Teaching Through the Pandemic – A Day In the Life

Continuing our Teaching Through the Pandemic series with Tatiana Grogan’s “Day in the Life…”

7:30 with a canvas tote bag on teal background

7:30 – I arrive at school. I get to the door and realize I left my mask in my car, so I put my coat over my nose and dash upstairs. I spend the next 15 minutes getting my classroom ready: post the morning message and checklist on the Promethean board, check email for staff absences to see if I will be filling in anywhere or gaining any students for the day, and run to the bathroom or have my bladder hate me in a few hours.

7:50 with photo of door handle in school hallway

7:50 – My students begin to trickle in and any of the following phrases can be heard: “Good morning!” “I’m happy to see you!” “Where is your mask?” “Do you need a mask?” “Please cover your nose.” “No, just because you are 6 feet away does not mean you can take your mask off.”

8:20 with a microphone

8:20 – We have a soft start morning, so the students are reading, building, or on chromebooks. I use this time to charge my personal microphone so I can be heard through the mask. Social Studies goes by without much excitement. We are learning about the United States government and my students are not nearly as enamored with SchoolHouse Rock as I was at their age. 

9:30 with math facts on a chalkboard

9:30 – Math is a mix of skills gaps and 3rd-grade content. I am teaching everything from basic addition and subtraction, regrouping, and multiplication and division. Technically, our current unit is on graphing, but I noticed our number sense and operations skills needed to be mastered before moving on to data analysis. My fitness tracker can’t keep up with all the running around I am doing to meet the needs of each group. Ooh heck, time for Jacklyn to go with the reading interventionist, I’ll make sure to get to her first tomorrow. I wish our math interventionist was able to do their job instead of subbing, I could really use their support.

9:50 with disinfectant sprayer

9:50 – Davion and Luke are complaining that their assignment is too hard, they want to practice regrouping. I calmly explain they have already mastered that skill and it’s important for them to problem-solve challenging concepts. I know they’ll be bored the second I lower my expectations for them. “Luke, please cover your face.” Ugh, wrong choice of words, his mask completely covers his nose, mouth, and eyes. “Mouth and nose only, please!” Raquel is whining because she does not like math, she is rolling on the floor carrying on. I attempt to reason with her and encourage her to try again but am met with resistance. My basic adding and subtracting group truly need my guidance, so I go to scholars who genuinely want my help. We have been practicing with manipulatives to count on and take away. Terry and Nora are showing growth!! Heck, masks are down and they are sharing manipulatives. I turn my mic up as loud as it goes and call “masks up!” as I get the disinfectant wipes and give them each a clean set. I ring our classroom doorbell to bring all activities to a pause. I ring the bell 4 times before I have all eyes and ears. Scholars complain they want more time to finish.

10:30 with brightly colored felt letters

10:30 – Time for phonics which no student enjoys and my readers desperately need. Terry is refusing to go with his SEA to practice reading and now Luke is being pulled for interventions. I wanted them both in here today to practice r-controlled vowel spellings, le sigh. I review r-controlled vowels and remind students that the r comes after the vowel. “Please tap out and spell the word ‘march’”. As I walk around, I see everything from mrac to merch, only Davion spelled march correctly. I show the correct spelling and explain how the -ar says /ar/ and the r must come after the vowel. Many students retaliate with “That’s what I spelled!” “This is stupid” “I don’t get this.” This goes on for another minute or so until I decide today is not the day, and we’ll try again tomorrow. I look at the clock and it is time for lunch.

11:00 with kids at a lunch table

11:00 – We are late to lunch because many students do not want to wear their coats outside, even though it is December in Minnesota. We are short-staffed, so I eat in the cafeteria to assist with lunchroom duty. I inhale my food (shout out to our cafeteria staff), run to pee, and wrestle at least 4 different kids into their coats.

11:45 with teaching pulling up student mask

11:45 – There are only a handful of complaints about putting masks back on as we go back inside and I need to replace 5 masks that went missing between lunch and recess. After lunch is supposed to be our writing time, but, because of distance learning, capitalization and punctuation went by the wayside. I tried to be funny and teach “I is important” to remind students to capitalize the pronoun “I.” “Mrs. Grogan, don’t you say ‘I am important?’” How they understood subject-verb agreement, but can’t remember to capitalize I is beyond me.

