By Brian Graves
Third Grade Teacher, Chicago Public Schools
On Monday, my schedule was pretty easy. It mostly involved walking round and round in a picket line. Why? Because I believe that is the way Chicago teachers will get the respect and recognition we deserve for the hard work and very long days we spend teaching students whom we care about deeply.
Here’s how a normal school day would go for me:
5 am: I am up early to start preparing myself for the day ahead. I wake up excited for the opportunities that will present themselves to me through my students today.
5:15 am: I eat breakfast, catch up on the latest news, sit at my computer and respond to emails that came in from parents after 10 p.m., my bedtime. Shower and shave.
6:15 am: Out the door for the half-hour drive to school. I could teach closer to home, but I have developed a relationship with
my students, parents, colleagues, and the community.
6:45 am: Park in the lot next to cars driven by the many other teachers who arrive long before the bell rings because we are
dedicated to the education of our students in this wonderful city called Chicago. I lug in my bag, say good-bye to my mom
on the phone (always have to be a good son), then pass our custodian (a silent leader) as he is reading the Sun-Times, punch in and grab my paper mail.
6:55 am: On the way up to the second floor, I pass by colleagues who already are working, collaborating, and prepping for the day, like a pre-op room in the hospital.
7 am: In my classroom now. Ahhhh, the smell of a classroom. Today is going to be great, because I love my job and students.
Whatever happened yesterday is erased because this is a new day. We have to keep moving forward in order to achieve
success. I look at my lesson plans, gather materials, sip coffee, listen to NPR.
7:15 am: I head back downstairs for an impromptu meeting to go over data and talk about how it can drive our instruction.
I look at my data and see the students right below thebenchmark, and students right at the benchmark. I need to get
them to exceed the standards in order for me to feel satisfied. My teaching partner and I discuss a plan of action and agree to
meet after school to discuss it further.
8:14 am: I am at my door ready to greet the kids with a highfive or a handshake.
8:30 am: As I am ready to close the door to begin instruction, a parent says, “Mr. Graves, can I talk to you quickly about last night’s homework? My son didn’t understand and I didn’t understand.” Thankfully, my students know to look at the schedule I have posted, begin their work and eat their breakfast quickly (yes we serve breakfast in the classroom too…another hat I wear.)
I couldn’t refuse a meeting with a parent could I? No, because I serve the public, and that parent needed my help to figure out a problem.
8:40 am: Instruction begins and the day is off and running. Morning news, kindergarten reading buddies, math groups and games, recess, lunch, collaborative planning time, reading groups, science, Chicago history, impromptu lessons about friends, family, bullying, world news, health…
That’s what I do…teach, parent, instruct, help, coach, and most of all, listen to the needs of my students. With that, I drive my instruction wherever it needs to go, because I care about these kids in Chicago.
3:15 pm: The bell rings, the kids pack up and head home. I squeeze in a quick meeting with my teaching partner to discuss how to bring those kids up to standards.
3:30 pm: I start my second job tutoring students in remedial math and reading at my school. For this I get paid a little extra, unlike the weekly Thursday morning meetings with my colleagues that we do on our own time and our own dime because our goal is to improve our practice as teachers.
4:30 pm: I head to the gym to work off the day’s stress.
6:15 pm: I finally get home and eat a quick dinner.
7 pm: I start my “night job”–grading papers and planning for the next day’s classes.
But that was Friday’s schedule. Now I am on strike. Why? Because the city of Chicago doesn’t respect the level of teaching
I do everyday in the classroom.
Brian Graves is a third grade teacher in Chicago. He was a part of the VIVA Teachers Chicago project that gathered teachers’
ideas for better ways to use time in school, half of which were implemented as part of Chicago Public Schools’ extended school day.