Teacher Notebook

A Day in the Life

Yesterday, I set my alarm for 5:20 a.m., 10 minutes earlier than usual. A student had made plans to meet with me at 6:50 to do make-up work and discuss his grade. I didn’t actually get out of bed at 5:20, though, and after a shower I considered my options: Make a PB&J and grind coffee, or stop by my favorite morning coffee stand and grab a latte and a breakfast burrito. It was a Friday, at the end of a long but busy week, so I chose the latter.

I left the house about 6:20. The breakfast stop added on about six extra minutes to my daily commute, and I walked through the doors of my school at 6:52. My student was waiting for me.

He followed me up the stairs to my classroom, and as we set our belongings down at our respective desks, I suggested that he check his portfolio for study materials for a missing quiz. We spent the next 20-25 minutes sorting through what he was missing, with him turning in and completing some assignments and me inputting grades for his late work.

He thanked me and I thanked him for coming in to get caught up, and he left. It was about 7:20 a.m.

I spent the next 10 minutes setting up my computer, ActivPanel with daily agenda, and classroom to be ready for students when the first bell rang at 7:30.

As usual, it felt like I barely made it.

Class starts at 7:45 but students are released from the lobby, cafeteria and library to go to their lockers at 7:30. I usually have one or two students in my room by 7:32, so it’s anybody’s guess how those 13 minutes will go.

You can’t have early students start on bell work that only lasts 5 or 10 minutes, because then they’ll be finished by the time morning announcements start and having nothing to do but let their adolescent brains tell them to talk to their neighbor (or poke him, or chase him around the room). Plus, those who arrive at the last minute will need all those 5-10 minutes I give them at the start of class to settle themselves and finish the work.

But you can’t tell students to leave when they enter your room 10-15 minutes early, because other staff members are pushing students out of the hallways because they’re already overcrowded. However, we’re all supposed to be in the hallways monitoring and greeting students in those 15 minutes, while simultaneously supervising the students in our classrooms who have nothing to do yet, and I promise you — no matter how close you stand to the doorway of your classroom, you cannot keep eyes on both areas at once.

So when a sixth-grader yells the F-word in the hallway, you walk up and remind them of the expectations, and then you will probably have to enter your classroom to remind another two sixth-graders they are not allowed to chase each other around the room (this happened at least twice in the last two weeks).


Period 1 (7:45-8:37)

After morning announcements, there are a few more minutes of silent reading while students are doing bell work and I am taking attendance. The bookshelf managers collect borrowed books, then it’s time for three “good things.” After that, we review the “Wordles” students made the day before, discussing some of the words they chose and why those words might describe the author of our class text (Zlata’s Diary). With not enough time to pass out books and get settled reading, we spend the last few minutes playing silent ball, and they launch with “Give the world a reason to dance!” (a quote from a Kid President video).

After a quick clean up and shuffling of papers, I go to my post at the top of the stairs to monitor students over the passing period and direct them back to the office to get a tardy slip if they haven’t made it to class in five minutes.

Period 2 (8:42-9:30)

On my prep, I checked my email and spent the rest of the time inputting scores for assignments (bell work) my T.A. had graded last period, and grading late work. The entire period. I don’t think I even went to the bathroom, but I did shovel in the breakfast burrito I bought that morning, at my desk.

Period 3 (9:35-10:23) & Period 4 (10:28-11:16)

A somewhat painful blur (or two). These two (seventh-grade) classes have been acting up lately, so it was an effort, to say the least, to get through 10 minutes of silent reading, and three good things, and to review the answers to the Ch. 3 questions for Elon Musk and the Quest for a Fantastic Future (Young Readers Edition) without interruption.

In other words, I was constantly circulating to correct behavior and answer questions.

I then gave each class the last 10-15 minutes to make up missing work (in our class or other classes) instead of reading from the book. They needed it — the end of the quarter is next week — but maybe half to two-thirds of each class used the time wisely.

Lunch (11:16-10:46)

Finally some breathing room (except when I was eating, because obviously taking a deep breath with food in your mouth is not a good idea). I had a bagel I snagged before I left the house with cream cheese I left in the office fridge I share with another teacher. And an orange. I ate in my office with a colleague (who usually lunches with my neighbor, who had a sub that day), talking some personal, non-school stuff (like injuries and summer plans), but mostly students we’re trying to reach and the proposed budget cuts and the state of education in Alaska.

We think about these things every day, and the bell announcing the arrival of students almost always comes too soon.

Period 5 (11:51-12:39) & Period 6 (12:44-1:32)

Fifth and sixth periods flew by, too, as we again reviewed and discussed student Wordles. Fifth period is my largest at 31, and sixth period is my smallest at 22, so the smaller class usually finishes early. They got to play silent ball for the last four minutes.

Period 7 – Japanese Enrichment (1:37-2:15)

A lot of students were missing that day (some of whom I had seen earlier, but had either gone home early or been sent to the Student Responsibility Classroom for behavior issues) but I had them all take a hiragana practice test and pretty much all of them failed. Even the five returning students from Quarter 2. So, I had them fill in all their missing answers and record some extra-credit vocabulary and told them they had to get at least 10 characters correct next week to pass the test (at a 60%). Then I collected the tests and had them stack chairs and launch with おつかれさまでした (o-tsu-ka-re-sa-ma-desh-ta) when the bell rang at 2:15, the end of the day.

Sort of.

After shuffling some papers and picking up trash, I poked my head in the hallway about 2:18 to “monitor,” but students were clearing out quickly and I was feeling the pull of work piling up. So after about 10 seconds, I went back to my desk, graded (checked) the hiragana practice tests and sent a weekly update email to a parent who had requested it at conferences a couple weeks ago. Then I realized I had forgotten to take this mandatory online training about phishing scams and the like. I think it was supposed to take half an hour but may have taken longer since I was grading and sorting and picking up around the room as I was listening. I spent the rest of my time at school grading late work (not the 42 book reports I’m trying to get graded this weekend) and a tiny bit of time organizing.

Oh, and troubleshooting with the student whose parent I had just emailed, because he still couldn’t figure out how to submit his book report online, the way I had described in class.

I left my room at 4:55 p.m.and went straight to my parents’ for dinner and to decompress (my husband was still at work and I wasn’t ready to go home to an empty house; also, I had planned to go to the gym, but I was hungry and didn’t feel like sweating in another crowded place).

A lot of our conversation, once again, revolved around school and students (my mom’s a recently retired teacher, so that’s part of it). I spent about 10 minutes writing out the names of all my students from memory (I remembered 155 out of 158, I think), then realized it was after 9 p.m. and probably time to go home.

I arrived around 9:30, I think, and watched an episode of “The Umbrella Academy” with my husband. Then we went to bed, around 11 p.m., after a little discussion of our respective days and some current events.

That was my Friday. Now to tackle the piles of laundry and dishes that have accumulated around the house over the last week or two…

Oh yeah. And grade more book reports. And worry about my students more. And not think about all the things I have to accomplish over spring break, instead of visiting my sister and her new baby.

This is the life of a first-year teacher.


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