A Day in the Life: Teacher Edition

If you’ve been around here long enough, you know that I am an eighth grade language arts teacher.  If you’ve been around here even LONGER, then you know that this is a career shift for me, as I was formerly in an administrative role at Yale University.  If you’ve been around here since God was a child, you probably also know that I got my Masters in Educational Leadership while working full-time at Yale.  While my career path has been centered on education in some capacity for the past ten years, it has shifted significantly in the past four years and I find myself in a position today that I would never have planned ten or fifteen years ago.  However, there is no doubt in my mind, that secondary education is exactly what I was put on this earth to do. IMG_0824 For anyone who is considering going back to school while working, let me be the first to tell you that it is totally possible.  Let me also tell you that changing careers when you have two small children at home is totally possible.  And let me further tell you that finding the career path that makes you get up every morning excited and ready to face the day is not only possible, it is necessary.

If you’re considering a career as a classroom teacher, I thought I would share my daily schedule and routine with you.  And, keep in mind, this schedule includes taking care of my own little family of four because the only reason I work outside the home is to make my home life better for my family.

6:00am – I get up before anyone else and begin my day with my daily devotional and prayer time, followed by a quick shower.

6:45 – I get out of the shower and start getting dressed while I simultaneously nag Chris to wake up and get the kids going.  I’m a multi-tasker, as you can see.

7:00 – The kids get up and ready for the day (Bean dresses himself and I run down the hall and get Gracie dressed), head downstairs, and Chris feeds them breakfast while I finish getting myself ready.

7:25 – I book it downstairs, throw my lunch together, grab the kids’ school bags, and we head out of door by 7:30.

7:40 – Daycare drop off

8:00 – Arrive to school.  I don’t have to be there until 8:30, but I get more done in that first half hour than I will get done all day.  I get my board set up for my lesson that day.  I set up my technology (we are a digital school and all my students have iPads, so most of my lessons are digitally based).  I also check my mailbox in the front office and drop off any copies I need made or any paperwork I had to take care of the day before.

8:40 – We have parent/teacher conferences in the mornings, and I have them 2-3 times a week.  I bring in the student’s grade report, along with any standardized testing we have done.  I sit with all the student’s other teachers, the parents, the student themselves, and an ESE coordinator if the child is an ESE student.  I teach all of the ESE students in 8th grade and so most of my conferences are discussing IEP’s and 504 plans, which are both accommodations and legal requirements students with learning disabilities receive.  These students are required to have conferences each year to reevaluate their ESE program.  We set goals for the student for that school year, and we also discuss any issues we have seen the student struggling with – either socially or academically. IMG_3117 9:00 – Conferences are usually over by 9:00, unless there are extenuating circumstances and the conference needs to run longer.  Last week, I was in the conference until about 9:15 for a child who is homebound due to illness.  If a conference goes long, it usually breaks my heart because it is about a real serious issue. If my conferences have ended by 9:00, I go back to my classroom.  I am an advisor for an honors society at my school, and I have those meetings once a month in my classroom with 50-75 students at 9:00 before school begins.  We meet for 20 minutes to discuss our next service project or to check in about the one we are currently working on.  We just finished raising over $3,300 for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society in October, and in November we collected over five large packing crates worth of non-perishables for Second Harvest Food Bank. If there are no meetings or conferences at 9:00, I head back to my classroom and grade papers until the school day starts at 9:30.

9:30 – 12:30 – 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Periods!  These are my favorite classes of the day.

12:30 – Planning period!  This is the one hour in my day when I get myself caught up from the morning.  Every Tuesday, I have professional development, which is a meeting led by one of our administrators and it is where we get information we need from the county. During planning periods on Wednesday, I plan units with my PLC (professional learning community).  These are the other two eighth grade language arts teachers, and we plan our units together so that we are teaching the same subjects and topics at the same time.  However, we plan our daily lessons individually.  So, I might use a different lesson to teach, say, theme, than the other teachers, but we all know that by the end of the unit, we should have taught our students theme.  We then test the students using the same exam (or project), and we get together in these PLC’s and compare our results.  Who taught it best?  What did they do?  What can the other teachers do to re-teach parts that their students still struggle with?

