TL;DR: Teachers work hard. I love my job, but like anything worth doing, it doesn’t happen without sacrifice.
Today is World Teacher Day. I didn’t know there was such a thing (thanks, Twitter) and I thought this post that I started Monday might be appropriate. I kept track of how I spent my time on Monday, because I am feeling more pressure than ever before in my teaching career. Even when I taught in Utah and I had 180 students, I loved my job and didn’t feel the weight of politicians’ and school boards’ and district administrators’ expectations crushing my back.
But those Halcyon days of teaching in Utah was pre-No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top. I could teach for the joy of teaching, I could do what was best for my students, I was generally trusted as a professional. And while I am given more resources than many schools in the country, I feel like too many people who place expectations on me and my colleagues have no idea what a typical day is like.
So Monday I tried tracking what I did during the day, just to see. Here’s a summary:
7 a.m., arrive at school.
- Plug in iPads–I forgot to charge them last week.
- Skim chapter in the graphic design book I’m teaching from 1st hour
- Update Google Classroom
- Look over lesson plans in all classes
- Check in cameras that students bring back from the weekend
- Help a sub with a computer issue
- Print rubrics to copy later.
1st Hour, Desktop Publishing
- Teach for 25 minutes
- Take attendance after 10 minutes of class, in between teaching/asking questions
- Give students time to work on project
- While working, send email to a parent about her student’s work
- Log the parent contact in the grade program
2nd hour, Journalistic Writing
- Blessed day: a quiz. Some time for me to….
- Add to my to-do list
- Send another parent email
- Log that parent contact in the grade program
- Teach for 15 minutes
- Connect and charge iPads at end of class.
3rd Hour, Tech Trainer
- Walk upstairs to get radio
- Check email on phone–teacher requesting tech help
- Help teacher figure out issue
- Stop by a friend’s room to catch up for 5 minutes
- Talk to Activities Director about journalism
- Help another teacher with a tech problem
- Walk back upstairs to do commons supervision during passing period.
4th Hour, Plan time
- Return emails from the morning
- Clean desk–random piles of papers have piled up and need organized
- Go to office to make copies
- Pay Newspaper bill
- Make copies
- See district administrator, have brief conversation (necessary convo, but makes me late for class)
5th Hour, Pop Culture
- Teach/discuss content for 50 minutes (bled into Silent Sustained Reading time, but the conversation my students were engaged in was worth it)
- Manage SSR time by reading an article for a grading pilot I’m involved in
- Finally–HAVE LUNCH! 30 minutes in which I force myself to not work.
6th Hour, Pop Culture
- Teach/discuss content for 50 minutes. This class is quite different from my 5th hour, so my questions have to be framed differently in order to get them thinking about what I need them to understand. This means that I can’t really teach these classes the same, ever, even though the core content is the same. The tiny decisions I made just 90 minutes earlier are completely different with this group.
7th Hour, Newspaper
- It’s rundown meeting day, so students are supposed to have brought in story ideas. Some did, some did not.
- Once the rundown meeting is done, my 16 staffers have varying needs and questions, so I am juggling 16 different compartments of my brain to make sure they are taken care of.
8th Hour, Guided Study Hall
- 21 students from our three publications staffs are assigned to the journalism room for this 35 minute end-of-day study hall. They mostly stay on task, but sometimes I have to get them to quiet down.
- Other students from our video journalism intro classes and publication design classes are in and out during this time to take photos, gather interviews, or work with iMovie or InDesign. It is 35 minutes of managed chaos, but the kids really are good and on task for at least 30 of those 35 minutes. At the end of the day, that’s impressive.
At 3:20 the bell rings and the room empties. It is quiet. I look at my to-do list, which has grown throughout the course of the day. I try to focus on any simple task before I leave, but I know that my best bet is to tidy the room, answer and delete some emails, eliminate other digital clutter, and do mindless tasks before taking on other tasks such as grading and adjusting lesson plans for the next day.
This was a relatively light, drama-free day.
I go home around 4, after a quick stop at the district office to drop off some paperwork, and I allow myself to watch a TV show for 45 minutes. Then it’s time for dinner, and while I eat, I double check my lesson plans for the next day. I read a couple of articles I found on Twitter that will help make the next day’s plans more relevant. I move items around on the calendar to accommodate taking a little more time with how I’m teaching writing in my 2nd hour class.
I know I should grade the quizzes my 2nd hour class took, but I have an appointment with my trainer at 7 (these appointments ensure I get to the gym at least once a week), so I ready myself for that.
I get home at 8:15, and I feel happy I was able to get to the gym. I take a look at the list, and I know I should try knocking off a couple of items, but I’m trying to get to bed earlier, so I listen to a podcast while I get tomorrow’s lunch ready and do the dishes from the day. I read a little more, and by 9:45 I’m in bed.
I don’t know how my teacher friends with families do it. I am barely hanging on, and I only have to take care of myself. I’m sure I would figure out the balancing act, because that’s what we humans do. We survive. We adjust and adapt.
But I fear I’m adjusting and adapting to taking on more and more work instead of adjusting and adapting to letting myself have more of a life. I feel guilty when I do anything that takes me away from figuring out how to do my job better (or actually completing the tasks I’m already not completing).
Today is my church’s General Conference, which means four hours of church on TV. Since I am at home on the couch in my yoga pants and a tshirt, I’m comfy and happy. The sun is shining, and I’m about to make pumpkin waffles and bacon for brunch.
But I know that while the leaders of my church are speaking, I will be working. I will be grading, I will be planning lessons, I will be emailing students and parents. Because if I can get even the slightest bit ahead today, then maybe next week will be a little more manageable.
Happy World Teacher Day.