Sunday, January 29, 2017

A Day in the Life of an Elementary School Teacher, Day 7

7:30 p.m.
Finally, I truly get to sleep in. Yes, this is sleeping in for me: 7 hours of sleep.

8:50 p.m.
I leave for church. I have to get there early enough to warm-up with the choir. Church on Sunday is like plugging in my cell phone and powering it down. I need to have my battery charged often. And I need to power down once a week to fix the glitches. Church reminds me of how my life is supposed to work. It's good to fellowship with other believers and study the Bible.

1:00 p.m.
I arrive home to eat a quick lunch.

1:30 p.m.
I spend some time in my classroom, writing lesson plans, answering emails, setting up my Literacy Centers, and filing some papers.

4:15 p.m.
I arrive home in time to pick up my husband and go back to church. He and I are attending a 16-week  marriage course. It's our second week, and we get to meet for the first time with our small group.

7:30 p.m.
We come home and eat dinner. In a surprise turn of events, our son has cleaned the kitchen and his bedroom! I'm fairly sure it's a subtle attempt to earn his electronics privileges back. My husband and I sit together at the dining table for a while as I grade papers and record them and he applies for jobs.

10:30 p.m.
I blog for a while before bedtime.

11:15 p.m.
I'm ready to go to bed. Some of my papers are graded. Two of my four SMARTBoard lessons are finished. My room is mostly ready for tomorrow. I still have cards to be laminated and cut. I must also change the cards on my class jobs poster. I will need to edit my morning greeting file and open all of the other files for the day. I need to create academic plans for some of my struggling learners. I'll get to school early enough to be ready for my students. And sometime this week I will meet my new student teacher.

A teacher's work is never done.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

A Week in the Life of an Elementary School Teacher, Day 6

5:30 a.m.
So much for sleeping in. Maybe I'll be able to nap.

Here is how I spent my morning:

  • Watching Fixer Upper
  • Unit 18 Phonics SMARTBoard lessons
  • Elliptical/recumbent bike (only exercise this week)
  • Surfing the internet for animated clip art for my SMARTBoard lessons
  • Social media
Here is how I spent my afternoon:
  • Laundry
  • Bible study
  • Unit 18 Phonics SMARTBoard lessons
  • Learning how to use PowToon to make video presentations
  • Working puzzles
  • Watching Fixer Upper and Property Brothers
Here is how I spent my evening:
  • Bath
  • More laundry
  • Nap
  • Practicing my music for choir tomorrow
  • Checking my email
  • Eating the yummy dinner that my husband made for me
I probably spent 4 hours on school work today on my day off, and I have more to do tomorrow.

Friday, January 27, 2017

A Week in the Life of an Elementary School Teacher, Day 5

6:00 a.m.
Today is unusually because I roll out of bed and get dressed in my . . . PAJAMAS! This is one of the most unusual perks of being a teacher - Pajama Day! There aren't too many professionals who get to go to work in their pajamas. If you think casual Fridays are awesome, you haven't experienced pajama Day!

8:00 a.m.
I prep my room as normal.

8:20 a.m.
I attend a meeting for one of my students. It lasts until time for my class to arrive.

8:50 a.m.
My class does an abridged amount of morning work. After morning announcements, I introduce a computer lesson based on a bio poem my students wrote last week in their Literacy Centers.

9:15 a.m.
We go to the Computer Lab to type and format our bio poems. I help all 20 students  present as they work on their individual computers. For the next 30 minutes, I walk back and forth, back and forth, around the room from computer to computer. Second graders aren't fluent on a computer keyboard, so we will have to finish next Friday in Computer Lab.

9:45 a.m.
We come back to the room to practice our reader's theater, but I have to take a few moments to talk with a student who needs some special attention.

10:30 a.m.
A PreK class visits our classroom to hear some of my students perform our reader's theater. We have been working on reading with expression, so it helps to have an audience. I hope by the end of the year my students will not only be reading the play but also creating costumes, props, and cue cards!

11:30 a.m.
My second grade team leaves our campus to go out for lunch. It's a little ray of sunshine in our week to be with each other away from the school, if only for a few moments. Although today, Pajama Day makes it more interesting than usual.