Most other planning days during the weeks are free for me to plan.  This is when I do my own daily lesson planning.  I always have a unit that I am working within, but I usually only plan specific daily lessons a few days before.  I keep my schedule fluid so that I can take longer with subjects that my students seem to need more time with, or I can go quicker through subjects they seem to master easily.  That way, my teaching is more geared towards what students NEED, rather than just a list of lessons I am arbitrarily teaching. IMG_1812 1:00 – LUNCH!  I eat in the teacher’s lounge with a ton of other eighth grade teachers from all different subject areas.  We catch up about our families and personal lives, but we also give each other info about certain students who might be struggling or having a bad day.  It isn’t uncommon to hear a teacher announce, “Does anyone have Jane Smith?  You might want to give her some space today, I hear her family is going through something rough right now.”  It’s always nice to get context on students, so that you know how to handle them in class – when to push and when to back off.

1:20 – 3:50 – 5th, 6th, and 7th periods.  These are all of my ESE classes, so the last half of my day is usually a lot more intense than the beginning.  These classes move at a slower pace, though I still use the same texts and materials with them that I use in my regular and advanced classes from the morning.  They might be ESE, but they are still in eighth grade, and my job is to make sure they have the tools they need to read eighth grade level material. For example, my classes are getting ready to read an excerpt from Thomas More’s “Utopia,” which was published in 1516.  It is a highly complex text.  My earlier classes will be marking up the text in one day, and then moving into an extension activity the next day, and then writing about it on the third day.  In my ESE classes, we will be marking up the text for the first TWO days, and then writing about it for two more days.  They will use the same text and the same writing prompt, but will get more instruction in how to maneuver a text this complex.  This is what I love about teaching ESE kids.  They aren’t dumb or slow or special or whatever else people wrongfully assume.  They just learn in a very different way.  My job is not to baby them or to reduce the work for them because they are absolutely capable of doing everything my other classes do.  They just have a different learning path to get them there. class2 3:50 – The bell rings, and I sit at my desk for 10 minutes and breathe!

4:00 – At 4:00, teachers are free to go, but I don’t like bringing work home with me.  Chris and I have this rule about no working from home.  Sometimes we have to break that rule, but for the most part, we make sure that work stays at work.  So, I stay until 5:00 everyday and get my work done at school.  During this time, I check and respond to emails. I go up to the front office and check my mailbox again or take care of paperwork.  I stop in and visit with other teachers or take care of any clerical or administrative stuff I have that week.  Mostly, though, I grade.  Monday through Thursdays I grade current work that I have assigned, and Fridays I grade late work.  Students know that if they miss a deadline, they won’t receive a grade until the following Friday.  Usually, this means they stay grounded until then.  Tough life.  Get your work in on time, dude.

5:00 – I leave for the day and head to pick up my kids from daycare.

5:30 – Daycare pick up

5:45 – Home, begin dinner, chat with kids while it cooks, check the mail, feed the dogs.

6:15 – Chris gets home and we all eat dinner together.

7:00 – Bath time and getting ready for bed.

7:30 – Book time and then lights out

8:30 – I blog, if I have any energy left.

9:30 – I sit on the couch with Chris and watch TV or read while he watches TV

11:00 – Chris and I head to bed. IMG_4496 Full days, but a full heart, too.  Working in public education was never part of my life plan.  But things have a way of working out how they are supposed to, despite anything we do ourselves.  Aside from becoming a parent, becoming a teacher has been the single most fulfilling experience of my life, and I mean that in all seriousness.  To spend your days stretching and shaping and challenging students is such a blessing and a joy.  These kids fill my days and my heart with laughter and they push me to be better, just as I push them. If you are considering a career change to education, let me caution you.  Do not go into teaching unless you are willing and prepared to have your life forever changed by those students.  If you go in halfway, you should just sit on the bench.  It’s all or nothing, in my experience.  And it’s in the all that the magic of teaching happens.

