There’s something that’s been bothering me lately. Well, no, it’s been bothering me for a long time. And part of the problem is that I don’t believe that anyone who reads my blog is part of the problem but I still feel the need to get this off my chest. The problem is people who feel that teachers are lazy, overpaid, or glorified babysitters. Last year, in our school district, we had about 13 storm days because we had kind of a crazy winter. So now they’re trying to come up with some sort of way to deal with climate change causing more storms and interrupting student learning. I get that. 13 days of school is a lot of time. Of course, some students miss even more time because of vacations or just not wanting to go to school…. (rant for another time) but I get that this is an issue. I do. But for some reason whenever this issue comes up, the cries are not “How can I help support my child’s ability to learn while at home?” or “How can we better ensure both the safety of our students and their rights to an education?” or even “How can we safely clean up our roads faster so that our students can safely get to school?” it’s “Why are those lazy teachers getting extra days off?”
There’s a huge rant about snow days that I will probably rant about at some point this month when I’m looking for another topic, but instead, I’d like to share with you what a typical day looks like for me. Even if you aren’t one of those crazy people who believe teachers are lazy, I think if your only experience with what a teacher does all day is from what you remember from the other side of the desk, you may be surprised.
6:27 am – My alarm goes off. I roll out of bed, get dressed in the clothes I laid out the night before (I don’t make decisions in the morning) eat breakfast, grab my lunch (which I packed the night before) and my school bag and head to work. I try to leave the house between 7 and 7:15. This morning I got treated to a beautiful sunrise on this side of the river and dense fog on the other side. I’m always amazed at how different the weather is from one side of the river to the other. I listen to CBC or RDC generally in the car. RDC lately because I’m going to take another French class and then try to take another French Evaluation.
7:15 – Arrive at school. I’m generally one of the first people there. Today I think there were 5 or 6 other cars in the parking lot. I went up to my classroom, plugged in my computer and started it up, had some green tea smoothie, printed off some stuff for my classes, finished filing some paperwork I’d been putting off, answered three emails, checked on a survey I had created and sent to the staff for a committee I’m on, wrote a message of the day, finished up some work for my flexible math group lesson, changed the date, schedule and objectives for the day on the board and tidied up my desk. Students are supposed to go right outside when they get to school until the first bell, but this morning, like every morning, a few students stop by to say good morning and tell me some story or another. This morning it was just my usual two but then at 7:50 the outside duty teacher rang the bell early to bring students in because it started to rain. I had one student pass out forms to go home and another pass out journals. By the time the bell rang at 8:10 most students were already in the classroom.
8:10 – First bell – This is our homeroom time. I have my students write down their homework and, as of today, write in their journal about a prompt or two that I put on the board. Originally I had them reading but I wanted to change things up a bit. While they write, I take attendance (which was thankfully working this morning) collect any money or notes or homework and talk to students about their day, listen to their stories, try to steer a few back towards the vicinity of their desks and try to keep them generally organized until announcements and O Canada 15 minutes later.
8:30 – After O Canada and announcements this morning I had to have a talk with them about cleaning up after themselves. I showed them the picture of the terrible state they left the classroom in on Monday. They were pretty horrified and did a much better job of cleaning the rest of the day. Part of me feels hypocritical about being upset with them for not cleaning up enough when my desk occasionally looks like it’s been hit by a hurricane and I still have a pile of supplies I haven’t found a home for in the back corner, but it’s shared space and I want them to learn the responsibility of keeping shared space clean. Then we did a couple of exercise videos and one calming, focusing video to get us ready to learn and we were off. An hour and a half of speaking, reading, listening to music and writing French, all about pizza today. And of course, I never sit during this whole time. I’m up moving around the classroom, doing everything I can to keep them engaged and trying to make sure they understand what I’m saying.
10:10 – Snack – I generally try to find some inspirational or otherwise educational video to watch while they eat. Today it was an animated TED talk about what sugar does to the brain. After getting them all settled to eating I do sometimes sit briefly while we eat our snacks.
10:20 – Recess – It was still raining today so they were inside at recess. I spent most of the time trying to post some math questions around the classroom for my flexible math groups, and trying to keep a few of my more active students from being too disruptive.
10:40 – Flexible Math – About half of my class stays with me while the rest go off to other classes and some from other classes come to me. They get their materials and get started on a warm-up question. I have a few students who have very little English in my class so I have to explain their work as well as possible for them. My flexible math group is working at a grade 5 level so I’m lucky to have very few behavior problems, though there are still a few who tried at first to test me. We had a really good class today doing some review work for our post test.