12:30 with hands on a copier

12:30 – Specialists! I pass my darlings on to the gym teacher in the hopes they get all their wiggles out. My partner and I plan on how to continue filling in gaps while simultaneously accessing grade-level content and grumble at the gargantuan task set before us. We agree it is in the scholar’s best interests (and our sanity) to take a step back and focus on foundational skills. We find 1st and 2nd-grade content that will help meet our students where they are. As I am running an insane amount of copies and assigning lessons on SeeSaw, I realize I need to pick up the kids from the gym. They are arguing with Ms. J about wearing their masks because they are hot and can’t breathe. We both stress the need to keep the masks on and invite them to get a drink once they get upstairs.

1:30 with an out of order sign on a faucet

1:30 – Upon returning to the classroom, students aggressively remind me that the water fountains are turned off. “I am sorry, please bring a water bottle to school” was met with a chorus of “I don’t have one!” I make a mental note to buy bulk water or water bottles and graham crackers.

1:45 pages of open book

1:45 – We are attempting to read the story in our literacy curriculum, but I am finding myself explaining the context and helping with vocabulary more than I usually would. Due to this lack of background knowledge and time of day, my scholars are restless and unengaged. We end up taking a pause, doing some sort of GoNoodle dance with a promise to listen to me read the story twice and that we’d come back to it again tomorrow.

2:30 with child in front of school bus

2:30 – Clean-up and dismissal are often chaotic as my scholars are ready to be done for the day. I am thankful they remembered to do their class jobs and straighten up the room before packing up. The bell rings, and we head to our respective dismissal areas. Before I head back to my room and collapse in my chair, I spend 20 minutes shepherding students with siblings to their cars.

3:00ish with a pencil sharpener and pencils

3:00ish – I check folders and make sure I have what I need for tomorrow. I walk around the classroom, spraying disinfectants and wiping down high traffic surfaces. The student assigned to Pencil Patrol was absent, so I collected and sharpened all our pencils. I spent the next hour perusing the internet and my shelves searching for resources I could use to accommodate or modify what I “have” to teach into what I NEED to teach. I compile what I have found, starting to rough out lesson plans for the next two weeks. I need to make copies and SeeSaw assignments but convince myself to deal with it tomorrow in favor of going home. A teammate pops in to remind me we have benchmark testing soon and to check the schedule. Welp, my plan needs to be redone now. I think it’s time to call it a day. 

4:30 teachers leaving school building

4:30 –  As I’m shutting my door, I get distracted and chat to my neighbor about how our days went. We are tired. We lumber to our cars, with promises that tomorrow is a better day.

good job written on a daily calendar

I’m sure I missed recording 3 dozen “masks up, please,” a few brain breaks, switching gears innumerable times to meet the needs of my scholars, the umpteen pumps of hand sanitizer, 6 phone calls from the office, staff walking in, my laptop going off with emails, meeting reminders, an unannounced walkthrough, scholar coach observation, tears, trying not to tear my hair out when my scholars complain about stamina, work, or understanding, because I know they don’t know how to self-regulate.

masked teacher sitting on a boulder with a quote from the blog post and children holding a sign that says "thank you"

I also didn’t mention the look on Nora’s face when I said she should be proud of herself for adding on her own, “I did?!” and the big hug she gave me after. Raquel came back and apologized for “being bratty” and asked if I could help her with math later. Darrell read an entire picture book without asking for help. I texted Zay’s grownup, letting them know he was having a really good day with a picture of his work. Davion helped redirect Terry when he couldn’t log into our math program and showed him how. Patrice’s pride when she was able to pick from the prize box for achieving her Dreambox lessons for the week, asking if I wanted the fun pen she picked out. Luke’s mask broke, but he used his scissors to problem solve and fix it instead of asking for a new one. Ahmya said, “Thank you for teaching us” as we left for dismissal; even though her behavior was less than desirable today, I could tell she meant it. There was even a message in my mailbox from a colleague thanking me for the professional development I ran the day before. 


Yes, I am tired, but I am never too tired to be grateful for the little victories. Eventually, they add up 🙂


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