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15 thoughts on “A Day in the Life: Teacher Edition

  1. Your school sounds amazing!! I taught in an inner city school and it really wore me down. Your school sounds really supportive and organized. And I can’t believe the school day doesn’t start until 9:30! My first period started at 7:50-something, I can’t remember now but it was freaking early. LOL. I love reading positive posts about teaching–it makes me miss teaching, for sure and makes a little wistful that I couldn’t have the same positive experience. I would love to read more so maybe you should start a teaching blog! :0

  2. Katie, I knew you were awesome but this post points out how wonderful you are. So happy those students have such a great teacher!
    Merry Christmas

  3. Kristin

    What a great and honest post about public education. As a 9th and 11th grade English teacher, I can relate!

  4. jennybird

    The best teachers are those who love what they do.

  5. Meg

    I’d really love to hear any resources you suggest for working with students with learning disabilities-web sites, books, technology…..

    I have a half time job teaching English to students with specific learning disabilities, and I really struggle to get them engaged! I was a, “Regular,” English teacher before my kiddos were born, but after staying home for 8 years I feel sort of like Rip Van Winkle! We don’t have a ton of technology, but we can access laptops, and I have a smart board and half a dozen desktops. I have to admit most of my kids are working well below grade level, so this post is sort of shaming to me-but also inspiring. I know you don’t really have any free time (I should be grading something right now myself-lol), but if you ever have time to do a follow up, I’d love any suggestions.

  6. I’ve been wondering how you get a chance to watch TV, but I guess it’s because you stay up until 11pm. I would be a mess. But I also get up at 5am everyday. How do people find time to work out?!

  7. Definitely busy but I can see how fulfilling this job can be. You are making a huge differences in the lives of these kids. I always struggled with math and science until I went to college where I learned some new techniques for teaching myself and then I was golden.

  8. Sonya

    What a wonderful school model! Sounds like you really enjoy your job!

  9. NS

    Your day is really inspiring! “…the only reason I work outside the home is to make my home life better for my family” — I can really relate to this. I so admire how you can get so much done in a day, not only in your job but your family life as well. All the best, Katie!

  10. You are awesome Katie! Your students and school are so blessed to have you. I’m so glad you found your gift as a teacher. I am also a teacher and understand how amazing each day is and also how tiring. 🙂

  11. What a wonderful post! Though it sounds like your schedule is full, it sounds incredibly fulfilling and interesting. My plans didn’t include teaching either, but that is where I’ve found myself, and I couldn’t be more excited. I just graduated from my career switcher program and am ready to start teaching high schoolers, yikes! I kinda can’t wait. 🙂

  12. I am so jealous of your start time!! When I worked in public school we started at 7:30 (I would arrive at 6:45AM). Now we start at 8AM and I arrive at 7:30. Your way makes SO much more sense.

  13. I taught school for ten years in Texas, but it became more and more test centered and less and less about teaching. Then they started expecting us to be at school before 7:15 and to stay until 4:30 with very little time to plan. We were told to take paperwork (of which there was a ton) and grading home. When they started pushing us to do Saturday school, I threw my hands in the air and said, “no more”. I wasn’t going to sacrifice my family for my job. Your school sounds great!

  14. VC

    Kudos from a 11th & 12th grade biology teacher in California – I don’t know how you do middle school! It’s always great to hear how other school days are structured and what my day might be like when I have little ones of my own. Your schedule is so different from ours! We begin at 8 am (I teach zero period so I begin teaching at 7 am!) but my classes are over by 12:30. Also, I love that you get collaboration time! I’m going to mention that at our next staff meeting!!!

  15. as a speech pathologist in a public school, i loved reading this post!

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