Surviving a Typical Day in a Teacher’s Life

More ways to deal with this educational year
by Arthur Rubin, MSW, COO, Partner

-5 a.m. Wake up.                                                                             
-6:30 a.m. Leave home on time to account for traffic and a typical 30-minute commute to school.
-7 a.m. In the classroom getting everything ready such as warming up classroom computers, reviewing the day’s agenda, and getting mentally and physically prepared.
-7:30 a.m. The morning school bell rings and “teachers are on fire.” First class period begins. There will be 3 minutes in between this period and the next to clean up and transition the room. (Every transition between classes takes place in 3 minutes.)
-8:33 a.m. Second period begins.
-9:36 a.m. Third period begins.
-10:39 a.m. Fourth period begins.
-11:42 a.m. Lunch for 30 minutes. It really means:
       • Attending to students who want to talk or need to get extra help on work not understood, or
      • Helping another teacher with instruction questions, or
      • Addressing disciplinary actions.
-12:07 p.m. Planning period for own class. Sometimes used for substituting in another teacher's classroom because there aren’t enough substitutes.
-1:20 p.m. Final class period begins.
-2:30 p.m. Students are done for the day. Teachers are not. This is a planning period.
-3:30 p.m. Meeting around student data, team meeting, or grade level leaders meeting.
-5:30 p.m. Arrive home. Spend time with my wife and kids if there isn’t a Zoom meeting for the union board.
-6 p.m. Make parent phone calls and emails.
-7-8 p.m. If it's Sunday night, check emails sent over the weekend, read weekly announcements and schedule for the upcoming week, and get mentally and physically prepared.
-8 p.m. Lesson planning at home in the living room. Grading papers and entering data in 2-3 places.
-10 or 10:30 p.m. Debrief, take a shower, go to bed, and get ready to start again the next day. (If your mind can stop thinking about what you have to do.)
No wonder you’re exhausted!
To add insult to injury, the National of Assessment of Educational Progress has recently issued a national report card showing that student achievement fell during the COVID 19 shutdowns. One more burden to cope with. Last, but not least, is the number of fellow educators, administrators, and staff who have “moved on” or are out ill. DON’T PANIC! No surprise if your overwhelmed. Do NOT let this control you! Let’s get it under control!
You may want to start by reading my previous blog, How to Deal with this Difficult ESL School Year.

Understanding the problem often sets the stage for solving it. That being true, here is some perspective:
Rule #1: Complexity increases by the power of the number of variables.

Take a minute or two to understand this chart. Let it sink in. Ask yourself: “How many things am I dealing with each day?”
Got it? Hopefully. Getting this perspective can reduce your anxiety by increasing your understanding of reality: Humans are not gods. We do not - cannot - totally control ALL the variables life puts in our path. The truth is that we all have been making choices. Focusing on SOME variables, and blocking out and/or ignoring others. So release yourself from the SHOULDA, COULDA, WOULDA in your head. Let it go!

Rule #2: We all make each decision based on everything we are aware of at the moment of decision!
Think about it. Have you ever made a decision that you KNEW was wrong? Or have you always made the best decision you could at that moment? We all want more time to gather information, so we can make the best decision possible. But, all too often the time runs out, and we MUST decide. So don’t blame yourself or others for the decisions of the past. Most of them were made in good faith.

Rule #3: At the moment you need to deal with a “thing”, a variable, a decision, …, ask yourself: What am I able to do about this RIGHT NOW? Now PAUSE. Is there a clear answer? Yes! Do it. Do it now. NO? Move on to another “thing.” If you need to, schedule a re-visit to the thing you could not do right now.
Again, feeling overwhelmed is too often caused by focusing on what you SHOULDA, WOULDA, or COULDA…! But we don’t always have an answer, let alone THE answer. And a powerful way to stop the overwhelm is to apply Rule #3. It also removes a lot of the guilt, because you consciously challenged yourself to know and do, or to see clearly that you didn’t because you couldn’t. THAT is the truth.

Another “rule” that can save time and effort is: Don’t re-invent the wheel! Most of us apply this rule by using materials developed by other qualified educators. Elaine Kirn-Rubin is one of those materials developers and here are some her ready - to - use ESL - Literacy Improvement curriculum materials that will save you time and the effort of reinventing the wheel.
1. Use Simple Future Statements for Plans & Scheduled Events
       a)  A brief summary of Simple Future forms and patterns—with different practice exercises. 
       b) This one is FREE!
2. Review & Summarize the Pronunciation of 16 Vowel Sounds + the Sound Principle of Vowel Lengthening
       a) Pronunciation of 16 Vowel Sounds + the Sound Principle of Vowel Lengthening
       b) Only $1.00! 
3. Combine Clauses to Show Connections Between Ideas, Contrasts, Results, & Time Relationships
       a) Combine Clauses to Show Connections Between Ideas, Contrasts, Results, Time Relationships
      b) Would you believe $3.00?

4. Get & Use Deck G of 52 Intermediate Rhyming-Words Picture Cards
a) Deck G of 52 Intermediate Rhyming-Words Picture Cards
b) These are just $2.00, and well worth it for ease of use and effectiveness.

5. Use Synonyms & Opposites: Saying the Same Thing in Different Ways
      a) Synonyms & Opposites: Saying the Same Thing in Different Ways
      b) Good value for the money: $3.00 
I/we will gladly answer questions. Just send them using this form:

All of our teacher created, ESL and English Literacy Improvement teaching materials can be downloaded at:
Let me know if I have helped, and in what way. What else would help?
About Work/Life English
For over 35 years, Work/Life English has been dedicated to improving the lives of English language learners. We offer a comprehensive range of fun, effective English language improvement lessons and activities to help adult education ESL educators successfully engage their English language students and improve their English competencies, leading to a host of positive effects in students’ professional and personal lives. Better English, Better Life. For more information, visit

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