My Typical Day Teaching in Shanghai

March 17, 2016
I teach first grade at a private international school in Shanghai. This is my sixth year teaching, and this year is probably my favorite year of teaching ever. There is ample time to get my work done, my students are lovely, and my co-teacher and I make a great team. Below is what a typical day for me is like, although my schedule does change daily because students will have English and the other classes I teach during different periods throughout the week.

Since I can't post any pictures of my students, below is a picture of my friend Lauren and I at our school's Charity Fair. Lauren also teaches 1st grade with me!


6:45 AM: Wake up. I could push it back to a later time, but I like to wash and dry my hair every day, and that can be a bit time consuming. Also, rushing in the morning makes me frantic...I like to take it slow!

7:45- Either I will knock on Scott's door or he will knock on mine. Then, we walk to school together.

7:50-7:55- This is the time I usually arrive to my class. Our co-teachers have to be there every day at 7:45, but we aren't required to come until 8:05. I do like to be a little early because I have some students that come right at 7:45.

7:55-8:15- Right when I get in, my students strike up a conversation with me. I usually chat with them and then write their nightly homework on the board. I'll remind students to turn in their homework and answer their questions if they have any. During this time, students are expected to write all of their assignments in their contact books. 

8:15-8:35 Even though this is when the bell rings, students are still coming in and unpacking. If it's raining, more students will be really late. This time is called "Morning Read Aloud" time, but it's a little deceiving because we don't have time to do a read-aloud every day and get in other important material. On Mondays only, my Chinese co-teacher will do a read-aloud or explain something (new rules, notices) to our students. On Tuesdays, I talk to the students about how our class is doing and this is when I pass out awards to students who have earned them the previous week. On Wednesdays I'll do a read-aloud. On Thursdays, students have to write in their journals about an assigned topic. On Fridays, the eighth graders usually come in and do an activity with the first graders. If they don't come, I find a read aloud on You Tube for them to listen to. My class really loves Amelia Bedelia books!

8:35-8:40- Break time. Students get their books and materials ready for whatever the have first period. I only teach first periods on Mondays, and on the other four days, my students have my co-teacher for Chinese or math.

8:40-9:25- On Tuesday-Friday, I use first period to grade the nightly homework and to prepare for my English class, which is usually second period. That usually takes me the whole time. 

9:25-9:35- Break time. Students can go to the bathroom, fill their water bottles, get ready for the next class, and play with friends. My co-teacher and I are both usually in the classroom for their break times to monitor the kids. If one of us has to go to the bathroom or make copies, we just tell the other one that we'll be right back. 

9:35-10:15- Normally this is when I teach English class. I teach Honor's English to students who are supposed to be native speakers of English. Some of my homeroom students will go to a different first grade teacher because they are not native speakers of English. Six native English speakers from a different homeroom will also join my English class. Really, my English class is very well-behaved and most students are quite advanced even compared with first graders in the States. Our curriculum is American-based and ties in with the common core standards.

10:15-10:30- Snack time. Most of my students' parents paid a snack fee and they are provided with a snack from the school. Impressively, the snacks are pretty healthy. There is usually a piece of fruit with bread in the morning, and in the afternoon there is usually something like a yogurt drink and a muffin. The students whose parents did not pay the snack fee have their own snacks from home to eat.

10:30-11:05- Typically, this is a planning period for me. This is when I'll finish grading homework, check my e-mail to see if any parents have contacted me and then respond, and check the We Chat groups I'm in with the other teachers. This month I am checking all of the students' contact books for Reading Encouragement Month to see whether or not they did their nightly reading, so I also do it at this time.

11:05-11:15- This is another break time. I encourage students to finish their contact books if they haven't already and just watch the students. Sometimes I'll use this time to talk to a student about behavior or incomplete assignments.

11:15-11:35- I am in charge of this period two days a week. One day it is English reading class and the other period is called Activity Period. Activity Period is really just a time for students to catch up on work they haven't finished throughout the week. Sometimes if everyone is caught up, I'll take my class out to play.

11:35-12:35- The students have to get ready for lunch. We walk outside for about 5 minutes to get to the cafeteria and lead our students in and help them get their lunch trays. As soon as they are situated, my co-teacher and I can go up and get a meal for ourselves. My students are often jealous of this since they say that it's not fair that they can't pick what they want but we can. (They can choose for themselves in 3rd grade.) We sit and eat lunch with our students. The students are supposed to clean up after themselves, and the lunch monitor checks to ensure that everyone has. After lunch, I take the students out to play for about 15 minutes. The kids that didn't do their homework have to stay in and finish it, so my co-teacher stays inside with them.

12:35-12:45 Break time.

12:45-13:20- Like I said, I teach the students during different periods, but I teach one period every afternoon except for on Tuesdays, and on Mondays I teach for two periods. Just to make things easier, let's say I teach every day during this one. In the afternoons, I teach science, social studies, and personal growth.

1:20-3:00- There are three periods in this block. Students often go to their related art classes during this time. Two days out of the week, I have to go to meetings. On Tuesdays, all of the Chinese teachers and foreign teachers meet to discuss certain issues for our grade level. After that, all of the foreign first grade teachers meet to talk about science and social studies, and then I have to meet with the other Honor's English teachers. On Fridays, the dismissal time is earlier than usual, and I am required to meet with all of the foreign teachers in my school so that the liaison can tell us information for school-wide events. There is often another planning period in here for me, and this is when I work on lesson plans, make supplemental materials, decorate the doors, or hang up student work in my class and in the hallways.

3:00-3:10- Another break time.

3:10-3:50- At around 3:45, we tell the students to start packing up. Once the bell rings at 3:50, I walk some of my students to their buses.

On Mondays, everyone has to stay after school a little later for our staff meeting with our principal, but these are usually pretty painless.

As you can see, my schedule is pretty great! Yes, there is always some sort of "extra" activity or event that we have to plan for, but I seriously do not mind because I have a decent amount of planning time. Last year, I had about hmmm.... 40 minutes of planning time a WEEK because during our planning time we had to go to all of these required meetings! I often spent two hours each day of my own time trying to catch up with everything and then had to spend Sundays planning the lessons for the next week. Here, I rarely have to stay after school to work on anything. If I do, I don't mind because sometimes I'll take a walk to the convenience store with a friend to get a coffee or have a half hour where I am all caught up on my work so I can do whatever I want. When I do stay over, I don't feel bitter at all (like I did last year) because it evens out. I know that I'm beyond lucky to have a schedule like this. I don't feel stressed at all this year, and am just focused on having fun with my class and believe me, I am!! I also like all of the break times throughout the day because it gives me a chance to talk to my students and get to know more about them.

What is a typical day at work like for you?
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