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Let's Do Business

A typical day in the life of a primary teacher

The names have been changed to protect the innocent (and the children as well!)

7:15 Arrive at school having forgone breakfast in the hope that an early start will mean I will be able to leave work at a reasonable time. There’s an apple in my bag that I’ll have a much on before I open the doors to the masses anyway.

Make a start on the filing I didn’t get finished when I left off last night. Because I teach reception the children don’t have exercise books. Their ‘work’ is largely child initiated and usually includes

 -a gigantic painting that is dripping glitter like Tinkerbelle on steroids

-a foot long length of till roll that a child decided to use to practice writing their numbers on

-a photocopy of a whiteboard which a child did some excellent writing on

All of which needs sticking into the correct (a challenge when no one remembers to label their work with their name) Learning Journey and then cross referencing to the Early Learning Goal they have achieved. (Excuse the jargon in this article: I am more than happy to write a piece about school lingo if anyone is interested!)

7:35 Right, having worked my way through alphabetically as far as F, I decide to put the rest to one side to continue after school. I’m desperate to start on my display in the role play corner. I was up last night at 1am jotting down rather ambitious ideas, to convert my quiet, unassuming home corner into Batman’s Cave in an attempt to encourage my boys to write secret messages and so on.

I begin by removing the old backing paper, no wait that’s a lie. It is impossible to remove the backing paper as whoever put this display up has put the staples in flat to the board. Rookie mistake! Every good teacher knows to put them in at an angle so that you have a hope in hell of removing them again.

7:40 I sling the staple remover to the side in disdain and pull out my sharpest scissors hoping this old school method will make staple removal easier. It doesn’t. At this rate I’ll be here till my class graduate UniL

8:00 No time to finish the display now, I had better get ready for the day ahead. I like to put something engaging out for when the children first enter the classroom (great distraction for those prone to clinging to mum), so I go in search of the robotic bees or BeeBots to those in the know. Unfortunately whoever borrowed them from my classroom hasn’t put them back so, having written that I will be using these on my planning, I go off down the corridor in search of the missing robots.

Having systematically worked my way down each classroom I finally locate them in the back of Mr Smith’s cupboard. Should have known-he is notorious for ‘accidently’ forgetting to return things.

8:15 Begin to set robots up.

8:16 Flat batteries in robots! Rush off down the corridor to flutter my eyelashes at caretaker in hope he might have some. Fortunately not only has he got the batteries, but also a mini screwdriver to get the blooming things open. I gratefully leave him to install batteries into all 5 robots whilst I continuing preparing.

8:20 I want the children to make collage faces for art today, however as our cutting skills are not yet up to scratch I need to pre-cut the different parts for them to position. Me being me, I decide they need a variety of nose/eye shapes etc to select from, which means I have to do 4 times as many for each facial feature. I can feel the start of a blister forming on my scissor toting thumb as I finally hack my way though the last set of eyebrows.

8:35 Oh my god, where had the morning gone? It’s ten minutes till the doors open and I’ve yet to put out the rest of the resources, prepare handwriting in books or print off that data report I did for the governors after school last night!

8:36 Moment of panic over (as I know it will get me nowhere) I start by setting up the rest of the classroom. The water tray needs filling, the whiteboards need cleaning the bikes need unlocking outside and the paint pots need filling. I turn the tap up high and leave a bucket to fill whilst I start filling up paint pots. I feel like Tom Cruise in Cocktail, masterfully filling up paint pots and juggling tubes of paint whilst simultaneously mixing up colours with a swizzle stick, I mean paintbrush.

8:39 AGHH! Forgot about the bucket of water. Swiftly leg it across classroom and collect now ridiculously heavy and full to the brim bucket and haul it outside, tipping into the water tray.

8:40 On my way back I unlock the bikes and set them up for the day, hiding the chain and padlock to avoid mishaps. Yes children will lock themselves to the fence post and loose the key given the opportunity.

8:41 Stick bucket under tap again and start to clean whiteboards, stopping after every few to empty the bucket out.

8:43 Take the last bucket full out into the water tray and slosh it in, only to spill a sizeable amount over my feet. I am now starting my day with two wet shoes.

8:45 Squelch my way to the door and plaster a smile on my face. I open the door and singsong my best “Good morning” welcome.

8:45:02 Susie comes bouncing up to me and presents me with a flower she has picked on the way to school (more than likely from some poor unsuspecting souls front garden). I thank her dutifully and pop it on my desk, subtly sweeping aside the now wilted one she gave me yesterday.

8:47 Ben’s dad Mr Gryhms comes over to me and starts to complain about the state of his sons school uniform yesterday. I apologise, smile politely and remind him that it is part of our policy that children will engage in messy play, whilst watching Ben out of the corner of my eye head straight to the paint table, completely ignoring the aprons laid out on the chair in front of him.

