Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A day in the life of a teacher... or at least me.

It is a common misconception that teachers have it easy.  I mean they get the whole summer off to laze in the sun, right?  HA!  Here's what I really do during the school year... including those lazy days of summer.

I get to school every day an hour before the first bell.  I have a lot of work to do to be prepared for the students so I can put on the face of authority and knowledge and sometimes that hour isn't enough.  I spend this hour prepping my brain, my words, my materials, and if for some act of fate I have any extra time I look ahead and plan that, too.  But at least once a week and often more times than that my hour is not available or cut short because of meetings (staff, IEP, 504, curriculum, etc, etc, etc) or students needing help (I made a decision the first day of my teaching career that I would always be available to students who came seeking help and if I am in my room I am available to help or talk or whatever).  That first bell often rings without me being 100% where I need to be.  I have been super lucky to have awesome 1st period classes because they tend to be my guinea pigs for the lesson.  I tweak it the rest of the day due to how they perform and react.

Until lunch (and after lunch) I teach, I maintain order, I answer questions (random nonsense, life, and math), and I always have to be on my toes because no two days are the same despite any amount of planning.  For the first four years of my career I was fortunate enough to have my own classroom where I taught all of my classes not having to move to another room unless I chose to teach the students in other locations (my fave was the day I took my precalc class out to the futbol pitch and studied in the sun).  The last two years I have taught in a hundred year old building that is on the edge of downtown and with very limited space... so not traveling just doesn't happen (although a small few do luck out).  This is an added challenge to all the others.  I have a homebase and this year am lucky to teach most of my classes in that room but I do have to teach two classes in other rooms and I always feel less prepared in those rooms and find myself traveling back to my homebase to retrieve things forgotten all too often.  It just throws the whole period off PLUS I hate leaving the students "alone" even if the teacher whose desk is in that room is usually in there to supervise in my brief absence.

Lunch time is always fast and chaotic.  Depending on where I worked it was between 30 to 40 minutes.  This time is sometimes spent in meetings (but thankfully that is RARE) but mostly is spent eating my food as quick as possible because I am having to wrap up the morning and get ready for the afternoon if at least mentally.  I also have students in my room every day at lunch.  Lately it is just for them to hang out but this is also a time for the students who have after school activities to do retakes and get help.  I do a lot of talking and eating.  On rare special occasions I get to sit with my colleagues and talk.

During the day I have been given at least 1 period (and on a few super lucky years 2) to PREPare... depending on the day I can do anything from create lessons, plan the future, grade papers, input grades, make parent contact, or rarely go to another meeting.  On the days where my mind is blown (because of too many CCSS buzzwords and no CCSS plans, mean students, bad lessons, or any other issue), I tune in and tune out with my headphones in and try to level back out for the rest of the day.  At the end of it all I am taking care of 150 humans who are trying to find their place in the world while I am trying to get them to be interested in math and some times I need to not forget to take care of myself, too.

I bet you can guess what I do when the last bell of the day rings and all of the students run out the door to go to practice or home... because it is the same thing I have been doing since an hour before school whenever I wasn't teaching a class.  I am getting ready for the next day or the next week.  I am filling out paperwork.  I am sitting with students who need help or need to just hang out.  I also supervise Math Lab two times a week.  Every contract I have ever had has required the teachers to be at school from a half an hour before the first bell to a half an hour after the last bell.  I rarely am at school during JUST those hours. Besides the hour before school that I find I NEED I am also at school for at least another hour and sometimes more depending on what needs to get done... and it is never ending.

When the work week is over I spend at least one day of the weekend doing something for the next week... whether it is grading papers (which having a student TA this year has really cut back on) or planning the future.  Even if I am not physically working on planning I am always critiquing myself in my head.  I know that I can always be better and I strive to be better.  I also believe that the day that I have it on lock and have nothing to improve upon is the day I should have a different career.

Recently, I have started mentoring the school's FRC team and it has been an amazing experience.  The things that the students do and accomplish just impress upon me.  It is a time consuming commitment though... for the first six weeks of the new year we spend a lot of time in the Lab with the students.  At least there four of us to split of the time and duties and support each other.  After the build season is the competition season and that takes me out of the classroom for a few days to go travel to the competitions (at universities) and supervise the students.

By the end of the school year I have put in probably an average of 1800 hours doing school things.  This is a 50 hour week for each of the 36 weeks of the school year... on average... so you know that sometimes I put in more hours than that.  When the school year is over I spend the first month of the summer thinking about the next year and planning and creating and all those things I do during the school year just without the students present.  I also have professional development to attend as well as a few meetings.  Even though it is summer I don't start to relax even a bit til about a month after the last bell rings and then get ramped back up a month before the new school year... so I really only get a couple of weeks if a month tops to truly relax and have time off from school... and this is after working the same amount of hours in 9 months that most professionals work in 12 months with TEENAGERS.

So tell me... do you still think teachers have it easy?

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