11:40 – Silent reading. My students all come back and take out books. I turn the over head lights off, turn on some lamps and turn on some relaxing music. This is my favourite time of day and many of my students say the same (even though there are a few that I haven’t quite managed to hook into loving reading yet). Some days I help students pick good fit books, some days I sit and read (I’m reading Le petit prince right now) but today I had to get some testing done so I took my clipboard around and had a few students read in French to me to see how their reading is improving. I think I got to about 6 of my 28 students today.
12:00 – Lunch Recess – Again it was raining so we were still inside. I put on Shrek the Third on the Smart Board, reminded them to find something quiet to do and headed down to the staff room to eat. We have a very small staff room considering the size of our school, but I like to eat in there. A lot of francophone teachers tend to eat there as well so I can practice my French. Plus it’s just nice to talk to adults for a short part of the day.
12:25 – Lunch Duty – We’re lucky to have a relatively light duty schedule. I only have one lunch duty on Tuesdays and a morning duty on Fridays. So today, two of us patrolled the halls while students eat in their classrooms. Some teachers stay in their rooms while their kids eat and others don’t. There were a few issues, as always, certain classrooms I tend to have to spend more time in than others, but it wasn’t too bad today. No tears, no yelling, no one got hurt, so pretty good.
12:45 – Gym – I like Tuesdays because I have a prep right after lunch. We have fewer prep periods than we used to have, only 45 minutes once a week for music and two 45 minutes for gym so I have two days without preps. But I like the 45 minutes instead of 30. I feel like I can get more done. Today I sat down and got most of my planning done for the next day and answered two more e-mails from parents.
1:30 – Read aloud – I’m reading a book called Flying Solo about a class whose teacher is out and the supply teacher is sick so they have no teacher for a whole day. It’s a brilliant and amazing book. I read it every year and my class is loving it so much. They and I always want to read longer.
2:00 – Normally we would do more French here but we’re a bit behind in math and I need to finish up the Patterns and Relations unit they started with their first teacher so that I have something to mark them on so we did some Math work this afternoon instead. We do a few things together as a class and then I set them to work on a task, today it was from the text book, their first time using it this year, and I circulated around helping out.
2:50 – Clean up and get ready to go home – Lots of reminders to put up chairs, pick up pencils, grab lunch boxes and communication bags before we head down to our hooks. I put on my coat, grab my umbrella and boots and head out with the walker and pick-up students while another teacher watches my bus students before they get called. There were only two that didn’t get picked up on time today which was nice. It was cold and damp out today.
3:10 – Back in my classroom briefly, I see one lunch box left behind and a few notices on the floor but it is much cleaner than yesterday.
3:15 – 3-5 Flexible Math group meeting – we met quickly to go over the new assessment plus look at when we were going to give the post test and the new pre-test before the next block. One teacher mentions in passing he’s going to use Doodle Poll to have parents sign up for parent teacher interviews.
4:00 – Back in my classroom, I talked for a bit about a student who is having some difficulty with their first teacher, now resource teacher. I send off another two e-mails and make up a doodle poll for my parents. I finish up my lesson plan for tomorrow and add the rest of the students who have brought in permission forms for drama to my list for Thursday and send it off to the other teacher who is helping me out. I print off a paper copy of the times for parent teacher interviews for students whose parents haven’t given me their e-mail address. I change my board over for tomorrow. I see a million things that I want to get done but it’s almost 5 and my husband is going to work soon an I’d like to see him before he goes.
5:30 – I get home. I make supper while Tony gets ready for work. We get to spend almost an hour together before he heads off to work. I had supper and watched some TV. Besides writing this blog, which has taken me much longer to write than I thought (and I hope gives you some idea of just how much work teachers do) I have a few more things I’d like to get done for school before doing getting ready for bed and getting to bed by 10:30.
My to do list is insurmountable. I have been working so extremely hard lately and trying not to waste any time and yet I feel like I’m barely treading water. I still have so much I feel like I’m not doing as quickly as I should. I’m only planning one day at a time. I haven’t done my lesson plan template for the year. I have supplies in a pile waiting to be put away. I need to build a shelf to put board games on so I can put the rest of my books on the wooden shelves. I need to update my parent e-mail list. I need to reorganize my files on my computer. I need to ask to purchase some hanging file holders because my files are all sitting in boxes on the floor while my filing cabinet is empty. I have marking to do and report card comments to write and dozens of other things, little things, that come up constantly.
So are teachers lazy? I’m not sure how they could be and still get anything done. I know there must be some out there but this is not a profession for lazy people.