My alarm goes off at 5:30am, but I usually roll over until about 5:50am. It’s never a good choice, but it’s so hard to pull myself out of bed after less than seven hours of sleep. After a shower and breakfast and getting ready it’s almost 6:45am and I quickly kiss the heads of all three of the Sluiter boys before embarking upon my 35-minute commute.School starts at 7:30am and I can’t be late. I roll into the parking lot at exactly 7:19am–four minutes later than I am supposed to be, but six minutes before the “go to class” bell rings, so it is what it is. When the weather gets snowy and awful I will have to get moving by 6:30am for sure. Once in my classroom I get the water warming for tea and turn on my scentsy to attempt to dissuade my classroom from smelling like teenagers. By this time, students are starting to come in and it’s only a matter of time before that bell rings telling the rest of the stragglers to get here.
First hour I teach English 12 (12th grade English = British literature in my school), so I put the bell ringer up on the projector screen (I start each hour with writing). My students come in and most get right to writing. I do some need prodding, and once the final bell rings I hear myself saying, “Ok, that’s it, everyone should be writing. Let’s go. Why do I still see desks without notebooks? Good morning! Let’s go!”
While they write, I take attendance. After they write, it’s on with the day’s lesson/activities. Lately my students have been reading Medieval Literature and they have been working on some webquests. Long story short, each student is part of a Round Table of Knights (6 in a group) and each knight did research (a quest) on a different topic. Today they presented to their groups. As they present, I walk around listening. Student groups are grading each presenter, so I listen to presentations and watch the grading and make sure students are asking questions and staying on task. From time to time I answer a question or ask a question. And of course I snap pictures.
There are, of course, kids who don’t have their work done, and I talk to them about when they will have it done. And I talk to kids who have been absent for days and days about what they need to get done. I answer calls from the office and check on grades. Before the bell rings to end the 55-minute class period, I make sure I have all the grade sheets and all the projects and that students know what we are doing the rest of the week.
Second hour is my planning period. As announcements start over the PA, I find all the things that need copying, dropped off somewhere in the building, and/or posted somewhere. Inevitably I either forget something or get something else in my comings and goings. I use the time to do some housekeeping in my classroom (this particular week I had to stamp and number 150 new copies of A Tale of Two Cities and unload 150 copies of Macbeth that my students will be starting soon). I also update my posted student learning objectives, the calendar of due dates, the posted announcements, and all that jazz.
I prepare lessons for the next units, create assessments and activities (or tweak old ones), grade things that have been turned in. And I always run out of time in that 55 minutes before my planning period is over. Third hour is actually 30 minutes and is something called Extension. I have Eleventh Grade Extension so if it’s Monday, we do Article/Graph of the week to work on literacy, if it’s Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday we do ACT practice, and if it’s Wednesday I conference with each of them about their grades in all their classes while the rest of the class works on homework.
Fourth hour is a repeat of first hour.
Fifth hour I teach Mass Media. We look at how society is reflected in media in this class. We have done a Social Media unit, a Sci-Fi unit (where we look at how societal fears are represented in science fiction films such as the fear of Communism being represented in The Invasion of the Body Snatchers), a persuasive unit (documentaries and modes of persuasion in the media), evaluative writing (writing movie reviews on a blog), and teens in the media (how teens have been/are represented on TV and film). On any given day students are either watching a film or working on an essay/project.
This class period is also interrupted by B lunch (we have three lunches: A, B, & C. I have B lunch which falls halfway through 5th hour. I know. It’s weird). So we have 25 minutes of class, 30 minutes of lunch, and then 30 minutes of class. I love my job, but lunch is my oasis in the day. It’s my chance to talk to adults about adult stuff like holiday plans and our kids. I have the best co-workers and I look forward to laughing at lunch every single day. Plus the walk back to my classroom reminds me that I only have two and a half class periods left before the end of the day. Time goes fast when you’re having fun…and are super busy.
After fifth hour wraps up, it’s time for sixth and seventh hours. They are the same as first and fourth hours. Of course, it’s easy to say that those four hours are the same, but they never are really. I mean, the content is the same. We do the same activities. But the fires I put out and the questions I answer and the issues I deal with are all different because each class is a different group of kids. When they leave at 2:30pm, my day is not over. Not yet.
If it’s a Monday or a Wednesday, I get prepared to teach my college course from 4:00-5:30pm.
If it’s Tuesday, Thursday, or Friday, I continue my grading or lesson planning, or whatever from my planning period.
And almost every day there is at least one student who needs help or to make something up or just needs to talk. Twice a month I have staff or department meetings. Sometimes I have phone calls to make. Every day I have emails to answer. I almost always lose track of time and have to fly out to either make it to my class on time or to daycare on time to pick up my boys.
And often I bring work home.
Looking over this post, I realize it doesn’t even really capture what a day in my life as a teacher really is. I do a lot, yes, but even more so my job is emotional and intellectual. I use my heart and mind all day.
This job I have is exhausting and it pulls me in every direction, but I wouldn’t change it. I wouldn’t. If I could quit teaching right now, I wouldn’t do it.
Teaching is my gift.
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