A day in the life of ... Maddie Fennell

In an area of high crime and poverty in Nebraska, US, this elementary school teacher finds that her students make all the effort worthwhile

My professional day begins at 7.50am when I pick up three students in need of a lift to school. We arrive at Miller Park Elementary in Omaha, Nebraska, 30 minutes early so that I have time to prepare for the day.

Our school is situated in an area of high crime and poverty. Just last month, the police arrested a man on the school steps after he fired shots at them. We were, however, among the top performers in the district this year in the state writing exam, and we outperform other schools with similar demographics in the state reading and mathematics tests.

My official duty, teaching the 4th grade (ages 9-10), begins at 8.40am. Until the 9.05am tardy bell, arriving students log on to their school-provided laptops and watch the news. After announcements, we discuss current affairs and add unfamiliar or key vocabulary to our "word wall". This is my favourite part of the day, as we engage in robust dialogue and I gain an insight into students' thought processes and interests.

At 10am, I escort the students to art class, which leaves me 40 minutes of planning time. I develop ideas with the principal for our upcoming professional development day, reply to a text from a parent and make arrangements for a field trip to a local museum.

I pick up my students and we begin our "language arts" work. We are reading Money Hungry by Sharon Flake, a novel about a teenager living in poverty with her struggling mother. Then, using the smartboard, we review literary devices by playing a Jeopardy!-style game that I downloaded from a colleague. Students work in teams, earning bonus points for collaboration. The resource teacher picks up my special education students; they will work in her room for 30 minutes.

Students grab their laptops to engage in individual practice on Study Island, an online program purchased by our school. I monitor their progress in real time from my laptop, pulling back individual students for remediation. Students who master the grade-level work challenge themselves with advanced practice.

We then transition into "writers' circle", an opportunity for students to read their writing aloud and receive constructive criticism from their peers. Building on our lesson on Money Hungry, we focus on the use of voice.

A different angle

After lunch, it's time for mathematics. I use the smartboard to teach a geometry lesson on angles. Students use their computers to access IXL, an online program, for individual practice. As with reading, I monitor their progress and address individual needs, offering remediation and advanced work.

It's 3pm and several students leave the room for speech class, violin lessons or special education. The remaining students engage in a social studies role play of how a bill becomes a law in our legislature. To make up the remaining time, we review homework and clean up. At 3.55pm, all students are dismissed. I go to my duty station, standing by the front door until 4.10pm.

At 4.15pm, my day is officially at an end, but I help with a talent show rehearsal until 5pm. I pass the gym as I walk out the door, taking 15 minutes to cheer on the volleyball team before dropping my little riders at their homes.

After feeding my family and getting my son to bed, I spend an hour reading and completing tasks for the various professional organisations that I am involved with. Then I spend another hour on school work. But teachers have it easy, right?


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 ed.dorrell@tes.co.uk

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