Great question, and I wish Mayor G could read our responses!
I am up and about by 5:45 each day. I treat myself to a really good
cup of coffee at one of our super coffee bars in Park Slope and then
I drive to school. I try to get to school by 7:30 (40 minute commute,
Once at school I prepare materials for 150 students I meet each day.
I don't teach each class the same lesson. I have five classes and
usually only overlap projects with one or two -- right now the two
It takes me a long time to file things away, conserve my materials,
check supplies and order if I need to (my school is super generous
about art materials). I listen to NPR Morning Edition as I work on
The students begin classes at 9:00. I have first period, then a prep
which I use for more room work or getting student work up in the
halls etc. Then I have a class, lunch, two classes in a row,
a "Professional Period," when I usually have two monitors. They are
great, but it takes all three of us to really clean the room.
My room looks busy, and not always neat, but it is always clean. I
often sweep the floor between classes, and sponge off desks with
Murphy's Oil Soap. I hold with others that if the room is clean the
students are less apt to make additional messes.
I don't make students clean up. This, I know, is not by the book. I
have things organized so that it only takes me 5 minutes to do it
myself and avoid the chaos. Also, if they work until the bell rings
at the end of the period, there is better behavior. If middle school
kids aren't busy every second they are soon up to their adolescent
I stay in school two hours, two days a week, for a (paid) after
school art program. The other days I stay about an hour so things are
pretty well organized and my lessons planned for the next day.
We have portfolio assessments and we use rubrics. Also, because we
are a former SURR school (very low performing) we do a lot of
language arts work, all of us, no matter what our subject. Grading
150 essays on a rubric and writing "significant" comments takes a lot
of time, so nights and weekends are given over to many hours of
assessment. Grammar, spelling, and punctuation skills are poor, so
you have to try to find where there are bad habits and refer them to
the language arts teacher. We all drill the kids in preparation for
the dread standarized tests.
Right now my eighth graders are writing fiction and preparing for the
Ezra Jack Keats contest. Seventh is also doing the contest. The sixth
grade students are writing about African ancestors as this is the end
of African American Heritage Month (February). They have illustrated
on "animal skins" (long strips of paper) how life was for their
Do I have a life? Well, sort of. Because I am getting my
certification in order, I have to take a graduate course in special
ed now, and one this summer. That course is on Saturday morning. I
also have my doctoral studies at Columbia to attend to, and I teach
graphic design and marketing (my old life) at a local college, two
nights a week. But last night I went into Manhattan and met an old
friend who is staying at the Waldorf for a conference. We went out
for drinks and dinner. I often go to museums and galleries for a few
hours on Saturday or Sunday, and I keep up with my book group and
other friends as well as I am able. I enjoy seeing my son and his
girfriend. We just went to the big "Armory" art show on the Chelsea
piers and then to dinner at a Mexican place in NoLiTa (the
neighborhood NOrth of LIttle ITAly (get it? For those coming to NAEA
well worth exploring. Lots of young young young boutiques and neat
places to eat and great people watching). After dropping my son off
at work, Karen (his girlfriend) and I went to the newest hot spot in
TriBecA (TRIangle BElow CAnal. Get it?), Le Zinc, for dessert and
espresso. Is all of this important to my teaching, you bet. These are
the things that keep me balanced and sane!
If I could have one thing at school, it would be the services of
a "para" in my room, for many of my students are special needs. We
are pretty much up to speed on "inclusion" and with so many
behavioral and emotional issues, not to mention learning "challenges"
and ADHDs, it can feel pretty zoo-y.
But kids are just kids. I suppose coming back to teaching after 30
years and having reared a child to age 29 I have the long view that
most of them will be all right, eventually, and that developmentally
they are supposed to be acting the way they do. Which is why we all
have selective amnesia about our "tween" years when we were middle
I usually fall asleep with my cat, Margaret, on my lap, watching the
Simpsons. "And," as Pepys would say, "so to bed." 11:30.