12:20 p.m.
It was a very fast lunch!

After a bathroom break, we have D.E.A.R. (Drop Everything And Read) time and finish Literacy Centers while I test students in reading. I have to do this every 5 days to track if my struggling readers are making progress. This follows up 4 days of working with me in small groups during Literacy Centers.

All of this takes place while a few of my students attend Enrichment, the gifted and talented class.

I also have to deal with another behavior issue during this time.  Classroom management is probably the hardest thing for a new teacher to learn. It is difficult to manage 21 different little personalities. And if a teacher has any students with learning issues or behavior issues, it takes a lot of special attention to balance everyone. I have 14 boys and 7 girls in my class this year, so you can imagine the kind of things that go on each day in my room. We have lots of toots, burps, and sillies!

1:45 p.m.
We take our weekly Phonics test, Unit 4 Reading test, and weekly Math test. The Math test is another that I have to do every 5 days to track the progress of my struggling learners.

2:45 p.m.
We celebrate the end of our Literacy Centers for the week with some GoNoodle videos. It's fun to dance with the kids!

3:00 p.m.
My kids end their week with music. I spend my planning period administering tests to a student who missed them earlier.

3:30 p.m.
Dismissal on Friday is always a little noisier than usual! The students are excited for the weekend.

4:00 p.m.
My last tutoring session of the week

5:30 p.m.
I have lots to do to prepare for next week, but my husband is making fajitas. I'll have to return over the weekend to complete my work.

6:00 p.m.
My evening is filled with fajitas, Wheel of Fortune, Candy Crush, a movie, and some T.V.

As tired as I am, I can't sleep. At least I'll be able to sleep in tomorrow!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

A Week in the Life of an Elementary School Teacher, Day 4

6:00 a.m.
I hit the snooze button.

6:09 a.m.
Did I really think 9 minutes was going to magically fix my sleep deficit? How ridiculous!

I know I've done this to myself. I feel as if there simply aren't enough hours in my day. As much as I love my students, I love my family more. I'd like to streamline my time at school so that I can leave sooner each night, but I don't know how to make my day more efficient, especially when I don't get my planning period. I may need to eat lunch in my room today, unless it's another indoor recess day.

I wonder: when time to get ready in the morning is short, do other women have the same debate with themselves about whether or not to shave their legs? I mean, I'm not going to wear a dress, skirt, or shorts in the next two days. Right? Too much information?

7:30 a.m.
My son and I leave for his school. I hope he's not late!

8:00 a.m.
Streamlining fail. I like to talk too much. I really do this to myself. I spend way too much time talking to my teammates and the the baby. She's just beginning to babble, and we all love it!

8:50 a.m.
My students are all smiles as they enter my room today, despite the hiccups from yesterday. "Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?" This quote from Anne of Green Gables runs through my mind quite often. Each of my students deserves a fresh start every day. I know I do.

My kids are ON today! They are quiet and paying attention. They answer questions and ask questions of their own. They are inquisitive and respectful.

10:10 a.m.
I'm amazed that my students can sort sort two-syllable words by syllable patterns, recognizing open and closed syllables! And it would have been really cool, had my SMARTBoard lesson worked properly. The movable word cards were supposed to slide down into the denim pockets on the board, but I didn't have them layered properly, and the cards were on top of the pockets. Darn! I must remember to go back and fix that later!

10:30 a.m.
I have another hiccup with a behavior issue.

11:15 a.m.
Back on track, and I smile as I feel like I've done a good job with a student.

11:30 a.m.
Indoor recess again, but this time I put on a GoNoodle Indoor Recess video so that the kids can move and dance a little. I find myself hanging around for a few minutes to dance with them.

Our cafeteria has vegetables, fresh from the farm, and I feel the urge to try snap peas for the first time. I will never crave them, but they're okay. I use Google to look up the nutritional value of snap peas to discover they are good for losing weight or maintaining weight. How many do I have to eat to lose weight? Because we all know I don't have much time to exercise.

12;20 p.m.
Thankfully, the sinks in the boys bathroom are working again.

12:30 p.m.
We make our weekly trip to the Media Center to check out books.

