A Day in the Life of a Teacher
Boluo School | 2022-06-06 | 10 min read

Teachers are “burning out” everywhere.  The pandemic put a magnifying glass on the public education system and teachers are frying like ants in the sun. Many parents and lawmakers argue that teachers are simply entitled and complain too much. Those outside education rarely know what goes on in a day in the life of a teacher.  Allow me to illustrate a typical day in the life of a high school teacher. We are assuming that school starts at 8 and ends at 3. 

7:30: Arrive at school

7:30-7:40: check emails that came in overnight from angry parents and administrators thinking of new “initiatives”

7:40-7:50: Attempt to finish required paperwork, while getting interrupted at least three times

7:50-7:59: Review day’s lesson, ensure materials are present, panic when the realization hits that the copy machine ruined half your copies of assignments.  Pray there are 5 minutes to go make more during the lunch break, and that there isn’t a line and the copier isn’t broken

8-9: Deliver instruction to students who are mostly still asleep, attempt to wake them up with exciting review games and warm-ups. Endure painful silence and a lack of participation. 

9-10: Deliver instruction to students who are reasonably compliant, things are going well when…FIRE DRILL. Lead all students outside to stand in the rain for 15 minutes. Return to class. Attempt to get wet, restless students back on track with their assignments. Fail miserably.

10-11: Deliver an entirely different lesson than the one from the first two hours. Five minutes in, announcement over the loudspeaker. “Teachers, please check your email. There is a list of students that we need in the cafeteria. Send those students down.” Spend five additional minutes scanning the list of 200 names to see if any of your students are on it. 5 are. Send a quarter of the class out to miss the rest of the lesson that was essential for tomorrow’s assignment. 

11-11:30: Lunch break! Remember those copies from earlier? Go to the copy room.  There’s a line because everyone is using their lunch break to make copies and there is only one functioning copy machine because the other three are broken. Time to go to the bathroom. Return to the copy room. The copy machine is out of paper. There’s no paper. Walk downstairs to the first floor to get paper. Return with paper to find someone else is now making copies.. Decide the students can work in partners because there isn’t time to wait any longer and they’ll only need half as many copies. 

11:30-12: Homeroom! Does anyone get a break to study or do paperwork? I think you know the answer. Admin requires that teachers teach a mandatory lesson on “Respect and Good Citizenship” that students MUST complete but cannot be taken for a grade. Students are understandably non-compliant. 

12-1: Planning period! Time to plan upcoming lessons, finally! Oh wait, there’s mandatory training during this period. Does it matter that it’s the exact same one from last year and every returning teacher has already taken it (possibly MANY times)? No. Did administration even bother to update the slides? Definitely not. Bring a laptop to the training and attempt to input some grades. 

1-2: Time to deliver another lesson…entirely different from the first two.  And this period falls immediately after the varsity athletic period where the coach made all the players run laps for an hour. Half the class is sweaty, smelly, exhausted and painfully thirsty. 

2-3: The witching hour has arrived. Students are full of energy, rowdy, unfocused and the ADHD medicine has worn off. Spend the entire hour running around just trying to get students to work on their assignment and stop throwing erasers at each other. 

3-3:30: Mandatory office hours/tutoring. Those students who were asleep during first period are awake now and come to have the lesson re-taught. 

3:30-4:30: Call parents of struggling students. No answer. Voicemail full. Try again tomorrow, because actual contact with parent is required or the student must receive a passing grade. 

4:30: Go home. Eat for the first time all day. 

That’s a pretty reasonable work day. But wait! There were a lot of things that didn’t get done. Lessons still have to be planned and written out (in excruciating detail for admin) and assignments have to be created and graded.  Every hour of instruction takes about 30 minutes of planning.  The teacher in this example delivered three distinct lessons in one day.  That’s 1.5 hours of planning. Let’s imagine this teacher has 120 students (a reasonable number for high school). The teacher gave an assignment that day that they have to grade. If the teacher devotes only A SINGLE MINUTE to grading every paper, that’s an additional 2 hours of work. 

That’s 12.5 hours of work that must be done in order to do the minimum.  

We can’t keep relying on our teachers’ minimum to deliver maximum results.  As policymakers, parents and citizens, we have to do more for our teachers and our students. 

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