8:49 Lucy hands me a scrunched up piece of paper. It’s the back of a water bill on which she has drawn a picture of me, minus hair and with green teeth. Written underneath in her unmistakeable handwriting it says, ‘To Misis Michull, yoo ar the best teacha Eva love Lucy.’ Genuinely thrilled I tack it immediately to the good work wall. Half a term ago Lucy couldn’t write her name. Now she had, clearly without parental support, written a sentence using logical spelling attempts. It might not be Shakespeare, but I was impressed (Mental note to self; tick that off on her Early Learning Goals later)

8:51 The bell rings and the parents start to clear out of the classroom. I call the children to the carpet and we start our day.

8:53 Register.

8:57 Lunch register is not adding up. According to the register I have 17 pack lunches today but there are only 16 on the trolley. We redo register. Still not right. Woe betide anyone who gets dinner numbers wrong and has to face the wrath of cook, so I ask every child to go and collect their lunch boxes (one at a time to avoid collisions)

8:59 Darrel stands up and suddenly announces, “Mrs Mitchell, mums bringing mine in late-she hasn’t been to Tesco yet!”

9:01 I begin the first lesson of the day: Literacy. We are learning about rhyme this week and I have made a fantastic PowerPoint with funny sound effects to grab the children’s interests, am confident this is going to be a good lesson.

9:02 Interactive whiteboard won’t connect.

9:06 I am pretty ICT savvy, I have tried a few tricks of the trade (beyond giving computer a not so subtle nudge) and nothing doing. I know when I am beaten. Quickly come up with a new plan involving a large piece of paper bluetacked over the shamed whiteboard, chunky markers and post it’s. The children love the chance to come out and stick their post it’s up. All is good, lesson going well.

9:14 Kerry’s hand comes up, a rare occasion, so I grasp the opportunity, pleased she is participating in the lesson.

Me:”yes Kerry?”

Kerry :”I need a poo”

9:25 First lesson over, it’s busy time. The children disperse to their various preferential activities, except for the group of six I have asked to work with me. We sit down and I start to explain the rhyming post box game we will be playing today.

“This morning we are learning about rhyming words…

9:26 “Missss Fred won’t share the robot….”

9:27 “…I’ve got a great game we can play where we can…

9:28 “Misss I can’t find the lego board”

9:29 “…post a picture through the post box and then your friend will…”

9:30 “Miss, Henry has spilt his milk all over the snack table!”

9:31 “…post back a rhyming pair to you. So let’s…”

9:31:02 “miss”

9:31:04 “…make…”

9:31:06 “miss”

9:31:08 “…a start…”

9:31:10 “miss”

9:31:12 “…shall…”

9:31:14 “miss”

9:31:16 “…we?”

9:58 Oops, almost assembly time. Quick call to tidy up before we leave. It’s my assembly today and I have chosen a story to read on the assigned theme. Go to grab the book but it’s not under my chair where I’d left it. Panic starts to set in, I can’t see it anywhere. In desperation I ask my class if they have seen it. “I have. I tidied it up Mrs Mitchell”

10:00 We arrive in assembly just in time, me with book in hand. The story is a hit, especially when I pretend to cry dramatically, stomping my foot and pulling my sad face. Clearly my talents are wasted, the children are in uproar- I hope this is a good sign as the head pops his head in to see what all the laughter floating down the hallway is about.

10:15 Finish assembly right on time for play, only to remember it’s my duty today. No time for that apple now then (or a loo break for that matter)

10:29 Playtime passes in a buzz of chatter, chase, catch and catastrophe. Little Tom has skidded across the playground in a stunt Van Damme would be proud of: off to first aid he goes.

10:30 Time for our second lesson of the day; Numeracy AKA maths to anyone over the age of twenty. I have a nice outdoor session planned based on number rhymes to link with our literacy. The children are happily jumping off logs as speckled frogs and I get lots of great pictures for their learning journeys (more work to stick in later).

12:00 Lunchtime. All the children have washed their hands, following my ten second rule, something they are only too happy to tell tales on each other about if they don’t count to ten! We use ‘stealth’ mode to creep into the dinner hall in silence, unfortunately year 1 don’t take the same approach and come charging in at full volume. My class soon follow suit and I pity the MDAs (AKA dinner ladies) in their attempts to reduce volume. I hang around for a good ten minutes, helping the odd child to cut their dinner up, open drinks and fetch spoons for yogurts, before making my exit.

12:12 Nip back to my classroom and continue with filing before realising I wanted to get handwriting books prepared for this afternoon. Pile the books in front of me and begin writing the letters c, a ,d so many times my eyesight blurs.

12:20 A colleague pops in to see if I can give them a hand getting their laptop to recognise the camera. I nip in and get it all working for them (told you I was ICT savvy) before heading back towards the classroom to finish books.

On the way I get accosted my some prefects who are on office duty and have a phone call they need help with.

12:37 Back in class, rapidly writing lines like I’m in Bart Simpson in detention, but desperate to get their handwriting books ready for this afternoon.

