A Year in the Life of a Teacher
How We Get Through a Regular School Year
I’ve had many of you who are reading this. You should be congratulating US. Who is "US"? We are the teachers who taught you to read. We are the very brave souls who furthered our education so that you could further yours. We endured years of college and amassed a collection of degrees just so that you can go further in your life.
Who are we? We are TEACHERS, the true backbone of all education!!!
We can be tutors, counselors, or professors. We are all teachers. There are people who walk around and think (and believe) that teaching is the easiest occupation on the planet. Trust me. It is NOT. In fact, it is probably the HARDEST occupation anywhere. Before one can stand in front of a classroom, one has to find their way into a reputable college. Then, you have to SUCCESSFULLY pass a series of courses. After that, you need to show your degree (diploma) in order to apply for certification. That comes in the form of a test that has to be passed every three years. And all of this has to be done before you can get your very first job. There are just those teachers who make the job look easy. I am not one of those teachers. I have to work at being a much better teacher each year.
So, this article will take you from the first month to the last. If you think that my job is easy, look at what we have to go through each month.
If you think that this is a month where we come back to school from a wonderful vacation, guess again. The novice teacher has just finished being certified after their recent graduation. The experienced teacher has just finished an educational summer where they had to further their minds as well keep up with the recent changes. For me, a few years ago, I had to learn the Common Core Learning Standards (CCLS) and how to apply them to my daily lessons. In addition to that, we also spend the last two weeks in August just getting ready for September. You get to meet your Principal. Hopefully, both of you will get along. There are no guarantees there. Preparations include coming into school and getting our classrooms ready for another rigorous 10 months of school. Such preparations include finding out who our students are if we are a novice and who came back if we are a veteran as well as finding out how many newcomers are on our list. We must set up our seats accordingly AND make sure that we will have the right amount of textbooks with a few more to spare should we get more students than our list reveals. And all of this takes place BEFORE the students come in.
The day after Labor Day, we will have our first real meeting with our Principal. It is where we get our marching orders for the entire ten-month educational period. If you still think that this is an easy profession, you haven’t seen anything yet. There is another day to encounter—the actual FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL!!!!
That is the day where you will hear all sorts of cries and screams. You will hear “I don’t wanna go to school!!! They scare me!!!” “They are so mean!!!” And THAT is just from teachers. The kids are much worse.
Yes, you look forward to seeing who your students are. You will be in one of three groups. You could be the returning teacher with returning students. You could be a returning teacher with a returning group and a few newcomers within that group. Finally, you could be a new teacher facing a whole new group. No matter which group you are in, it is nothing new to any teacher. If we were able to get through it, so will you. Maybe! I have seen many people leave the profession BEFORE the first year, month, or week was over. In two cases, I have seen people leave before the first DAY was over. Talk about a lack of commitment. In any case, the true teacher will stick with it and find a way to do it. Me? I am a 40 year veteran of the profession. Soon, I will throw in the towel, but, for now, I still have much more than I want to do.
One important meeting that we have is the post-start meeting where we talk about how well we prepared for the first day of school and how we met our expectations. Most of the time, we do well. Sometimes, we need to make some sort of adjustment(s). Most of the time, the meetings are okay. Our school year has officially begun. Bring on those candy sales!!!
This is our second month. We have already seen what our year is going to be like. This is the month, despite the coming of Halloween, where we have testing and other activities. Such activities include filling out high school applications and tests. Reading and Math standardized tests!!! This is the sure fire method that the other activities will also begin. For me, it is time to start talking about later grades. For me, it means that I have to start talking about getting my 8th-grade munchkins into high school. I have to prepare applications and write recommendations. For others, it is the start of the Open House season where they will go to visit high schools or colleges depending on where they are right now.
After a while, they settle down and prepare for Halloween activities. That is all I need, little people dressed up in scary-like costumes. One year, one of my students came dressed in the scariest costume of all. He dressed up like ME!!! The boy scared me outta my wits.
It is also the time to also prepare for holidays no matter what type of school we are in. Halloween seems to take preference over all other activities in October. Their minds know nothing else for the entire month.
I’d be a turkey myself if I skipped November. This is another holiday month. Kids go away and others just stay as we complete the third month. Activities begin to wind down for a bit. As we get ready to close out the first trimester, all thoughts drift to Thanksgiving and where all wish to be. Yes, even we teachers are thinking about our Thanksgiving vacation and the turkeys we wish to have. For me, November is the beginning and end of a school spelling bee, and wrapping up all assignments so that I can get December ready for next month’s report cards—the first ones for this school year.
HO! HO! HO! Yes, it is the end of the calendar year, but not the end of the academic year. Of all the months of the school year, this month is the funniest to me. This is the month where the true feelings finally come out. For me personally, it is not about the gifts and stuff. It is a time to find out what these munchkins truly feel about me. I did not get into this profession for money, fame, or gifts, but they do have a way of coming to you.
I remember many years ago when I spoke to a parent about his son who wasn’t studying. I tried to give the dad two recommendations in order to help the child pass the class. The dad had a third path that he created. He pulled out a wad of cash and proceeded to peel off a few $20’s and attempted to hand them to me. I abruptly refused as he looked at me as if I came from another planet. That’s right! The parent attempted to bribe me to pass his child. I think that I was the first to turn down his bribe.
On another occasion, a brat of a child placed a present smack on my desk despite my objections to receiving presents. He sat down and we began to have our class session. After 15 minutes of his nonsense, I proceeded to reprimand him. His response? He quietly got up and took back his present. I was glad he did because it showed me the intention of his gift. I am glad that he took it back.