1:00 p.m.
The remainder of my afternoon is filled with Writing, a successful avoidance of another behavior issue, P.E., my planning period (finally!), and a surprise video from a penguin researcher in Antarctica. Our class Skyped with her earlier this month, and she sent us a package today with a DVD, stickers, and postcard pictures of Antarctica. Our class flag flew over the penguin colony there, and we expect it back at our school any day. My students should also receive the postcards they drew and addressed to themselves at home, postmarked from Antarctica. This project is one of the coolest things I've ever done in the classroom. The video has lots of penguin footage. We'll have to finish it tomorrow because 13 minutes into it, we have to dismiss for the day.

3:30 p.m.
Car duty again

4:00 p.m.
I have a new student to tutor in math. Math is my favorite subject, so tutoring is actually quite fun for me. I enjoy discovering what gaps a child has in their knowledge and figuring out how to fill that gap. We play games to find out where I need to begin.

5:00 p.m.
Because of my new Thursday after school schedule, I forget to pick up my second student for tutoring. Totally knocked me off schedule. I reschedule for next Monday, clean up my room, check my emails, and talk to two of my teammates.

One of my other duties at school is as Technology Specialist. It sounds fancier than it is. I actually am sort of in an apprentice capacity, as the Media Specialist is teaching me what to do. She and I share some of the responsibilities. I check the work orders to send one on to someone who knows more than me. I don't know what is wrong with her projector, but it keeps turning itself off. I'll leave that to the professionals.

5:45 p.m
I leave for home.

6:00 p.m.
My husband and I make dinner and watch some T.V. while I "grade" some papers and blog. My son plays on his Xbox. I'm determined to go to bed by 10:00 tonight. Of course, that means that I'll probably wake at 4:00. (Six hours of sleep and all.) I have a load of laundry set to start washing at 3:00. God bless whoever invented timers on washing machines.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

A Week in the Life of an Elementary School Teacher, Day 3

6:00 a.m.
This is me sleeping in. After finishing my laundry last night, I finally got to bed at 12:30 this morning. Six hours of sleep is my norm.

7:00 a.m.
My son and I leave early because he has to retake a science test before school. Good news: this will give me about 30 extra minutes in my classroom before my day begins! In addition to preparing for my day as usual, I use the extra time to file some paperwork and grade some papers.

8:15 a.m.
It's Random Acts of Kindness Week at my school, and the PTO surprises the teachers with bagels in the teacher's lounge. Yum! I love our PTO! As if that wasn't enough, while I'm standing there, my 5th grade teacher walks in! I haven't seen her in about 35 years! When I call out her name, she says, "Jennifer?" Whoa! For a moment, I was blown away that she recognized and remembered me! Then I realize that she is great friends with my 4th grade teacher, who often subs at our school. I'll bet she's mentioned me. Still, I hope I can remember my kiddos when they see me years from now.

8:50-11:30 a.m.
My morning is fairly normal. I teach my normal lessons, deal with the same behavior problems, and work with the same struggling learners. The only times I sit are when my small groups are performing a Reader's Theater or when I am reading a book about endangered elephants, both of which capture my students' attention.

11:30 a.m.
It's barely cold enough to trigger the two most terrifying words for an elementary school teacher: INDOOR RECESS. I usually run to the 2nd grade workroom to escape the din of 125 second graders cooped up in a school building all day, but due to some behavior issues I've been dealing with, I decide to change things up today. I determine to make an investment in a student who may need some extra time with me. I spend the next 25 minutes of my lunch, sitting at the table in my room, coloring with my students. We talk, we laugh, I share my Pokemon index with them. I make a connection. I feel like it's the best thing I've done all week.

11:55 a.m.
I grab a cafeteria lunch and head back to the second grade workroom to finish out my lunch with my peers.

12:20 p.m.
I come crashing back to reality when I discover that three of my students got in trouble at lunch. Indoor recess is affecting them already. It's going to be a long afternoon.

Bathroom break is torture. These kids need to run and play.

12:30-3:00 p.m.
Wiggle, wiggle, giggle, giggle, bouncy, bouncy, bouncy! I resort to GoNoodle, a website designed for "brain breaks." These are an elementary teacher's saving grace for indoor recess days, their only outlet for getting the wiggles out. In between GoNoodle videos, we do Literacy Centers, Math (word problems), and Science (grouping solids of like properties).

