A Day in my Life as a Teacher

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. Teacher Life 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. Teacher Life 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). 2013-11-26 09.01.12 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. Teacher Life 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. Teacher Life 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. teacher life 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.

Teacher Life

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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the first signs of fall

This summer I walked hand-in-hand with Eddie into the building that used to be my high school.  The cafeteria housed his gymnastics class, and it was the first time I had walked into the building since graduation in the spring of 1996.

After I graduated, the school turned into a second middle school for the district, housing all ninth graders in the second level.  A new high school was built on the north side of town. Cortney had his senior year in that new high school.

Since then, the building I knew as high school but is now a middle school evacuated the ninth grade into the two high schools that now make up our district.  Things have definitely changed in 17 years.

However, as I held my four-year old’s hand into this building I had entered thousands of times, I was knocked back to the mid-nineties by the smell of chlorine from the pools and whatever universal thing they clean schools with to make them all smell like teenage years.

I had to fight the old habit to turn left and head to the band room. That is the power of smells, isn’t it?

I am starting my eleventh year of teaching high school in just a few weeks, but I have started the pilgrimage back to my classroom a few weeks ago.

As I walked into the halls, each and every time, the smells of teaching and learning come back to me. When I open the door to my classroom I smell the cleanser and my muted vanilla scent along with that smell of school.

When I’ve been away from the smell, coming back to it gives me a sense of purpose, of renewal.

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It seems like every fall is a new adventure. Ever since my first year I could never predict what I would be teaching, where I would be, or what my student load would look like. Shoot, some years I didn’t even know if I would have a job because of all the budget cuts.

In all the years of teaching, I have never been able to answer the question of “so what will you be teaching this year?” with a confident answer. Nor could I just say, “same as usual”. There really hasn’t ever been a “usual”.

This year is no exception.

Over the weekend Eddie spotted the first red leaves on the trees by our house.

2013-08-09 11.24.00There it is.

The first signs of the changes that are coming.


This year I am teaching 12th grade English for the first time along with 11th grade English. I am also teaching a semester elective called Mass Media for the first time.

On top of that, I am continuing to take two online classes toward the 30 credits beyond my Masters degree.

AND I just took on teaching an evening writing class at the local community college two nights a week.

In order to do all these things, something had to give. Unfortunately I had to take a step back from my weekly posts at Borderless News and Views. This was hard for me since I love to write about my views–especially on the subject of education. But I also couldn’t let opportunities for me to make a difference in education pass me by either. Eventually I will be back, and in the meantime they are letting me sporadically post there. So watch for me!

Oh. And there’s one more thing.

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This guy is starting preschool in September.

All the other craziness aside, this is what is the hardest for me to wrap my brain around.

He and I are both SUPER excited and just a little bit nervous. But we have been talking about it. He likes the idea of going to school because to him, school is awesome. The big kids get to go to school. His mom works at a school. His mom and dad both have gone to school in his lifetime.  And now he gets to do that too.

This year we will start some new Back To School traditions, and as much as it hurts my heart to watch summer slip away, I am excited for the change that is peeking at us through the trees and blowing around in the wind.




summer ending: a letter

Dear Eddie and Charlie,

Over the past 5+ months we have developed a routine for our days.

In the beginning, it was just me and Charlie.  We spent our days napping between feedings and diaper changes.  But as he grew and Eddie started staying home most days, our days grew more full as well.

Charlie, you are still usually the first one awake, calling for me with your little yells through the monitor around 7am.  You greet me with a smile each and ever day, like you are SO happy that I came to get you up.  No matter how tired I am, I melt a little at that wide smile.  And once you know I am there for you, your tears immediately turn to coos as you play with your feet, my hair, anything you can reach while I change your diaper.

We migrate to my chair with a warm bottle in hand and watch the first hour (the only one really worth watching, in my opinion) of The Today Show.  Many times you are dozing off an hour after you originally woke up.

Eddie, that is when you usually make your appearance for the day.

Each day that you don’t have daycare you come slowly creeping up the stairs and peek your face around the corner and say, “hi mommy!”  I love it.  And I love that Charlie is usually back in bed so that I can scoop you up in the chair to me and get a big, sleepy hug.

We spend the next couple hours watching TV, playing cars, and eating breakfast.

By that time Charlie is usually up again wanting to eat.  This is when one of two things happens.  We either get dressed and head out for an adventure, or you head downstairs to play by yourself while Charlie helps me do a lot of nothing with whatever the day’s chores are.

Lunch is usually around noon and all three of us love to listen to some tunes while Eddie eats.  A dance party has been known to break out and Charlie has been known to screech-laugh.

Eddie, you like to watch Calliou.  I am just going to tell you. I hate that damn show.  Calliou is a whiny, weird child.  But you love it and it winds you down for nap, so I let it fly.

