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A Day in the Life of a Philadelphia Public School Teacher

By, Madison Wardlaw





Here’s what a typical day looks like for me:


7:20 am: My first alarm goes off. I, mourning the loss of the weekend, refuse to leave bed and snooze the alarm.


7:30 am: My alarm sounds again. I continue to rebel. After snoozing the alarm, I roll back over to continue dreaming of the past weekend.


7:40 am: I admit defeat. I turn off my alarm only after I place my feet on the floor. I begin to start my day.


8:10 am: I hop in the shower, telling myself it must be a quick one so I’m not late for work.


8:35 am: I prepare myself a nice breakfast of a yogurt parfait, a blueberry bagel, and iced coffee (yes, I drink iced coffee in the winter). I put this in my lunchbox. I plan to eat this during my prep period.


8:42 am: I begin my long (read: disappointingly short) trek to work. (I’m trying to save the environment).


8:47 am: I make it to work and clock in with three minutes to spare.


8:50 am: I learn I will have no prep period today. Eight of my colleagues are out most of whom have COVID-19. I continue to hope for a good day and remind myself that I’ll persist.


9:00 am: I pick up 20 eager first graders from the large school yard. When we enter the classroom, we say the school pledge and hang up our coats and backpacks. With the help of the classroom assistant, I begin to sanitize their hands before handing out their breakfast. Chicken, eggs, and cheese biscuits. One of the littles blurb a curse word because of the school's meal choices. He wanted pancakes.


10:15 am: I run up two flights of stairs with my coat and bag in-arm to teach my 7th grade class. When I finally make it to the third floor, out of breath I might add, they are waiting for me in the hallway. They are quietly lined-up against the wall. I almost shed a tear at that beautiful sight. I unlock my classroom door and greet each student by name.


10:25 am: After catching up with the energetic bunch, we began working on our rocket projects. Students were required to design an experiment about rockets using their knowledge of the scientific method. I weave or weaved between desks, tables, and chairs as I help students assemble bottle rockets, open film canisters, and give pointers on how to strengthen their presentations.


11:13 am: The 7th grade homeroom teacher shows up to pick up his students. Many students show their projects to him, looking for him to marvel at their work. He seems impressed. The 7th graders leave my classroom buzzing with excitement for science.


11:15 am: Lunch. Instead though, I attend a meeting with our community school coordinator about my book club and budding Girl Scout Troop.


Noon: I have fifteen minutes left for my lunch break. I devour the soup I packed. Bad idea. It was very hot.


12:15 pm: I welcome 22 excitable second graders into my classroom. As we walk in the door, two boys begin to fight. One student stepped on another student’s shoe and didn’t say sorry. In retaliation, the child throws a punch, but trying to break up the melee, one of the second graders punches me in the shoulder. Second mistake of the day. Who knew little fists hurt so much?


12:30 pm: We begin to construct paper straw rockets. Once done, we test them one by one in the front of the classroom. I have two student workers that assist me. Student one works on collecting recorder results and student 2, the measurer, uses a tape measurer to tell us how far each rocket travels. After each test, student 1 uses the measuring tape to measure how far the rockets travel. Student 1 writes student participant names and the distance the rocket traveled on the board. I then show them how to graph the results. All eyes light up.


1:16 pm: Their homeroom teacher arrives to pick them up. She looks exhausted. A few students ask to stay as I try to close my classroom door.


1:15 pm: I hear 4th grade students loudly line up in the hallway, waiting on me.


1:20 pm: We stand in the hall a little longer waiting for everyone to get quiet. I remind myself to hold the line.


1:25 pm: Now in our classroom, the 4th grade students self assemble into their groups to finish completing their rocket blueprints. I float to each group to make sure they are on task. I caught a few groups talking about the new boy in class. Apparently, a lot of the girls see him as a potential suitor.


1:45 pm: My 4th grade students begin building their rockets. I play jazz music, but they pressure me to play Giveon instead. We now sing as we build.


2:10 pm: We realize we don’t have any time to test the rockets today so we begin to clean up. A few students argue with each other over who will sweep the floors and who will wipe down the desks.


2:17 pm: My 4th grade student’s homeroom teacher arrives again to pick them up. They are immediately silent and line up in size order.


2:18 pm: I run back to the first floor after being called on the loud speaker to cover kindergarten. Their teacher went home sick and it’s too late in the day to call for a guest teacher. ,


2:20 pm: Everyone screams, “Ms. W!” as I walk in the classroom. We sing the hypothesis song and watch an episode of Ada Twist and Scientist, until their homeroom teacher returns again to pick them up.


3:09 pm: I walk back upstairs to room 311 and I realize I never ate breakfast. I’m a little hungry so I eat it now.


3:15 pm: A partner teacher sends a 5th grade student to my classroom to cool off. We chat for a moment before we work on fractions. The student is amazed that I can also teach math.


3:30 pm: Once the student calmed down, I send the student back to the classroom.


3:34 pm: I pack up my belongings and throw my coffee mug inside my bag so I don’t forget it. I walk downstairs to the first floor one last time.


3:39 pm: The dismissal bell rings and I wave goodbye to students. I talk to the parents of the second graders who were fighting. The boys look at me like I betrayed them.


3:45 pm: I clock out.


3:50 pm: I walk in my apartment, throw my things down, change out of my work clothes, and lie down for a nap. What a day.





Madison Wardlaw is the Mentorship Director for 2021-2022 at ILAC. Outside of her duties at ILAC, she’s a K-8 STEAM Specialist based in Philadelphia and enjoys yoga, indoor plants, and binging true crime series on Netflix.


Edited by, Madison Wardlaw and Chief Editor, Norbaya Jameela Durr


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