3:00 p.m.
I take my kids to Health and prepare to get some work done during my planning period. Unfortunately, another behavior issue uses up the next 30 minutes of my day. Not only does all of my work go undone, but I don't get my students' folders ready to go home as needed.

3:30 p.m.
My entire class hurries back to my room to quickly get their folders after I mark their behavior charts.

3:40 p.m.
Dismissal in the car line. It has finally warmed up a little. I take the last few students outside to wait for their parents. I hope it's warm tomorrow.

4:00 p.m.
I tutor again today after school. This income is very important to me, especially now, as my husband is out of work. Even with this extra money, it's not enough to pay all of our bills. When my husband lost his job, we also lost our insurance. I am fortunate that my district pays my insurance, but my children are now on the state Medicaid insurance. I make so little as a teacher that my salary by itself would probably qualify my son for the Free & Reduced Lunch program. Unfortunately, my supplemental income puts us just over the income requirement.

5:00 p.m.
I spend the next hour talking to another teacher, cleaning my room, doing paperwork, and making a 20-minute call to a parent of a new student.

6:00 p.m.
I finally leave the building. I have been at school for 10 1/2 hours.

6:15 p.m.
Of course, I don't get to go home yet because I have ensemble practice at church and choir practice right afterward. It makes for a long day, but it's a weekly activity that I really enjoy. People say you should take time to do things for yourself, and this is something that relaxes me.

8:45 p.m.
Almost 14 hours after I left my house this morning, I finally make it home. My loving husband has made dinner for us. He's awesome at just throwing things together and making a meal. Tonight it's chicken fried rice. Yum!

I take a few minutes to visit with my daughter, who came home for the evening to go to church. We'll see her again in a week for just one evening and then won't see her again for two weeks. We watch The Flash together.

My husband and son take down the Christmas tree for me. They are my heroes.

10:00 p.m.
I make my final Phonics SMARTBoard lesson for the week.

11:00 p.m.
I blog and talk with my husband for a while before bed. I reflect on the fact that I have passed over the hump. Only two more days this week. Much of this week has been spent trying to develop new strategies to work with a few of my students who have presented me with challenges. I want them to be successful.

I think I will make it to bed at 12:30 again.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Week in the Life of an Elementary School Teacher, Day 2

5:00 a.m. Here we go again!
I'm up early again. Last night I went to bed right after the family movie because my headache returned. It's hard to work with these headaches. I only get about two a month, but the best thing for them is medicine and sleep.

I work on my Phonics Day 2 SMARTBoard lesson.

5:30 a.m.
My computer has locked up again. It's difficult to get anything done on my laptop, but I don't want to spend more time at the school just to use my work computer.

I finish as quickly as I can and begin my morning ritual, which today includes washing my hair!

7:40 a.m.
I grab some Cheerios on my way out the door. I'll get some milk from the school cafeteria if I have time. I drop my son off at his school with just minutes to spare before his bell rings.

8:00 a.m.
I prepare for the day by opening all of my computer files and updating them for today's assignments, read through my lessons one last time, fill out a form for the office, get ice water from the teacher's lounge (I wish I had time to sit in that massage chair that someone donated!), laminate, give something to the assistant principal, and return the form to the office. I take a few moments to "talk" to my friend's 9-month-old daughter and fill up on baby endorphins. But I run out of time to visit the cafeteria for some milk.

8:40 a.m.
I'm off to the playground with my team member to pick up the 2nd grade classes. As my students pass through my classroom door, I greet each and every one of them with a high five, a handshake, or a hug. I also have to get another team member's class settled because she is still in a meeting in the office. I oversee about 45 students for a few minutes until she returns. This morning's lessons consist of Morning Work, announcements, Morning Meeting, Reading, Literacy Centers, and small groups. My students are reading a play about Yeh-Shen, a Cinderella story from China. Phonics will have to wait until after lunch because we have music this morning.

10:30 a.m.
My students go to music, which would normally be my 30-minute planning period. But today takes an unexpected turn, and I have to use most of my time to deal with a student issue. By the time I return to my room, I have 10 minutes left for planning. I finally get to eat some Cheerios. Of course, it's almost lunchtime now.

