A Day In The Life of a High School Teacher [What I Do, By Meg Thompson Dolle]

I found this note posted on my friend Patrick’s page. I thought it was such an eye opener I wanted to post it here on my page for you to read. Here’s Patrick’s introduction to Meg’s note. –Barry

My very good friend, Meg, teaches English at a high school in Richmond, VA. She recently detailed a typical day in her work life. With her (albiet tacet) encouragement I am trying to get everyone on the planet to read it. This is dedicated to every conservative douchebag who pretends teachers don’t really deserve to be well paid (or are in fact overpaid) because they have “easy jobs.”

Enjoy. And distribute.

“What I Do” by Meg Thompson Dolle.

I often try to explain to non-teachers just what we do that is not teaching. I think I haven’t been able to explain it any better than “planning, grading, and paperwork” in a fairly abstract way. I tend to say things like “all this work piles up” or “dealing with discipline” or something similar. I know I have no idea what BJ’s talking about when he starts talking about ENCOE logs (a name which I’m sure I’m misspelling and probably getting wrong)—so why would anyone else know what I do besides teach?

I have a student teacher who is working quite well independently, so I am now freed from teaching, most planning (I still write the plans for the SAT Prep class, though my student teacher actually teaches them), and I have caught up on grading. And yet, I have have been working constantly for the three weeks I’ve been out of the classroom. Today, I decided to document what I did.

6:30-6:35 Arrival—pick up mail, pick up copies of project description, unlock door to classroom and deliver a library notice for 1st period student

6:35-6:36 Hole punch copies of project

6:36-6:39 deliver holepunched copies and copies of school newspaper to class

6:39 start logging in to the school network (computer is fully logged on at 6:48)

6:40-5:52 pull together parts of today’s SAT plan—partially printed from a plan I typed at home last night, partially taken from a Teacher’s Guide. I pull the plans together to present to the student teacher.

6:53-7:01 discussed the day’s plans with the student teacher

7:02-7:07 respond to a parent email regarding student research paper over confusion the child had about grading of her research paper draft—the child has a 504 plan which extends her deadlines for long projects

7:08-7:12—search for scotch tape for the next thing on the to-do list. There is none in the department work room supply closet. I looked for glue-sticks as an alternative—I find a couple; they are dry.

7:12-7:15—search for scotch tape in my classroom. There is none. No glue either. I find an almost-used-up roll of packing tape.

7:15-7:25 stood in hall (monitoring duty expec ted between all classes. Thanks to my tape-search, I was five minutes late.)

7:25-7:26—arranged makeup study hall session for student who passed me in the hall who was absent yesterday who has not completed ANY steps of his research paper. If he doesn’t do the paper, he has no chance at all of passing the class, and since he’s a senior, that will mean he won’t graduate.

7:26-7:45—used the packing tape to attach statements to index cards—an item needed for an SAT class activity.

7:45-8:00—went to Guidance to follow up on a student who has been accused of sexual harassment in the club I monitor

8:00-8:10—filled out Student Assistance Team referral notice for a student who has been displaying excessive anxiety—she excels on tests but never seems happy about it, doesn’t do major assignments, and I spoke to Guidance about her a couple weeks ago, but she seems maybe worse since then

8:10-8:15—went upstairs to put a sign on the lab door—some kids who missed yesterday’s study hall session in there might try to go there today, and I don’t want them wandering in the halls with no direction

8:15-8:50—Study hall—First, I enter 1st period’s attendance into the computer system (the student teacher doesn’t have access to it.) I pick up the absentee note one student had turned in from yesterday’s absence. Then, I help two students who are far behind on the research paper go step by step through the requirements, how to find research, how to create a Works Cited page, how to organize the assignment.

8:50-8:55—standing in hall (monitoring duty)

8:55-9:03 Bring Student Assistance Team referral to guidance and absentee note to the Attendance office (absentee notes need to be brought physically to the office daily)

9:03-9:23 Writing passes to be distributed for next Tuesday’s study hall session for students who have turned in research paper drafts that were woefully inadequate in regards to the minimum requirements.

9:23-9:28 checked work email. None needed reply, 2 had to be forwarded to student teacher, one with notice about early dismissal of some 1st period students on Friday had to be printed for student teacher.

9:28-9:43 Prep for conference with student and parent this afternoon—pull up grade report on computer and print it out, highlight 0’s and F’s, compile attendance, analyze patterns to discuss with parent

9:45-9:48 Guidance—looking for counselor for above kid, because he currently has a 22% average for the year, and his nine-weeks grade is currently 17%, AFTER I conference with him about needing to show a complete turnaround in order to have a chance at passing. Counselor wasn’t in her office.

9:50-10:00 prep for a conference with a student and parent for tomorrow—same process as above. Patterns are bad, but not as alarming. Looking at the grades and analyzing what assignments are not turned in, and which are failed, I determine the kid does most of his work, but doesn’t do makeup, and appears to simply not put effort into the assignments.

10:00-10:07 Email study hall teacher and counselor regarding the student for today’s conference. I had arranged for him to meet with me in study hall today regarding the research paper, but he didn’t show, and I wanted to know if he were even present in his regular study hall class.

10:09 filed student-teacher-related paperwork

10:10-10:20 Figured out who, of those who missed yesterday’s emergency study hall session, are in the Success program, then checked their grades to see how doing or not doing the research paper was likely to affect their chances to pass the course.

10:20-10:25 standing in hall (monitor duty)

10:25-10:27 discuss research paper with a student, then escort her to class so she won’t be marked tardy

10:27-10:29 check with the Success teacher to ask for a good time to talk with one student—he was in the library, but would come to see me soon

10:30-10:34 discuss progress of student teacher with her university supervisor

10:35-11:00 student from Success program arrives—I discuss with him his goal of passing the class, the fact that it is possible but not without completing the research paper, his frustration with the project (he had not kept track of what the paper was even about), then leading him through the basic steps he needs to complete the paper.

11:11:20—[time not directly spent on teaching tasks—discussion with colleagues regarding current political issues as they impact our school]


11:48-12:05—grading 2 research papers that had various irregularities—they had only been turned in in the proper format today.

12:06-12:15 check work email. Contacted administrator about today’s conference student with all the zeroes, replied to colleague’s question about student teacher, scheduled a parent conference for next Thursday.

12:15-12:20 standing in hall (monitor duty)

I do not have data for the rest of the day—this was then my actual “Planning” period, and I spent this time discussing with my student teacher the day’s lessons, successes and concerns, lesson plans, upcoming requirements, today’s and tomorrow’s parent conferences, how I was making arrangements for coverage for today’s Anime club meeting when we also have a parent conference, as well as dealing with a couple more emails regarding that student and entering the day’s attendance into the computer system.At the end of the day, we had the parent conference with all his teachers, his counselor, and his administrator—which the parent ad the kid didn’t show up for.