Charlie, you wind down during this time too.  Sometimes you pass out before daddy comes home for lunch, sometimes you wait until he leaves to go back, but there is usually about 30 minutes or so of nap overlap.

You would think I would use this time wisely.  That after almost 6 months, I would try to squeeze every second out of this time.  But the truth is? I usually waste it online.  Not even accomplishing anything like meeting a deadline or doing any promo.  Nope, I just dork around.  Oh and I usually try to eat something. Maybe shower…but that is pushing it.

Eddie, you usually get up between 3:30 and 4:00 to me and Charlie just hanging out watching TV.  I have been big into Friends re-runs this summer.  I have no idea why, well, other than the show is awesome.

Once Ed is up, we usually change it to Tivo-ed Loony Tunes until daddy gets home around 4:45.  Then he takes over while I get dinner ready.

It’s a nice routine.

It’s comfy.  We are all used to it and the number of meltdowns have great decreased because Eddie, you know what is coming.  And Charlie just does what he does.

But guys?  This week all that we have known this summer comes to an end.

Thursday you will both start going to Renae’s house full-time.

Eddie, you love it at Renae’s. The biggest struggle for you will be adjusting your sleep schedule.  You REALLY hate to be woken up, and prefer to do a slow wake up on your own.  And you’ve been going to bed around 9pm this summer, so that will have to change.  I expect some crabby evenings/mornings for a week or so while we get on this new schedule, but then you will thrive because you love to play with your friends.

Charlie, you are always so good when you go to Renae’s from time to time.  And I know you will do great.

I, on the other hand, am already starting to cry about it.

Each time you lay your head on me because you are getting tired, I tear up thinking of you doing that to someone else.  Each time you giggle at how crazy your brother is, I catch myself getting jealous that Renae will get that every day and I will not.  Every time you smile at me when you wake up from a snooze, my heart counts down one more thing I will miss each day.

You are on the verge of sitting up.  I want that to happen with me.  I don’t want to miss milestones.

I don’t think I missed any with Eddie, but Amy Jo was very good about not telling me if I did.

You boys need to know I love my job.  I love it.

Working with other kids is what I was born to do.

Plus I am just a better version of me when I have a purpose other than our home and family.

But I love you two MORE.

And this summer has been so good.

It is the first summer since becoming a mom that I realized that I can do this.  I can DO this mom thing AND do it well.

We had fun!  We did adventures: zoos, parks, beaches, play dates, library trips, errands, and endless cake pop/coffee runs.  We had dance parties and made parking lots with cars.  We put all the toys in the bounce seat with Charlie.  We played with legos and trains.  We swam and ran through sprinklers.  We ate outside and went on walks.

I very rarely said no to invites to do things because, well, I wanted to make up for the last two summers of doing nothing because of my anxiety.

But now I have to go back to work. I have to.  Both because we need the income/insurance coverage and because to be the best version of me I need to think about more than diapers and toddler lunches.

I am a little excited, and a lot sad.  I have no desire to be a stay at home mom, but I do miss you both fiercely when I am away.

This mom thing is way harder than I ever expected it to be…

…but also way better.

So pardon me if I cry over you a bit the next week. And kiss and hug you after everything you do.

I am just trying to soak up every little bit about each of you.

So I can take it with me to get me through the days until I see you again.

Just promise to act excited to see me when I come to pick you up from Renae’s, Ok?  For me?

I love you,


Yes, this was our life the summer of 2012.

Getting Schooled

So yesterday I got into a pretty intense discussion on the twitters about why people do NOT choose public school for their kids.

My initial tweet was simple:

It came about because it seemed like my twitter streams and facebook new feed were filled with moms trying to get their children into private and charter schools rather than going with the public school in their area.

As a public school teacher, this made my heart sad…and defeated.

The people I see doing this are educated, smart people with kids who I feel would probably thrive in any school they are put into.  So I started wondering…what factors make someone choose something other than the free option of public schools?

Is it a status/stigma thing?

Do people think the education is better…and is it?

I didn’t intend for it to be anything other than a statement.  Maybe get a couple replies.

I did not expect for it to become an hour long twitter conversation among many, MANY people.

It opened up a huge discussion about not just what we choose for our kids’ education, but what people think is wrong with America’s public schools.

So I decided I needed to do some more research.  Conduct a survey.  Do some interviews.

And put together a series.

I am going to do the series over at BNV since it belongs there rather than here on my personal blog.

I’ll probably do a post on why people choose each type of schooling choice and one that focuses on why Public Schools seem to be failing for so many.

I hope you’ll all come read.

And I hope you’ll help me out by taking the survey below.

Click HERE for the survey.