12:48 Books done I head upstairs to scoff down a sandwich and drink before lunch is over. Have a great giggle with colleagues over a “50 Sheds of Grey” book that has been dropped off by a local book company. Still haven’t had time to eat my apple though.

1:00 Afternoon lessons. Set the class to quiet reading, whilst I take small groups off to practice handwriting. It’s blissfully quiet and I make rapid progress, managing to get all five groups done before the end of the session.

1:30 Time to get changed for PE. I take a deep breath. I show pictures of our indoor PE kit. I remind them to keep all the clothes they take off on their chairs. I offer stickers to the quickest children to get changed. I forget to remind them to keep their pants on. Giggles erupt as someone points out that Billy has taken his pants off along with his trousers. Averting my eyes I remind him to keep his pants on. Situation rectified I sing a few songs with the children that are ready whilst we wait for Jack to finish getting changed. I sing a few more songs whilst waiting for Jack. A few more. I search my brain for something different to sing and am just about to start ten green bottles from 1000 when Jack finally joins us on the carpet.

1:45 I love PE. This term is dance and I’m soon prancing round the hall recapturing the innocence of my youth as I pretend to be a ballerina. Then, not so gracefully I start to stomp around like a giant, taking huge unladylike steps just as the head teacher walks through to show a prospective parent round. He eyes me in bewilderment. “Afternoon, we’re exploring movement to music by considering pace, direction and space” I bluff, smiling knowingly at the chuckling parents.

2:40 We head back to the classroom and the children start to get changed.

2:49 Bethany has lost a sock.

2:51 Paris has lost her T-shirt.

2:53 I have found a pair of trousers that apparently belong to no one. How can this be? Someone surely is about to go home in just their underwear?

2:54 I am in full Sherlock mode now, trying to get these mysteries solved before home time. I fire questions off at children like an inquisition.

“Where were you sitting Bethany?”

“Who was sat next to you Paris?”

“Boys, are you all wearing trouser?”

“Jack, why aren’t you changed yet?”

It turns out Bethany’s sock was under the lunch trolley (I am not even going to try to reason why). Paris’ T-shirt was being worn by Billy, who unperturbed by its frilly collar had accidentally stuffed his own T-shirt into his PE bag and grabbed the nearest one available,

The trousers are Jack’s. He is still wearing his PE trousers but satisfied that he is at least wearing trousers (and indeed pants) I pop the trousers into his PE kit to swap over at home.

2:59 We quickly dole out lunch boxes, water bottles, jumpers, coats, newsletters and such and line up at exactly 3pm. We made it!

3:00 I see the children safely to their parents. Someone I don’t recognise has come to collect Kayte so I pop down to the office to ensure we have permission. A quick phone call later and all 30 children are now safe and sound and no longer my responsibility. I spot the pile of handwriting books and curse. After all that I didn’t get round to doing handwriting today anyway! Oh well, they are all ready for tomorrow at least. I pick up the pile of filing and continue to plough my way through.

3:15 Agh! Staff meeting time. Rush off down the corridor to make sure I’m not late, no time for a quick drink, don’t want to arrive once the meeting has started and get glares from the head.

3:16 Meeting has not yet started, only about 5 members of staff in there.

3:20 meeting has still not started. My stomach starts to rumble loudly to the tune of Chumbawamba. I regret not finding the time to eat that apple.

3:27 Meeting starts with a quick AOB (any other business) to discuss anything important that isn’t on the official agenda.

3:56 AOB has just finished! What was that? I can’t actually think of anything I have learnt from it. We just went round in circles debating stuff that is irrelevant as the head will make a decision regardless so we may as well have just sucked it up and listened in silence. Oh well, it’s not like I wanted to go home tonight anyway!

5:19 Staff meeting over. Was quite a constructive one about math tonight but as soon as we hit 5pm you could just see everyone start to lose the plot. Glazed expressions all round. I head back to class and carry on with filing for a bit.

5:21 Ooh-just remembered I wanted to get that display done. Arm myself with staple remover and get cracking. Refuse to waste 10 minutes finding a ladder so stand on top of a table, praying that the head won’t pop in and berate me.

5:40 Display now removed and backed with fresh paper ready for me to put up my Batman display in the morning. I eye the filing still to be done in the corner but decide enough is enough and I will carry on tomorrow. Grab my laptop so that I can update my assessments at home this evening and then I head put the door. Lots to do tomorrow, I could probably do with an early start.


  • This makes me quite pleased I am training to teach Further and Higher Education!

  • Katie Frazer Katie Frazer says:

    I love the humour in this! Which I guess is essential when teaching primary.

    I’m hoping to do my PGCE in a couple of years, so any thing else you may write will definitely be of use!

  • Hi Katie, will be writing a “How to survive your first teaching job” article soon, also check my Interview tips article when you are starting to apply for jobs! Good luck with your PGCE x
    As for further education, I would imagine it’s just as much hard work but hopefully with less poo! :)

  • kpedmonds@gmail.com says:

    I work in special needs. Having also worked in mainstream, I can say that the workload is at least double that of normal primary.

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