to have a 4-day school week and still meet the minimum required minutes from TEA, Life School had to extend the learning day. However, many teachers have discovered that the longer class periods have actually increased productivity for students.

Several teachers tell us:

“I like the longer class periods. We´re further along than we were last year. Now that we have had more Fridays off, that’s nice also.”

“It’s great! I like that I can teach the entire lesson without interruption.”

“On the teaching side, having the longer class periods has created a better workflow similar to that of a block/modified block schedule so lessons are less choppy and allow for a variety of learning styles to be met during a single day.”

Life School’s Talent department has also noticed an improvement in retention. While official retention numbers won’t be available until July, numbers are trending in the right direction. And as it relates to recruiting, potential new teachers are enthusiastic about the idea of having longer weekends for time with their family and much-needed rest and recuperation.

Overall, students, families and now staff, all agree. The benefits to the 4-day school week are great for increased productivity, greater physical rest and improved mental health. All of these elements have helped to restore a love for teaching as one teacher has summed it up with, “The four day work week benefits me by being able to rest and come back Monday and teach with such joy and confidence in my teaching.”