One Teacher's Hilarious Take on Teacher Appreciation: "A Day in the Life of a High School English Teacher"

One Teacher's Hilarious Take on Teacher Appreciation: "A Day in the Life of a High School English Teacher"

Ashley Cullins teaches 12th grade English with a focus on British literature at West Orange High School in Winter Garden, Florida. She has a Bachelor's in English and a Master's in Secondary English Education, both from the University of Florida. She enjoys writing, reading, travel, and spending time with family. She is always looking for more ideas, resources, and ways to continue improving as a teacher.

I’m a fourth year English teacher who teaches high school seniors at one of the largest public schools in Florida. I plan to be in this field until I’m old, gray, and retired. But while I love teaching—I can’t deny that it’s a challenging and sometimes thankless job.

In honor of Teacher Appreciation Week, I thought it might be interesting to showcase just how much goes into a day in the life of an English teacher.

It requires far more time, effort, and saint-like patience than many people realize. Without further ado, here’s the timeline of an average day on the job:

5:00 AM- Wake up and finish grading the last of my students’ literary analysis essays. I try to give each student personalized, specific feedback, but 3 pages x 145 students= a major time commitment.

6:20 AM- Grab my school bag, get in the car, and drive the thirty-five minutes to work (stopping for a very large, very necessary coffee on the way).

7:10 AM- Arrive at my classroom. Unlock the door and rush to set up for the day ahead.

7:15 AM- Greet my first period students at the door and ask about their weekends.

7:20 AM- Get students started on their bell work assignment and begin passing out graded essays.

7:25 AM- Field complaints about grades on student essays by directing students to the provided rubric. Complaining mostly stops, with only a few scattered grumbles here and there. 

7:30 AM- Briefly go over the bell work assignment and start students on a reflection assignment that involves reading and responding to my feedback on the essay (because most won’t read it otherwise, and I refuse to let my hours of comment-writing go to waste).

7:35 AM- Consult with students who didn’t turn in essays. Receive a variety of creative excuses and promises to turn it in tomorrow.

7:40 AM- Joey* is watching YouTube videos under his desk. I encourage Joey to do his work instead. He insists that the video is funny and urges me to watch it with him.

7:42 AM- I have won the battle with Joey, who is now working on his reflection assignment.

7:50 AM- Initiate a whole class discussion related to the essay reflections: What did you do well? What could you do differently? It’s first period and they’re sleepy, so it’s basically like pulling teeth, but we eventually manage some insightful conversation.

8:05 AM- Assign homework. Field complaints.

8:06 AM- The bell rings. I tell my students to have a great day as they stampede out of the classroom.

8:07 AM- This is my planning period. Ah, peace and quiet.

8:10 AM- Forgot to take attendance! Record attendance from memory.

8:15 AM- Check the dozens of emails I received during the fifty-minute first period. These include students turning in late work and begging for full credit, parents already asking about the essay scores distributed in first period, reminders to fill out a variety of paperwork, and a heads up that I’ll be observed by my assessing administrator next week.

8:30 AM- Finish responding to emails and start working on lesson plans, which must be submitted weekly.

8:45 AM- Double check that my lesson plans are aligned with state standards and the district’s scope and sequence. (Technical terms that basically mean I’m teaching my students what they’re supposed to learn—according to the state. And when they’re supposed to learn it—according to my district.)

9:00 AM- Submit lesson plans. Yes! I have a few minutes to relax before third period arrives.

9:02 AM- Never mind. Zoe* and Antonio* are here early with a few questions about their essays, which haven’t been submitted yet.

9:06 AM- The bell rings, and I go to the door to greet my third period students.

9:10 AM- I start third period, teaching the same lesson I taught first period, with slight variations based on the students in the class.

9:40 AM- Steven* and Marco*, who are eighteen-year-olds, are doing some kind of “water bottle flip challenge” popularized on social media. I confiscate the water bottles, although Steven and Marco protest that they’ll now get dehydrated.

10:01 AM- Third period leaves; fourth period begins arriving.

10:10 AM- Six students are called out of class for make-up testing. This effectively ruins the peer review component of my students’ reflection assignment, so I do some quick reconfiguring of student seating.

10:15 AM- Crisis averted; students continue working and the rest of the period goes smoothly.

10:56 AM- Time for fifth period! It’s right before lunch, so students are antsy and need to be calmed down before we can start working.

11:02 AM- Class is underway, but wait—Miguel* has a question. It’s about if I “partied” in college. The class looks intrigued, but I steer us back to our bell work. The class looks less intrigued.

11:10 AM- To reengage the class, I transform bell work into a competition between tables. As usual, it gets a little heated, so I have to moderate while still maintaining the fun competitiveness of the activity.

11:20 AM- Lunch time. To accommodate the massive amount of students, we have three lunch periods, and mine is the weird one that falls in the middle of fifth period.

11:21 AM- I have twenty minutes to microwave and eat my lunch, so I dash to the teacher’s lounge.

11:23 AM- Alas, there’s a three-person line for the microwave. “I need to buy a microwave,” I think to myself for the hundredth time.

11:35 AM- I finally return to my classroom with my lunch. I have six minutes to eat it.

11:36 AM- Ashley* stops by with some questions about her essay grade. I attempt to answer her questions while also scarfing down my food. Sorry, Ashley.

11:42 AM- Fifth period is back. I take a few minutes to get the students settled and back into the rhythm of our lesson.

12:23 PM- Fifth period leaves; sixth period files in.

1:18 PM- Sixth period is my “quiet class” (relatively quiet), and the period goes by without incident.

1:25 PM- Seventh period starts. It’s the last period of the day, so the kids are loud and energetic. I miss sixth period.

1:30 PM- While I circulate the room to check work and answer questions, several girls present evidence to me that Daniel* is my “favorite student.” This is an ongoing conversation. I truly don’t have a favorite student, and again explain this, but no one believes me.

1:33 PM- Other students chime in, agreeing that Daniel is indeed my favorite.

1:35 PM- I see that I’m outnumbered and get the lesson back on track with an ingenious segue about using evidence to support claims.

1:55 PM- A breakthrough! Sarah* calls me over to thank me for my comments on her essay, saying she thinks she finally understands how to analyze her evidence.

2:15 PM- The bell rings, and I sit down to relax for a few minutes.

2:20 PM- I notice that I have about 25 more emails to answer.

2:45 PM- I’m finished with emails at last and begin packing my bag. I can go home!

2:46 PM- I can’t go home. Dorian* has arrived with—you guessed it—questions about his essay.

3:00 PM- Dorian’s questions have been answered, and I lock my door and head to the parking lot.

5:00 PM- At home, I sit down to grade late student essays with the tools of the trade: a red pen and red wine.

5:15 PM- Good thing I have the wine, because a student has tragically referred to Shakespeare as “Shake’s Sphere.” We’ll have to have a talk tomorrow.

9:30 PM- Decide to head to bed early, since I’ll do all of this again tomorrow morning.

*All student names have been changed to protect their privacy.

Teaching requires much more than a 9-5 commitment. Even when teachers aren’t teaching, tutoring, grading, or planning lessons, many of us are thinking of work: how to reach the student who’s falling behind, how to make tomorrow’s lesson more engaging, how to explain a complicated concept to our classes. These long hours aren’t motivated by compensation or acknowledgment, but by a true passion for helping students learn, grow, and succeed.  

Teachers, we appreciate you and all you do!

From all of us at WriteLab, Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.

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