I wake up at 6am as the sun rises over my suburban town in New Jersey. Since I live 20 miles west of New York City, I get a pretty spectacular view of the skyscrapers bathed in the citrus colours of the early morning sun. I take advantage of the serenity at the local park by going running with my dog.
I drive about 5 miles to my school, arriving at 7.30am before my first class begins at 8.15am. The seniors enter the room in a daze: many of them carry mugs of coffee. They are 18 and ready to go off to university next year, but still have to take my compulsory English class, so I try to make it as engaging and exciting as possible for them.
Each lesson lasts for 43 minutes, and I try to vary my teaching methods every day. Sometimes we quietly read novels, short stories, poems and articles. Other times we watch TED Talks, video clips, commercials, or movies. Or we listen to radio stories and news shows. Then we analyse everything as a class or in small groups. I love it when they can apply what we learn to their own lives.
At 11am, I have my first break – 40 minutes for lunch. I often meet with students, but I try to make time for lunch with adults at least once a week. Several of my friends have a break at the same time, so we sit and chat.
Afterwards, I spend one period supervising study hall, where students come to eat lunch, use the laptops and work quietly. This is also a great time for me to do some grading.
Next, I teach two more classes. These are always the hardest as we’re all tired from a long day. Since the school building was built in the 1950s, many rooms have no air conditioning. In the summer, when the temperature can reach 32°C, it becomes very difficult to teach. This is one of the reasons why our school year runs from September through June. It is almost impossible to continue teaching in the building during the months of July and August.
My last class ends at 2.45pm, but I stay in my room for an hour meeting with students, grading papers, organising lessons for the next day or attending meetings. I often need to continue planning and grading at home in the evening and during the weekends.
Twice a month, all the teachers meet after school for one hour to discuss important events and information. This is often the only time that I see colleagues who do not share my lunch period. It’s amazing that I can work with more than 100 people and see only a handful of them in a given day.
Once a month I meet with the student club that I advise. It focuses on gender issues in the media and in the students’ lives. The club presidents organise and run the meeting, where they engage other students in activities and lessons about gender. I supervise and chime in occasionally, but it is mostly student-centred. I’m always amazed at how well the students run these meetings. By 4 or 5pm, I’m out the door and on my way home.
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