To this day, and I do not know about other teachers, I do NOT accept presents from any student. It makes no difference who he or she is. That is why I simply cannot wait for the new year to begin.
Of course, depending on what school a teacher is in, there may or may not be a Christmas (or End of the Year) party. If there is a Christmas party, it only means one thing: usually empty wishes. Empty because some folks (teachers and/or students) are only saying it because they have to. It really means that one can’t wait to get away from the other until the start of the calendar year. I know this for a fact because I wished this to myself for many decades and I am sure that my students have wished the same to me. Some teachers may even give their students a gift, too. That is okay. Still, we want the party to be over as we have another party to deal with: the faculty party.
The faculty party is no picnic either. I have been to many of them and the only thing that was missing was the bottle of BOOZE. Good thing, too. A bottle of booze in the wrong hands has the same power as a bottle of truth serum. Can you imagine a room full of boozed up teachers talking to their non-boozed up boss at a Christmas party? Can you imagine what they could say? Can you picture a school full of teachers standing on the unemployment line on Christmas Eve? I can.
Will it REALLY be a Happy New Year? Well, for a teacher, we certainly hope so. It does hope on how the previous calendar year ended. Before they leave for the vacation, we have to fill them with the hope that things will be much better in the final six months of the ten month school year. So now, we must start the calendar year with the hope that the rest of the year will be better because we (students, teachers, principals, and parents) are all on board and ready to tackle the rest of the school year. We will be getting ready for midterms. We will see our class pictures. We will have special events. We will have other exciting things in the coming months, but it all starts with the here and now. Good luck, buddy. They are all years and they will hang on to your every syllable.
Again, I am a veteran of many Januarys. The look on the faces of children after they spent nearly two solid weeks playing with presents from under the Christmas is priceless. It is like somebody hit them in the head with a whammy stick. But, we needn't worry about it. They will find a way to get over it.
I enjoy February for three important reasons. One, it is the shortest month in the school year not only because it has the fewest days, but because it has a nice week off from school. Second, it is Black History Month. Finally, it is also my birthday month. To this day, when children ask me about my birthday, I never fail (no pun intended) to tell them that it is February 31st. Most of them never catch on. Honestly, I did not lie (that much). I kinda told them SOME of the truth.
Now, we begin to start the transition from winter to spring. All of a sudden, clothes start to change. As far as school is concerned, our activities start to change as well. Students are getting ready for their spring activities. Science fairs are all over the place. Schools start up their spring sports programs. More graduation activities begin. This means that practices are begun. What a joy. Soon, it will be time for our upper grades to graduate. Meanwhile, students start looking forward to other things in school. As I mentioned earlier, Science fairs are the thing for all. Parents come out and things get REALLY busy.
"April showers bring May flowers." So they say. Yes, the weather continues its transition to better days. We see more sunshine and, hopefully, less snow. Students begin to unwind from a winter of discontent. Heavy coats are abandoned in favor of lighter wear. More activities are done outside. We may even see some field days, times when gym teachers everywhere plan all sorts of extracurricular sports games, usually in a schoolyard. If not, there will be some very crowded gyms out there, too. Teachers like myself will be busy helping to get these activities moving along. There is also another vacation to look for: Easter or Yom Kippur depending on the type of school it is. Still, it is usually another week and a half off. During that time, students are busy taking care of vacation assignments. Me? I need the rest.
Man, is it hot out there or what? For me, May is ALWAYS a hot month for MANY reasons. For one thing, Mr. Heat tries to invade my classroom by making me breathing air very difficult. It is not stifling, but I start to sweat. When I sweat, I am usually miserable because I am probably in a room without a fan or an air-conditioner. In one case, in particular, I did not even have a window that I could have opened. Talk about miserable. Throughout it all, I still managed to get through it. On some "teaser" days, days when the thermometer tortures me by shedding some 8o or 90 degree days thus testing my ability to sweat. My students, however, are totally unaware of the temperature torture that has their teacher is in. They love their May activities as we try to prepare ourselves for the next month. Some upper-grade classes are also taking state tests this month. That leads me to the last month of a regular school year. This finally brings us to...
In case that you think that it is all over, you haven't seen anything just yet. This month has just as many activities, just like the first month, except there are very tight deadlines. People, mostly us teachers, are scheduled to go on their vacations and stuff. Proms and graduations are set which mean that parents have places reserved for a particular place and times. Losing their reservation not only means losing their deposits but losing their reservations as well. Therefore, it is incumbent on us education professionals to meet our very tight deadlines. At least in September, you MIGHT be able to move a deadline or two. It is IMPOSSIBLE to do so in June.
We also have to complete school records, prepare report cards, organize and clean up our rooms, which also includes the packing up and storing of books. Storing our many textbooks is never easy, but it becomes more difficult if it is your room which has to be repaired and/or painted during the summer. In that case, you have to do some additional steps like take inventory and prepare a list of your items. Some teachers may be lucky to stay on as a faculty member for the next school year. If that is the case, those teachers need to employ some students who have nothing better to do so that they can transport that teacher's materials to the new room while, at the same time, remove that original teacher's room. There is never a dull moment in our Junes.
Then, there is GRADUATION!!!! Finally, the upper-grade leaves and the next group sets their sights on the next teacher to terrorize... perhaps it is YOU. Good luck.
There you have it. That is what a typical school year looks like. Some schools may have more or fewer activities each month. It really depends on the school itself. In this article, I have not named any school in particular. I just pointed out the general activities that we do each month. Your activities may vary, as they say. Still, I hope that you will understand.
School's over!!!! I really could use that summer vacation right now!!!!