11:00 a.m.
In the music room, my kiddos are playing Orff instruments. It's times like this that I miss my few years as a music teacher.

We use our final 20 minutes before recess for Literacy Centers.

11:30 a.m.
My team takes about 25 minutes for lunch and spends our remaining 15 minutes planning for next week's lessons.

12:30 p.m.
We only have an hour and a half for Phonics and Math.

2:00 p.m.
A classroom parent visits our room to teach an art lesson. It's part of a school-wide program called Meet the Masters. Once each month, a parent teaches our class about a painter and then leads a lesson, designed in the style of that artist. Today is Frederic Remington, who specialized in depicting the Old West. My students learn about foreground/background and perspective. It's something the kids look forward to.

2:45 p.m.
We eat a quick snack and have our Science lesson from our Solids & Liquids unit.We're learning about properties of matter. My students have been exploring objects made of wood, plastic, fabric, metal, rubber, and ceramic to see if they are round, pointy, soft, hard, rigid, flexible, or transparent. One of my favorite moments of the day is when the kids discover that solids, liquids, and gases are the "end" result of the digestive system. That gets quite a few giggles.

3:30 p.m.
We're out the door, and I'm on my way to after-school car duty again.

4:00 p.m.
I have a 30-minute tutoring session.

4:40 p.m.
A dear friend brings me some Frosted Flakes to keep at school so that I don't ever go without breakfast. She's awesome!

I clean my room, send messages to some parents, do some paperwork, and leave my desk clean for tomorrow.

5:30 p.m.
I finally leave the school building.

6:00 p.m.
I sit on the sofa with my husband. He watches T.V., and I "grade" papers. My students document their Literacy Centers in an app called Seesaw. it's an online classroom journal. The kids take pictures of their work and post it to the class feed. I go through their posts and approve or decline them (if they did it wrong or didn't complete it). This gives me a good record of learned skills for report cards. i can "like" and comment on their posts. Parents have access to their own child's posts. It's fabulous!

It's buffet night at our house. We make the most of the leftovers in the fridge before they go bad.

7:00 p.m.
Hi, my name is Jennifer, and I'm addicted to Candy Crush. And Candy Crush Soda. And Candy Crush Jelly. I play mindless games on my iPad while I watch NCIS. This is my downtime. My bare Christmas tree glares over my shoulder at me. I know. I know. It's January 24th. But tonight is not the night to take it down. It can wait. I put the clean dishes away and started a load of laundry, but I don't want to tackle the tree tonight.

9:00 p.m.
I create Phonics Day 3 SMARTBoard lesson while watching Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. I'm kind of a geek that way.

10:00 p.m.
I take a few minutes to blog. My husband's clothes aren't dry, so I can't even put my wet clothes in the dryer. It will be a while before I get to sleep.

11:30 p.m.
My clothes still aren't dry. I'm not a night person, so I'd really like to have been in bed before now. It will be midnight before I get any rest. Six hours of sleep, and we'll start this all over again tomorrow!

Monday, January 23, 2017

A Week in the Life of an Elementary School Teacher, Day 1

5:00 a.m. My Day Begins

I know it's early, but I have lots to do before the bell rings today. I start my day with the Bible, prayer, and a headache. 

Then I make my Monday SMARTBoard Phonics lesson. We have a new Reading curriculum this year. It is very extensive, with daily lessons in Reading, Phonics, and Writing. These English Language Arts comprise at least 2 1/2 hours of each school day. In order to keep myself on track and get my nose out of the curriculum, I create a file to use on my SMARTBoard every day. I also share it with the four other teachers on my team. A group of teachers and I did this for our Math curriculum a few years ago, and it has proved to be one of the most valuable resources I have.

As I prepare my SMARTBoard lesson, I realize I have forgotten to put our second grade spelling list online. It's my duty to type in the spelling words online for our team. Our skill this week is words with a consonant + le. (Puddle. Bottle. Table. Bridle? I don't think I've ever used this word in my 45-year-old life! Will anyone but the horse lover in my class know that this is a harness for a horse?)

