So for those of you who don’t know already: I am a teacher. I am only in my second year in the profession and I teach Reception. For those of you not from England, this is the first year where school is compulsory and the children are just 4 and 5 years old. I have a class of 31 and I have 1 teaching assistant to help me get through the day.
Before I begin I just want to explain why I am writing this post. When I tell people what I do for a living I get 1 of 2 reactions. Either: Wow! You get to play all day and then get so many holidays – teaching is such an easy job! Especially when you only teach 5 years olds! Or: There is no way I could spend all day wiping snotty noses and cleaning up sick- I don’t know how you do it! As you might imagine, these stereotypical responses really annoy me because I work really hard to be good at my job and there is so much more to it than people think.
I know that there are a lot of disgruntled teachers voicing their opinions about how unfair the government is and how difficult our jobs are becoming and I completely agree with what they are saying. Being a teacher is hard work. But i’m not going to sit here and moan about how little we are paid and the amount of hours we put in to planning and making resources because it is my choice to do so. I decided to become a teacher and remain in the profession despite how demanding the job really is, so I feel it would be unfair to complain and preach to you about the problems in education today. Instead, I want to share my typical day with you. And yes, hopefully it might make readers think about how exactly how little time in my day is spent wiping noses, but it might also inspire people to think about just how rewarding teaching can be.
6am: The alarm goes off and I generally hit snooze because it feels like I shut my eyes to sleep only seconds ago. By 6.15am I am up and getting myself ready for the day. I tend to spend half an hour doing the usual morning routine and during that time I am going through my day in my head.Do I have any meetings to attend? Do I need to adapt my planning in maths because a child didn’t get it at all yesterday? Wait what did I even plan for Phonics? <– Those are the sorts of things I think about first thing in the morning.
7am (ish): The drive to school. I only live about 15 mins away from where I work which is handy. I tend to listen to a CD in the car rather than the radio. I always aim to leave the house by 7 but this doesn’t always happen. If I arrived at school any later than 7.30 am I would consider myself t be ‘late’ although my official start time isn’t until 8.30am. I then spend the next hour and a half preparing myself and my classroom for the day ahead. Being in an Early Years Setting means I have 10 different areas in my classroom which need to have an activity in them each day so that the children can use them to learn independently. Keeping these well resourced and linked to the current topic I am teaching is a huge task and so most of my morning gets spent doing this. I tend to get photocopying and other admin stuff done at this time too. I always look over my planing and make sure I am organised and have everything I need ready and easy to reach so that I don’t have to worry about it throughout the day.
8.50 am: The children arrive! This part of the day is just chaos. I usually have a queue of parents wanting to speak to me about something and trying to dedicate my time to them is always difficult when also trying to comfort the child who is crying because they wanted to bring a toy to school, reminding the boys who like to sit and have a chat to please sit in their carpet spaces, just like we do every other day and to keep tabs on my teaching assist who is also dealing with parents. But by 9am we always manage to dispatch the parents and I can settle myself in front of the class ready to do the register and teach English.
9am – 3pm: ‘Actual Teaching’ So this is the part of the day where I actually teach. In a typical day we fit in an English session, Phonics, Maths, Music or French. We also have Guided Reading sessions and Circle Time. The children get to use all the areas of the classroom for at least an hour and half each day, plus they enjoy the outdoor area for 2 x 40 minute sessions. These both have to be supervised and I use this time to complete assessments and target children who need extra support or to be pushed. We also need to fit in a story, nursery rhymes, have snack time and news time and of course, we have dinner time for 45 mins. So yeah, our day is jam-packed and not a minuet goes by where the children aren’t learning something. Every opportunity is seized and turned into a lesson of some kind- even lunch time and as a result, I don’t stop for one second. I even spend my lunch break on the phone to parents, dealing with a behaviour problem or in some kind of last minute meeting. The day goes by in a whirlwind and before I know it, it’s time to say goodbye to the little darlings. By the end of the school day I will have given out over 60 stickers, been drawn at least 5 pictures and I will be sick of the sound of my own voice. And yes, I will have wiped a snotty nose or two.
3pm – 6pm: The children are done for the day but I am not. Twice a week I run straight to some form of meeting or staff training and on a Tuesday I run a book club. The rest of my evenings are spent writing reports, looking at assessment data, marking books, creating resources for the next day, responding to emails, planning lessons for next week, tidying my classroom, making displays and researching new ways to improve my teaching. Unfortunately, 3 hours is not enough for this and so inevitably, the work comes home with me. I tend to do at least another hour a night at home and 1 full day at the weekend is spent getting ready for my week ahead.
6pm onwards: I try to get to the gym at least 3 evenings a week but this depends on how tired I am and how much work I have brought home to complete. I tend to get home at about 7pm and after having tea and a shower and doing all the other usual evening activities, I actually sit down between 8.30 and 9pm. By this point, my eyes are already closing. I fight to stay awake and watch something on Netflix or read a chapter of my book but I usually lose this battle. By 10pm I am usually asleep and before I know it, the alarm is going off again!
That’s a typical day. Being a teacher is by no means a walk in the park. At no moment in my day do I sit and play games or just switch off. I am constantly thinking about progress, targets and how well my pupils are achieving. I am worried about impending observations, reports and tables of data that are due in the coming week. The pressure is immense.
But despite all of these things, I love my job. Because seeing how happy Olivia* is when she finally writes her name correctly is amazing. Watching Billy* count to 20 without making a mistake makes me burst with pride. I spend more time with the children in my class than I do with anybody else and they spend more time with me than they do their own parents. Being able to make a difference in their lives is an incredible responsibility and one I really appreciate. There isn’t a day goes by without one of them making me smile and it is impossible to stay in a bad mood for long. I always come home with a funny story to tell and not many people can say that about their jobs. So from now on when I hear the words – “Babysitting children all day? That’s an easy job!” I might just smile and reply “It’s not the easiest, but it is the most rewarding”.
*Names have been changed. I don’t have an Olivia or a Billy in my class!