A Day in the Life of a First-Year Teacher

A Day in the Life of a First-Year Teacher

Ever wonder what an average day is like for a first year teacher in New York City? Is it 8 to 2? Is it all fun and no work? Is it 24 hour work? What is it like?!
Oh, the mystery that is teaching...

*My first big project on this blog will be to chronicle what a day is like in my job, to give you, my awesome readers, an in-depth, true and honest account of what life is like as a Bronx middle school math teacher in the NYC public schools.* Take a look!!!

A First-Year Teacher's Daily Schedule:

6:45 amI'm up by 6:45 am each day. It's been hard to adjust to seeing that when I came out of college, I was used to waking up at 9, or even 10 some days. Sometimes I'm cranky in the morning, but usually, I'm bright and optimistic. None of my roommates are up at this hour, so I have to tiptoe reaaaal quietly to the bathroom to get ready for the day. I make myself something to eat for breakfast or take some fruit for the walk to the subway. I try to get in a little bit of the "Today Show" or "Good Morning America" as well. 

7:15 am. Out into Queens (and the rest of the city)! I live about 4 blocks away from the 7 train, which takes me directly to Manhattan. Depending on "train traffic" and weather conditions, it usually takes me between 40 to 50 minutes to get to the Bronx. I usually see some very crazy people in the subways and busses in New York, even in the morning. Some dancers and musicians too! But mostly, I see well-to-do New Yorkers and even some teacher friends getting ready for a day at work. I also see some very rude people who think it's okay to scream into their phones at 7:30 in the morning... ummm, lady, some people aren't ready for that just yet!  Also, if I'm a little bit ahead of schedule, I can go outside and pick up something yummy to eat too! :)

8:00 am. It's 8:00 and I'm in the Bronx! I have a seven minute walk from the subway station to the school, which is along a very peaceful street. It's often dark when I leave my apartment, but at 8:00, it gets significantly better. I really enjoy my walk to school, and I often think about how I'm going to make this day great for both myself and my students.

8:10 am. I'm in my classroom at 8:10 am, which is perfect timing because homeroom starts in ten minutes! I have TONS to get done in the ten minute block of time that I have: I need to set my things down, get lesson plans and warm ups written up on the board, change the date, make sure the desks are perfect within groups, organize my attendance lists and sort my papers for my lessons, and if I have any time left, go use the bathroom (since I won't have any time during the day for that...).

8:20 am. My homeroom students are in the door, and I greet them warmly. We have conversations about how our lives are going and share some details about ourselves each day. I have to take attendance and send the attendance info down to the school secretary via e-mail and announce the big events for the day/week. Sometimes we talk about study skills and character development & conflict resolution, skills my kids need to have before they enter high school.  I motivate my kids to succeed, but before we know it, it's already 8:37, and time for them to head to first period!

8:40 am. First period begins! I run through my lesson plan with my first period class. My lessons usually start off with a warm up (students write down the learning target for the day and complete 2-3 review problems from yesterday's class) while I take attendance and check homework. I check homework EVERY day it is due, unless there is a substitute present in the classroom. I truly appreciate my first period's bright attitude because they are my guinea pig class for most of my unorthodox lesson plans. My first period has a lot of energy for a first period class, and I really enjoy being with them and helping them both with learning the content needed to be successful in high school algebra but also in making a positive influence on them.

9:22 am. The bell rings for the class change between first and second periods. While my students get time to socialize in the hallways, I only have THREE (I know right, this is soooo unfair!) minutes to erase the boards, rewrite the warm up, reorganize desks, get activities ready for another run and get a drink of water before my next class starts. Ahhhh!

9:25 am. Three minutes later, my second period is ready to roll. I teach five classes of pre-algebra, so I basically run my lesson plan five times (with a few accomodations here and there). This is my ideal schedule b/c I only have to perfect one lesson plan (as opposed to two or three) and it's good for the entire day! My lessons are very complex and have many activities tacked on to them, which my second period finds a little challenging. I have the "Four Gangstas" and James in my second period. My second period also has three special-ed students, making this class my most challenging one of the day. But, when things go smoothly, I feel that this is also my most rewarding period, and period with the most potential, but my second period and I still haven't yet made those connections that enable me to be successful in my other four classes... :(

10:07 am. Class change again! I do the same ritual as last time, except I can get it done a little bit faster now that I'm familiar with my agenda for the class change. It's hard to go 3 classes back-to-back, and it's the maximum allowed by the contract (thank goodness...), but my 3rd period is such a group of characters, so it's not so bad knowing my 3rd period is a great group of kids for the third class in a row in the morning :)  

10:10 am. 3rd period begins, and I run my lesson plan again on my students. This time, it goes EXTREMELY smooth, since I basically do the same as 1st period with 3rd period, due to the fact that I have very little special-ed accomodations or troublesome students I need to take into account. My 3rd period class is absolutely phenomenal (well, all my classes are!) and after this comes my prep period... so it's just a lot of happiness in this block of my day.

10:52 am. And it's a good thing that my prep is coming up, because my voice starts getting tired by this point and I'm getting a little more physically exhausted from all the activities we do in ONE class (stations, board races, posters, video projects, partner activities, in-school field trips, oh my!) that I'm supervising.  My prep is devoted to mainly lesson planning and grading. I'm such a perfectionist with my lesson plans (and need to be, to make sure my lessons are great now so I can use them again next year). It also takes me a long time to write them because 8th graders have 30-second attention spans, so they need to be MOVING MOVING MOVING to get anything out of the lesson, which is difficult for math. I try to get a lot of my grading done in my prep and in my lunch so I don't have to take home too much, but with only 45 minutes for my prep, it's difficult. Also, sometimes I meet with my teacher mentor (he's a seventh-year 6th grade math teacher from TFA) so we can discuss my classes, lesson plans, etc. My mentor is absolutely AMAZING! He's also a young teacher too, so he knows what we first year teachers go through.

