A day in the life of...

Whether this elementary school teacher in New Jersey is playing Chuck Berry to liven up his students or dimming the lights to calm them down, atmosphere – and attainment – is everything to him
8th May 2015, 1:00am
Greg McGrath


A day in the life of...


I've heard of the Sunday night blues but I can safely say that I don't experience them. Instead, I suffer from a complete lack of sleep, worrying about the week ahead and the 15 lessons I've been planning all day.

I lie awake analysing the relationships I have with the 50 students I see each day. I think about their families and how I can build better partnerships. I think about closing the education gap I witness in my classroom, and the health care, unemployment and crime gap I see outside.

If it's my turn to walk the dog, my day starts at 6am. I embrace these early walks before I arrive at the newly built Charles H Bullock elementary school in New Jersey. It's in a diverse town that has million-dollar mansions and food stamps, about a stone's throw from New York City.

Once in my classroom at 7.45am, I prepare for the day. The Beatles, Muddy Waters, B B King and Chuck Berry help me to energise my 10-year-old 4th graders for a brand new week. Bach, Mozart and Chopin cool them down at the end.

I dim the classroom lights to reflect the mood I wish to build, helping students to leave chaotic home environments behind. They can feel safe here, secure in the knowledge that I am ready to support them with structure and routine, and to challenge them to grow them in wonderful new ways.

My language arts lesson runs for 80 minutes and breaks down into reading and writing. At 10am I dish out handfuls of pretzels to fuel the children's minds, then it's on to the last stretch. Half an hour later, my class swaps over with the maths students, who come in to be taught by me. The difference is like changing the ingredients in a recipe: the feel, smell and overall aesthetics alter completely. And with that, so do my goals and expectations.

We break for lunch at 12pm and I check my emails while shoving food into my mouth. Occupational therapists, school counsellors, child study teams, co-workers and parents await answers to the many questions and concerns that 50 personalities can create.

At 1pm on Mondays and Wednesdays I collect my calm, focused homeroom class for social studies. On Tuesdays and Thursdays it's my energised, electrified and daring class next door. We fly through states and countries, fight in battles, start revolutions and build dioramas until 2.15pm.

According to my pedometer, I've walked nearly 7,000 paces. I welcome a sit-down at my desk as the students head to their extracurricular lessons. After five minutes of emails I'm up again for parent-teacher meetings, photocopying and a quick pow-wow with co-workers about tomorrow's plans. Then it's time to collect my students ready for dismissal.

At 3.15pm I head to my room physically and mentally exhausted. I clean the bomb site that my classroom has become and revise my plans depending on what my students accomplished. I reflect on my performance, taking the good with the bad, and remind myself that the show must go on.

Your day

Do you want to tell the world's teachers about your working day, the unique circumstances in which you teach or the brilliance of your class? If so, email chloe.darracott-cankovic@tesglobal.com

We will give your school pound;100 if your story is published.

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