My day begins any time before 6am and sometimes as early as 2am, often with an idea for my class of 10- and 11-year-olds. I immediately leave the bed to jot the thought down before it fades. The best ideas usually occur to me in the wee small hours. That's the only time that I have for myself, while my 18-month-old daughter sleeps soundly in her crib.
After writing down my flash of inspiration, I doze off again and the alarm wakes me up at 6am. I quickly catch up with some marking before it's time to get into the rigmarole of daily business.
I get both my children ready by 7.30am, making breakfast, feeding them and packing their bags. As I drive them to school, I listen to them babble, sort out little fights and make plans for the evening; usually birthday parties or play dates. Getting out of the car with an 18-month-old in my arms, a super-heavy laptop bag on one shoulder and a fully loaded baby bag on the other (while ushering a five-year-old out of the door) is a major struggle every day, particularly in the scorching Indian summer.
A day with my class of 20 at Pathways School Noida, in New Delhi, typically begins with warm wishes, assignment submissions, marking attendance and a peep into my "secret-sharing box" to see if there is a note that needs attention.
My pupils come from affluent families where they enjoy many worldly comforts and I often find that they are competitive about possessions. They whisper about the number of cars their family has or the latest iPad they have bought. For them it's natural, but my challenge as an educator is to highlight the great economic divide that exists in India. It's important for these children to understand the difference between needs and wants.
A reflective question comes to my rescue: "Before you buy something, ask yourself `Do I really need it?' " This leads to a sensible discussion about the distinction between needs and wants. I know deep down that my pupils do not really think too much about this. On the day that just one of them seriously considers these issues, I will cheer.
Our reflection exercises continue. After a short while, the students edit each other's work and give feedback. We review our term goals and I assign merits for good citizenship.
After eight hours at school, I switch back to mummy mode and drive home with my brood. An hour later, I open my laptop to answer my emails, send reminders of tasks to my students and attend to parents' concerns and queries. While all this is going on, I socialise with my friends through Facebook and WhatsApp. By this time, my two have usually started screaming, wanting to leave the house for their evening play dates.
It's hard to strike a perfect balance between work and personal life, but I find it exhilarating and rewarding when I see all 22 of my kids - my class at school and my two at home - growing beautifully and developing independent minds.
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