11:40 am. Lunch time! Lunch time! This is the lunch period for both my students (since my school is organized by "academies") and for all the teachers in my academy. I usually sit in the teacher's lounge with my colleagues from my academy and the other academies to discuss our classes but also to unwind and talk about our lives, get info on venues, etc. I feel like I'm in middle school in lunch too, since there's always sooo much gossip in the teacher's lounge (did you hear that "so-and-so" hooked up with "so-and-so"? [these are students, btw] and "Miss History almost got in trouble for doing a last minute field trip", etc, etc). It's so nice having 45 minutes for lunch, since we have time to eat, chat, relax and also discuss our work. Win-win-win-win! :) When I'm not in the mood for socializing, I VCR the morning "Today Show" to watch during my lunch period, while checking Facebook and my e-mail. 

12:25 pm. My lunch is over now, and I head back to my classroom a little bit early to make sure everything's set for my 6th period class, which starts at 12:28.

12:28 pm. 6th period! It feels a little bit weird to be back to teaching after having two full periods off, but I got used to it soon. My 6th period students are ANGELS - very respectful, hilarious, cooperative and intelligent... so there are minimal disruptions in class. The only thing different about this period is that I have more special-ed students requiring adjustments than in my other periods. This is my fourth time doing my lesson plan, so it gets pretty repetitive and I usually finish early during this period.

1:13 pm. This is my transition period to my duty assignment. I have to go downstairs and turn left to enter the big study hall for my duty period. 

1:16 pm. This year, I picked "study hall duty" to be my required duty for the year, and I am one of the assistants to the big study hall "teacher", who's a graduate student at Teachers College-Columbia University. Essentially, I don't really have too many duties with this activity because the "teacher" has everything pretty much under control. I just observe the students to make sure they are on task, no fighting is breaking out, etc... I'm pretty chill with it. I always bring some work for me to do, because this is like my second prep period. I can get a lot of grading, lesson planning, etc done here, which is great! Seeing my students outside of class in a positive manner is another perk.

2:01 pm. This is my last school day transition to my fifth and last class of the day: 8th period. Once again, I reset everything up in my classroom to make sure I'm ready to go with my lesson plan. This takes a little bit more time because there is another teacher using my room 7th period, but she's very good with organization, so most of the time the transition usually isn't a problem - unless she planned a bigger lesson that day.

2:04 pm. 8th period! Last class! I'm usually exhausted by now and have lost some energy... but all it takes is a short drink of water to get me right back perked up!! (It's good to be young.) I run the lesson once more, for the fifth time today, and everything seems extremely natural. This class is pretty rambuctious, mostly because of the mix of students and the fact that it's the last period of the day. However, I worked very hard to build a relationship with these students, and we share great rapport. My 8th period scores at a high rate, not my strongest performing class, but I think it's fair to say the class with the greatest potential - ant that makes it a very special class to have to end off my day.

2:49 pm. Last bell of the day rings & the students file out of their last period class and head to socialize with friends and to their lockers to pack up for the end of the day. At about 3:00 pm., when most of the students have already left the building, I head down to the teacher's lounge to relax and wind down with my good friends and colleagues. We often talk about how our day went, things going on in our personal lives, etc. Sometimes we discuss best classroom practices and help each other with our teaching.

3:25 pm. Our district requires us to stay after 37.5 minutes Monday-Thursday for meetings, professional development, extra planning time, etc. During this block, I often have meetings with my teacher mentor (who I will have for my first three years teaching) and with my department. When I have a free block, I spend the time planning lessons, doing paperwork, entering grades into the gradebook, updating the class Facebook page and all other things I'm responsible for. I almost never finish within 37.5 minutes, though, and usually stay after for about an hour. And even then, I still take home some work.

4:30 pm. By this time, I've been up for what feels like forever, and it's time to get out of the school. After leaving, I sometimes spend some time in the Bronx - at a local park or bodega, etc. and catch up with some Spanish newspapers and Bronx culture. I ride the train down to Manhattan and spend some additional time in the City as well, doing touristy activities and visiting some cultural venues... basically loving the city that I've been in love with since I was in grade school. Depending on my energy level and the weather, I usually leave to go back home at around 7:00. Thanks to the amazing subway and bus system we have in NYC, I can get home in just about 20 minutes from most parts of Manhattan. On my lazier days, I'd go home, take a shower and watch the evening news before dinner with my roomies!

7:30 pm. I'm home! I live with four amazing roommates (all in their twenties, 2 male roommies and 2 female roomies) in a townhouse in western Queens. My roommates and I are extremely close, and we make it a point to have dinner together at least three nights a week. We sometimes "potluck" it, and because we're all from such diverse backgrounds and cultures, it can get pretty interesting. Other times, we take turns cooking or going out to eat.

8:15 pm. Time to lay back and rewind. Watch some TV. Read some magazines. Go on Facebook. Talk with friends or my parents/grandparents on the phone... until I'm ready to go back to "work" and finish up the work I need to do before going off to bed.

8:50 pm. I have about an hour or so of work left to do at home. I have a desk in my room with my laptop ready to do it! When the work is finished, it's a sign that I'm done for the day. Assuming that this is a school night, around 10:00 is when I get ready to go to bed. If I didn't already before, I go to take a shower, brush my teeth and get my stuff ready for tomorrow morning.

10:30 pm. LIGHTS OUT!!!! GOOD NIGHT!