Friday, March 18, 2011

A day in the life....

Besides being a pretty awesome Beatles song (my favorite one of theirs, too, btw), I felt this would be a good title for my very first Blog post here. There has been a lot of anti-teacher rhetoric in the news....even the atmosphere....lately. While I believe we have the right and the responsibility in this country to debate things like the government's role in education, I think that the attempts at villifying teachers are not only counterproductive but downright destructive to education.

So....for all those who think that teaching is an easy job and that I make a ton of money for a part-time job, I give you a day in my life:

5:00 am- I wake up to take my thyroid pill. I have a condition that requires me to take this pill an hour before eating and if I don't eat by 6:10, I won't eat again until 11:00. Not healthy. Once I've taken my meds, I go back to my bed and watch the news for about 20 minutes before getting my shower and getting ready for school. While I'm in the shower, while I'm getting dressed, while I'm doing my hair and putting on make up, while I'm eating my breakfast, I am thinking of all the things that I must accomplish by the end of the day.

6:20 am- If the weather is good, I'm walking out my front door with my purse; a bag containing my lunch, a container of water, and whatever schoolwork I took home the night before (sometimes this includes a teacher textbook that weighs over 15 lbs.); and the laptop that I earned through participation in a school grant program. If the weather is NOT good, I'm probably already on my way to school white knuckling it as I head down the mountain behind coal trucks, school buses, and other commuters.

7:00 am- I pull into the street next to the high school. There is massive construction taking place and parking...never a plentiful extremely limited. Those who arrive later than 7:15 can expect to circle a few times before finding a spot or to walk for a few blocks. Besides, I can't walk in and teach straight off. It takes time to prepare the classroom for a full day of instruction.

7:05-7:25 am- I set up my laptop, login to the school system, bring up a few video clips or a segment of text I wish to use or definitions to terms we'll be learning, write today's agenda on the board, organize the attendance cards, check yesterday's attendance against the bulletin, organize all the handouts I'll distribute for the day, and check my email to make sure I don't have any new instructions from my principal.

7:25 am- I go into the hall, clipboard in hand, to monitor student activity. I look for students using cell phones or iPods. I make sure no one is wearing a hat or a hoodie. I sniff the air to see if a fight is brewing. I yell "Let's go! Let's get to class! You're gonna be late!" when the 3 minute warning bell sounds.

7:40 am- As my 1st period kids begin work on the first assignment, I take attendance and place the attendance cards in a folder where they'll be picked up later. As late students enter, I have to remove their cards and/or make notes about this in my attendance record. I also have to check to make sure that each child has his/her district issued photo ID and that each is wearing it in a visible spot. Meanwhile, 15 of my 20 students are still working and the 5 who want to goof off have rushed through the assignment and are now kicking the backs of the seats of the people in front of them. God, if he is merciful, will put them all in one row together. I proceed to teach a lesson about poetry where I am more actor than I am instructor, creating an air of excitement in the classroom about something that elicited groans just moments before. 90% of the class appear to be amongst the living dead. Experts do say that the teenaged brain is not able to function sufficiently until about 10:00 a.m. so I tell stories. I rap....badly. I sing a little. I draw on the board....badly. I demonstrate skills by using "Mary had a little lamb" and the lyrics to an Eminem song. At the end of the period, I'm pretty sure my students know what I need them to know but I won't know until tomorrow's quizzes come back.

9:10 am- My first class is over and, as the students file out of the door, I go out into the hallway to once again monitor student movement. I wave hello to some of my former students, say "good morning" to others, and make short, polite conversation with most of them....all the while knowing that this may be the only time someone is excited to see them or is interested in talking to them all day.

9:15 am- Second period begins with the Pledge of Allegiance and school announcements. I struggle to keep the kids quiet because, inevitably, the kid who is the loudest will be the most offended when he misses an important announcement and I have to shrug and say "Sorry! I couldn't hear it either over all the talking going on!" Class proceeds pretty much like 1st period did only half of my students are still in a zombie-like trance and the other half are in a self-induced sugar high because the energy drinks they chugged before 1st period are finally kicking in. I am constantly walking a tightrope....trying to generate enthusiasm and interest while not losing control. That enthusiasm can quickly tip into the abyss of "off task conversation" and climbing back up that sheer rock face is treacherous and not for the faint of heart or the unskilled.

10:30 am- All the water I've been drinking to keep my voice lubricated has made its way to my bladder. My eyes glance at the clock (that I bought at Walmart and put up on the wall using a plastic hook and some sticky tape because the only clock the school provided is in the hallway and has been reading 10:24 for the entire 12 years that I've worked here). I notice that I still have 20 minutes before I can safely use the restroom. I can't help but wonder what other profession forces you to go to the bathroom on a prescripted schedule.

