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A Day in the Life: Teach For America Third Grade Literacy Teacher

7:30 a.m.: I arrive at school. I use this extra hour in the morning to make copies and grade papers, get my classroom put back in order, write the morning message on the board, and talk with other teachers in my school. The message of the day usually involves a greeting (Good morning class!), the date, the special period of the day -- art, computers, gym, music or library -- and something to get my students excited about a lesson. For example, "Today we're going to learn about how sharks breathe."

8:25 a.m.: I pick up and greet my students. We listen to the morning announcements on the P.A. and recite the flag salute and the National Anthem. Each student also has a specific morning task. For example, a student might be in charge of taking roll or collecting and stamping homework. (Homework is stamped so that I know it was done on time).

8:35 a.m.: Now the day really begins. I teach my first group of students reading, writing, and social studies. We do some direct instruction, guided practice (with some help from the teacher), and center work. Center work involves rotating among three different stations. At one station, students work with a teacher on a guided reading; at another station, students work independently at one of several skill-building centers -- computers, writing, reading, sentence building; and at the final station, students do worksheets on their own.

10:45 - 11:40 a.m.: Lunchtime. I'm supposed to be able to leave my classroom during this time, but the lunch aides are a little loose on discipline so I usually eat my lunch in the room with my students to keep an eye on things.

11:40 a.m.: I switch classes and get my second group of students who spent their morning with their math and science teacher. These are the CHIPS (honors) students, so the afternoon leaves room to take lessons to a more advanced level if they get the basics down faster than the morning students. Again we go through reading, writing, and social studies lessons.

For example, one week, I might be teaching adjectives. I start off the lesson by playing a game, a good way to get the students involved. I describe objects around the room, saying, "I see a purple folder. I see a blue chair. I see a round table." The students join in by mimicking me. This leads into a discussion of what is means to be an adjective.

2:10 p.m.: The school day is almost over and it's time for my prep, a free period when I get a chance to grade papers, plan lessons, or call parents about missing homework and discipline issues, or sometimes about high scores and improved behavior. This time is also spent speaking with my students' math/science teacher as well as our literacy coach about unit and theme planning, test scores and other information regarding our students.

2:55 p.m.: Now it is student dismissal time. I go back to the classroom and help get my students packed up and out the door. I often have short in person conversations with some of the parents picking up their students. I also get another chance to talk to other teachers about what is happening in their classrooms and upcoming school events. On Mondays we usually have a school meeting. Most days of the week teachers can't sign out until 3:30 p.m., except Friday when we can leave at 3:00.

4:00 p.m.: I don't really leave school until just after 4:00 most days. I have lesson plans to write, student work to grade and post in the classroom, bulletin boards to change, and there's always plenty to clean up! Despite the extra hour of work at school, I often bring home more work to grade and supplies to get lessons ready for the next day at school. A teacher's work is never truly done!

In addition to the normal work of a regular teacher, as a TFA corps member, I attend a weekly education class from 4:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. We talk about educational issues such as learning styles -- How do you figure out what your students' learning styles are? How do you adapt? How has it been a problem in your classroom?

On other evenings, I might talk with other TFA teachers and directors about ideas to ensure my students are moving forward and making necessary gains or ways in which I might improve my school through initiatives such as after school programs or professional development. As a TFA teacher, I'm not only concerned with becoming a good teacher, but also with affecting change.