This should only take 5 minutes, but my laptop video card is dying and my screen keeps blinking in and out. My keyboard is hot to the touch because my computer is overheating. Its days are numbered, and I can't afford to replace it.

6:15 a.m. 

My SmartBoard lesson is taking longer than anticipated. A review at the beginning of the lesson will cost me an extra five pages that I don't normally have to do. I stop before the file is complete and go to take my shower. I really need to wash my hair, but I don't have any time. I sure hope it doesn't smell, but it looks great! I take a quick shower and dress in about 15 minutes.

Back with the SmartBoard lesson, I'm really wishing I had taken the time, the extra hour last night until midnight, to finish this before I went to bed. The choice had been between being prepared for today or getting the sleep I needed. Sleep won. Maybe it shouldn't have. 

6:30 a.m.

I gather my materials and my lunch. I'm very fortunate that my husband likes to cook, and I have leftover pasta. Unfortunately, I don't have time for breakfast. Maybe I'll grab some Frosted Flakes at the school.

6:45 a.m.

I'm out the door before the sun is up. Normally, I wouldn't leave for another 30 minutes because I have to take my son to school, but he has an orthodontist appointment today and will be going to it with his dad. This gives me extra time in my classroom to prepare.

I must first scrape the frost off my windows. (I don't have time for this! Isn't it supposed to be 61° today?) I drive more slowly than usual, watching for deer crossing the road. This is the time of day they tend to be out.

As I drive, I pray for my students and for patience.

7:10 a.m.

I'm one of only a handful of adults in my building: custodian and BeforeCare workers. (Even the principal isn't here this early.)  Several children have arrived before me, dropped off before their parents have gone to work. Several of them are from my class.

I begin the frantic task of doing everything I should've done yesterday on my day off: changing my Weekly Jobs poster, changing my Morning Greeting file on my computer, changing my Morning Meeting bulletin board, opening all of the computer files I will need for the day, reviewing my lesson plans for the morning, changing out my Literacy Centers, and making copies. I need to laminate but don't have time. In fact, I don't even have time for those Frosted Flakes.

8:30 a.m.

I have a meeting with the principal and school psychologist about a student. It goes a little long, and I'm not at my door to greet my students when they arrive. Our morning consists of Morning Work, Announcements, a Read-Aloud, a Reading lesson, a Phonics lesson, and Literacy Centers. I'm on my feet except for while reading a book or working with a small group.

11:37 a.m. 

We're already 7 minutes late to recess because my class owes me some time from not listening during instruction. By the time I return to my second grade workroom, I have about 30 minutes left for lunch. It's nice to eat with my friends/colleagues.

12:20 p.m.

I pick up my class from the cafeteria, ready to finish Literacy Centers, teach a Writing lesson, and a Math lesson. Although I know we probably won't have time for a Science lesson, I'm caught off-guard when activities in my classroom don't go exactly as planned. I have to practice a little flexibility with my lesson plans. 

2:30 p.m.

I'm on my way to a second grade team meeting known as Professional Learning Committee (PLC) while my class goes to the Media Center and P.E. On these days I don't get a planning period.

3:30 p.m.

I pick my students up from P.E. And take them to their dismissal lines. Then I head to my after school duty position. Teachers have to work every other semester either before or after school for arrival or dismissal. I work every semester so that I can keep my spot in the car line. This guarantees me I won't have to work the dreaded bus duty.

4:00 p.m.

I normally tutor every day after school, but my student is sick today. Tutoring is a great supplement to my income. I get paid by the hour, and I get to work one-on-one with students.

I use my spare time to call a parent, write an email, conference with my principal, and clean up in my room.

5:45 p.m.

I finally can leave for home, although I have much more to do: papers to grade, grades to record, data to enter on my computer, and materials to prep for tomorrow. Some I will do at home tonight, and some will have to wait until tomorrow before school.

6:00 p.m.

I arrive home after nearly 11 hours at school, a longer day than usual, and crash in the couch next to my husband. I debrief, eat dinner, and watch a movie with my family on my daughter's last night at home before her spring semester begins.

At 10:00, I'll begin creating my Phonics file for tomorrow. I'll be lucky to make it to sleep by midnight.

What a long day.