A day in the life of an elementary teacher…

Here is a glimpse of an elementary teacher’s day:

A teacher arrives at school between 6:45 and 7:15.  She/he has enough time to make copies, set up the room as needed and prepare for the day’s lessons, attend a staff meeting, and grade papers.   Before the bell rings, a teacher may need to take a parent call, write or return an e-mail or talk to someone special waiting at their classroom door.  At 7:55, the students are lined up outside and come in to start the day.

Class starts with roll call and lunch count, the collection of notes, and then morning announcements. During this time homework or work completed is checked or handed in and progress reports from the prior night are returned, and students have their bathroom break. Teachers outline the day for the students, and complete classroom daily tasks, such as a morning problem, the calendar, etc.   Directions are also set on what the objectives are for the morning. These postings happen throughout the day, on a white board, a SMART board, or as outlined on their work.

8:20 arrives and it’s time to start teaching the day’s lessons. Elementary reading blocks are usually in the morning with lessons geared for the whole group and supportive lessons for small groups of students. These lessons will fulfill all the necessary grade level balanced literacy outcomes and skills, which may include word work, writing, listening, oral reading, presentations, silent reading, etc.  Throughout a day in whatever course or subject they are in, students are monitored to make sure they are participating, are actively engaged, listening and showing proof of their understanding.

Flexibility and being organized is the name of the game.  In a typical day there may be changes in schedules or interruptions. What type of interruptions?   Here are just a few changes to a scheduled day: students being called to the office, students having to go to a different classroom in the building, a student being late, other adults walking in the room needing support, a behavior situation. And even though a day may not turn out as planned, as students come and go, a teacher touches base with each student to make sure that they get the information and instruction they need.

By mid morning, classes may need to leave to go to specialized class such as ART, MUSIC, or PE.  The time out of the class is dependent on the specialized class and state specifications.  A teacher may take a quick bathroom break, take care of more calls or e-mails, grade more papers, enter grades or assessments into the computer, or prepare lessons electronically. A teacher may have a required or needed parent conference; meet with a principal, counselor, or specialist.

Depending on the district timelines, weekly schedules will include formative and benchmark tests to be given to record student progress.  These daily assessments help to guide the instruction for the day, week, unit or year.  Also during the week, time is scheduled for meeting with a team of teachers to review, analyze and act on the assessment data.

Later into the morning, the teacher picks up the students from a specialized class and returns to the daily schedule of the classroom. With lunch being around the middle of the day, if they don’t have an assigned school duty, a teacher leads her students to lunch, then heads back to the classroom to eat, grade more papers, meet with people for specific reasons and then plan or prepare for the upcoming afternoon.

The afternoon usually brings math, and the sciences, building programs such as health, community awareness, etc. Students have a recess break after lunch and then teachers go to pick them up for the rest of the day.  Recess time or a break is also an opportunity to work with students for enrichment, help with challenges, or to help a student who is new or has been ill.  Each subject area brings different approaches and strategies, and different procedures to follow.  A teacher may team teach or combine their class with another classroom, or grade level teachers may switch classes or students may have independent work time to research or work with cooperative teams.

Around 3:30, students complete an assignment notebook.  Teachers assist with this homework preparation as a class or individually as needed.  This work determines what is needed for the next day, the week, or into the following week. Students are then given special transportation notes, directed to a specific bus, daycare, special activity, after school intramural, etc. and get dressed and pack up for the appropriate outside weather.

After school, more conferences, or meetings may take place for individual or teams of teachers until 4:30 or 5:00. On other days as outlined by a school calendar, one may need to stay late for professional development or receive extra help with a new district initiative. The cycle of preparation begins again with the majority of teachers either bringing work home or coming in early so that they can look forward and be ready for the next day and weeks to come.

Even though a teacher’s day is ever-changing, the best part of each day is being able to meet student’s needs.


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