10:50 am- The bell rings and, as my kids file out, I hurriedly lock the door and dash down the hall to the restroom. My bladder is on the verge of exploding but I make it. Thank God I work on a floor where the bathroom is just down the hall instead of a floor up or down.

10:55 am- I am walking back to class and reminding students who are still in the halls that the bell has rung and they are now late for class. They roll their eyes. I shake my head.

11:00 am-11:33 am- This is my lunch time. I manage to eat while checking out the online edition of our local newspapers as well as national news sites. I also shoot off a few emails to parents, colleagues, the lady in the payroll office, and an occasional student. While I put away my lunchbox, I start to organize all my paperwork from the morning. I gather together the student papers that need correcting and make a stack of worksheets that I need to copy for the next day. I grab a notebook where I'm planning next week's lessons. I dash out the door with a portable clock, the papers that need grading, and two writing utensils because at....

11:33 am- I am due for hall duty. Luckily, my duty is at a desk in front of the boys' and girls' bathrooms. Sure, it has its downsides. What other profession asks you to listen to people urinate, defecate, pass gas, blow their noses and throw up? least I'm seated and have a chance to get some paperwork done. I grade three classroom sets of papers and enter the grades into my paper gradebook. I spend the remainder of my time (about 25 of my 45 minute duty time) recording areas of weakness for each student as demonstrated in the last assignment. This is called "progress monitoring" and must be done for all 65 of my students on a weekly, if not daily, basis.

12:15 pm- Hall duty time is over and I now have 45 minutes to make copies for all 65 of my students (plus a few extra for the kids who will inevitably lose or mutilate their original ones), enter the grades into the online gradebook, type up next week's lesson plans and upload them to the school website, file away last week's materials, return phone calls from parents, fill out a form asking for permission to do a fundraiser to defray costs for an upcoming field trip, call the company in charge of the fundraiser, fax a form to our state department of ed. and....oh....go to the bathroom one more time before 4th period starts.

1:00 pm- 4th period files in and class proceeds in much the same way as the other two except these students are exhausted from an entire day's worth of work. Just as we get settled in, the fire alarm goes off. The dreaded end-of-the-day monthly fire drill! I close all the windows, grab my emergency folder and gradebook, and follow my students down the stairs. Once outside, I gather them all together and take attendance so that I'm sure none of them has burned up in the building. There's always one who ends up wandering away towards another classroom and I spend 2 frantic minutes looking for him or her. The all clear is given once we have all taken attendance and accounted for all our students so we climb the three flights of stairs back to our classroom. Energized by this sudden break in routine, I spend the next 3 minutes calming my students and refocusing their attention.

2:35 pm- The dismissal bell finally rings and the students leave. I erase the board, reset the attendance folder for tomorrow's records, pick up the papers and writing utensils that have been dropped on the floor and left for dead, power off the computers, lock up the cabinets, gather together all my homework, and head out the door.

3:30 pm- Home! Finally!! Time to get dinner started, check my emails, check my phone messages, let the dogs out to go to the bathroom, and get some time in on the exercise bike.

4:30 pm- Some down time. I think I'll get on Facebook. I have for personal friends and one for students and parents. I spend a few minutes answering students' questions on my "professional" FB page and then head over to my personal one so that I can play a few games and do a little chatting.

7:00 pm- Dinner is now finished and the dishes are put away. Time to sit down with my homework. I'll spend the next two hours reading the same material that I assigned to my students this morning, researching a few related topics, completing all the worksheets I'm asking them to complete, grading a few remaining papers, and preparing my ideas for tomorrow's classroom activities (mini-lecture notes, material for group work, hands on activities, etc.).

9:00 pm- I finally get to sit down and watch a little TV with my family. Yay!

9:30 pm- I'm heading to bed. As I lie there trying to sleep, I make mental lists of all the things I need to do tomorrow when I get to school and all the things I need to point out during class in the morning. My nightly prayers are often peppered with requests to heal the broken hearts of my students, to give them the strength and the comfort they need, and to prepare them for the life that will await them.

10:00-10:15 pm- I finally drift off to sleep.

Exhausted by reading this?? Try living it.


  1. I read the news today, oh boy...
    About a lucky group of kids that made the grade.
    And though that news had been ignored,
    I just had to laugh,
    They don't know the half...

  2. I'm glad you've started this blog. Even we preschool teachers spend more than our 8 hour work day preparing, planning and praying for our children. Teaching is not a job that's just for a certain time frame every day - I can't remember one day when I didn't bring my work home with me. Whether that was completing progress reports, working on lesson plans or carrying the burden of a child (4 or 5 years old - even as young as 2) who spent more time at the preschool with us teachers than they did at home with their parents. Teaching may not be a very thankful job, but it's one I'm very proud to have been a part of and will, Lord willing, one day be a part of again. :)

  3. Thanks, guys! It means a lot. I hope that I'm doing my profession...and my avocation....justice in this blog. I love teaching and I love writing so I hope I'm making that clear.