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What Teachers Do Every Day
Today's teachers describe how they spend their time everyday.
Grading student work entails evaluating the quality of students' papers, tests, and homework assignments.
Most teachers spend the majority of their time in the classroom or preparing for classroom activities. The amount of time dedicated to other tasks varies by school, but activities outside of the classroom are often described as an integral part of the job. Here's how teachers describe their time on the job:
This is the behind-the-scenes element to teaching. Preparing for class is time-consuming and can entail everything from authoring "lesson plans," to brainstorming tomorrow's lecture, to developing thought-provoking questions for discussion, to physically setting up a special needs classroom. All teachers report that they spend extra time planning fun activities to encourage class participation and student interest. One chemistry teacher we spoke with spends much of his time outside of class devising bizarre experiments he can use in class to break up the monotony of lectures.
Teaching in the Classroom
For the majority of middle and high school teachers, class time is spent either orchestrating class discussion or lecturing students. Insiders say that all too often, the allotted 45 to 55 minutes are simply not enough to cover the concept they set out teach within that class period. Taking attendance, dealing with homework assignments, and managing other administrative items can cut into as much as a third of class time on the middle and high school levels. Elementary and special needs teachers may use class time on various activities that teach new concepts and skills.
Grading Student Work
Grading student work entails evaluating the quality of students' papers, tests, and homework assignments. This is often a difficult part of a new teacher's job, since they often question they're grading too leniently or too severely, or if their tests and class workload are appropriately suited to their students' level of ability. Special needs teachers are generally less concerned with grading student work than with evaluating individual student improvement.
Administration includes attending meetings with other teachers and school administrators, as well as writing required reports documenting student performance and progress. Many schools have formal faculty meetings once a month, but individual departments frequently meet to discuss specific book orders, student needs, or interdepartmental protocol.
Personal Attention to Students
In private and public high schools, teachers pay personal attention to students by tutoring those who are having trouble with their schoolwork, serving as mentors, and counseling them on personal issues. In elementary school, teachers encourage individual student progress and monitor disciplinary problems. Special needs teachers spend the majority of their time working individually with their students, helping them to develop academic and daily living skills.
Most educators believe that a child's education extends outside of the classroom, and therefore, teachers need to be involved in a variety of student extracurricular activities. Some teachers serve as coaches for student athletic teams, while others are responsible for managing the school paper or directing the school play. As more and more schools are requiring their students to get involved in local community service, teachers are called on to set up and lead these programs as well.
Teachers must notify a student's parents if a child is having difficulty in the classroom or if a teacher feels that parental involvement would benefit the child's learning experience. At the elementary school level, teachers generally hold parent/teacher conferences twice a year to discuss the student's academic progress. Most elementary schools also have a "Parent's Night" during which parents can visit the school and experience their child's typical day, at which they are encouraged to ask questions about the curriculum and the goals of the various classes. At special needs schools, teachers meet with parents as often as once every two weeks to establish a student's individualized education plan (IEP) and discuss his/her progress.
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