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A Day in the Life of a High School English Teacher

A Day in the Life of a High School English Teacher

Julia G. Thompson |

I currently teach the ninth grade English component of a world studies course in the humanities department of a very large suburban high school near Washington D.C. I have a teaching partner who teaches the world history component of the course. I am extremely fortunate in that my teaching partner is not just knowledgeable about her subject matter, but she is also a very good teacher. Tuesdays tend to be pretty interesting days. Here is what a typical one for me looks like.

5:45 am Traffic. I am out the door and on my way. I leave this early because traffic even at this hour can be fierce. I arrive at school at about

6:15 Even at this really, really early hour, there are always a few other teachers around (with big cups of coffee). We usually run into each other at the copier.

6:15-7:20 The early morning race. Even though I make a point of leaving the room as tidy as I can at the end of the day, somehow I always sprint around the school as fast as I can just trying to get everything done before students show up. If I need to clean the board, I hit that first and then wipe down the desks with disinfectant. We have had serious flu lately and I don’t want any more of my students to be sick. I connect the laptop, check email, and scribble everything that the kids need to know on the board. Then I check in with my teaching partner. We spend a few minutes working together. When our students study a particular culture or civilization in world history class, they then read the literature of that civilization with me. This requires a pretty tight collaboration with my teaching partner. I am thankful every day that we make a good team. We not only plan together, but also we collaborate on the best ways to work with our students. Kids start coming by to hand in late work, make up assignments, or just hang out with friends. It tends to be crowded and noisy even this early.

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7:20-9:00 The first block. We have an alternating block schedule, so I meet each class every other day for the entire year. You can tell from the time frames that our classes tend to be long ones. I like the length because students can start and finish assignments in one sitting, but it is a challenge to keep every student engaged all period long. My first class today is mixture of sleepyheads and hyperkids. I work hard to figure out ways to appeal to everyone’s learning style, but it is not always easy. Because this is such a long period and because ninth graders can get restless within two nano seconds, I try to break up assignments and alternate types of activities. These students tend to be well behaved so we have lots of activities where they can work together and have fun.

9:00-9:15 The whole school takes a break. The room is filled with kids eating snacks. It’s fun to hang out and hear them talk about something besides the lesson.

9:15-10:55 The second block. The second block is the same as first with a few tweaks here and there to meet the needs of a different set of students. Ninth graders are so funny—they want to be grown, but they are still little kids sometimes. I enjoy teaching them-the constant giddiness and perpetual pencil tapping included.

11:02-11:28 Lunch. Our school is so large that we have several lunch periods. Sometimes I have lunch duty, but it is not unpleasant—just noisy.

11:33-1:13 Planning period for me. I have about a zillion papers to grade. The upside of teaching is getting to hang out with teenagers and the downside is definitely grading endless stacks of papers. I daydream about smart scanners that can grade student essays with just a flick of the wrist or hiring an assistant just to grade essays or…well, you get the picture. We English teachers spend LOTS of time grading essays.

1:20-2:10 Last class of the day. This class meets daily and is much shorter than the others. The kids can be tired so it is challenging to keep them upbeat and focused. I am lucky to have a really cooperative group at the end of the day. They are nice to each other and helpful to me, thank goodness.

2:10-3:45 It’s not over yet. I stay after school four days a week to help students make up work, get extra help on writing assignments, or just work on problems they are having with the material. Most of the teachers at my school stay after to offer extra help. It’s not really a formal arrangement, but it seems to work. Right before I leave, I make sure the room is clean and my desk clear. Even though I am tired, it will be worth it in the morning if the room is clean and I am organized.

Read more form this series….

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