day in the life of a 5th grade teacher

October 14, 2010

**Edit: Just wanted to let you know all know I purchased my domain today – I am now – type and update as needed! :) **

If you’re like any normal person out there, it’s been a while since you’ve been in school. In fact, you couldn’t wait to be done with school. I agree — tests and papers are never fun.. unless you’re on the other side of the fence (minus grading). It’s true that I’ll “be in school for the rest of my life”, but you have no idea what a hidden treasure being a fifth grade teacher is. It’s like the biggest secret in education — fifth grade really is a blast.

5:00 a.m. — Alarm clock goes off — look at the clock and pray to God it’s Friday. Remember it’s Thursday and groan while getting out of bed.

5:30 (or 5:29 a.m.) — Start the coffee after getting ready. Prepare to make hot oats on the stove.

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5:40 a.m. — Sit down to eat bowl of said oats. The entire time that I was eating this, I was kind of regretting it. I do love plain banana oats with peaches, but I really wanted some pumpkin. This is the last time I try not to be boring for you all. It’s fall, and I love pumpkin. Deal.

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5:50 a.m. — Settle down with second cup of coffee for some quality blog reading.

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7:30 a.m. — I arrive at school. My commute is about a half hour every day, but it can really vary due to Chicago traffic. Today wasn’t too bad and I arrived right on time.

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Every morning I put out the students’ sticks which they put into the correct lunch cup so I know who is doing what that day. Can  you believe my students get to go home for lunch if they want? I had never even heard of that until I started working my district. I think it’s pretty cool!

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7:45 — Write the day’s schedule on the board and sit down at desk to begin preparing for the day. This can include answering emails, meeting with colleagues, grading papers, or trying not to fall asleep at my desk wishing for one more cup of coffee.

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8:30 a.m. — Students arrive to school and the pledge and school pledge are said. First up, blogging!

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If you think I am joking, I am totally not. We (the fifth grade teachers) discovered a great website called Kidblog where you can create a blog for your class. My students go to the TRC (Technology Resource Center — honestly, why can’t we just call it the “computer lab”?) twice a week to blog about different topic/questions I pose to them. They then get to read other student’s writing and comment/provide constructive criticism for them. It is really interesting — they love it.

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9:00 a.m. — Shuffle the students along to the LRC (Learning Resource Center… can I get an AMEN to just calling it the “library”?). The librarian works with them on a skill/lesson once a week, and mine just happens to be on Thursdays when we have every single other special in the world. We are creating books about Native Americans right now, and although I wish I could have graded some papers during this time, I worked with some struggling students instead. It was definitely much more worth my while! By this time, I was starting to realize what a horrible idea it was to just have banana oats — I was STARVING!

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9:35 — Take the students to PE and rush to the teacher’s lounge to pick up my snack. I also vowed to myself never to eat banana oats until pumpkin is coming out of my ears. I don’t know if that is the reason why I was so hungry today, but my breakfast didn’t “stick to my bones” like those pumpkin oats can! All that extra fiber the pumpkin adds really does make a difference.

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10:05 — Bring students to Spanish (see? I told you I have every single special in the world on Thursday mornings!). I then proceeded to spend my entire plan period talking to a student who I caught in a little lie today. This particular student forged their parent’s signature on a form the principal sent home. There were tears, confessions, and I may or may not have pulled a guilt trip about how “disappointed I was that I felt I couldn’t trust” said student anymore. Oh, and there was a “boy who cried wolf” reference made as well. What can I say? I’m big on lessons learned.

10:35 a.m. — Pick students up from Spanish and finish up a Social Studies review activity. Students started this yesterday and finished today — they had to work in groups of 3 and rotate to different posters. On each poster was the title of the different lessons in the chapter. Each group had to write two big ideas from the lesson during each rotation. It got more difficult as the groups rotated more because the most “obvious” big ideas had already been taken. It was a really good review for them.

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11:15 — Take students to lunch, heat up soup, and wonder how in the world my desk got to look like this. I basically shoved everything to the side and hoped I wouldn’t spill. Usually I eat lunch with other teachers, but on Thursdays they all go out for lunch. I try to limit myself to one lunch per week and we all went out on Tuesday as well. I caught up on some more work!

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And enjoyed some black bean soup…

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some Crunchmaster crackers and a honeycrisp apple.

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12:20 p.m. — Students return from lunch/recess and we enjoy my favorite part of the day: Silent Reading. Usually I work with reading groups during this time, but it is a testing week for reading, so I have been giving myself (and the students) a break.

12:50 p.m. — Students take a math test. I spent the next hour answering questions/guiding students through the test.

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1:50 p.m. — I read aloud a story about becoming an author to the students on the carpet. Yes, we had a carpet time read aloud. We then talked about how even writers have a difficult time thinking of creative ideas sometimes. Tomorrow we are beginning to write a personal narrative.

2:30 p.m. — I send students over to another fifth grade teacher’s class. Each month we take turns reading aloud a different book to the entire fifth grade. This month is The Witches by Roald Dahl. I enjoy the last half hour of my day working on student progress reports for the trimester to send home tomorrow.

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3:00 p.m. — The bell rings and students fly out the door faster than I can make sure everyone has all their materials for homework. Hopefully everyone went home prepared!

3:30 p.m. — About to gnaw off my arm, I walk to my car and hit the road.

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I find this trusty companion in my lunchbox and am delighted because I am once again… starving.

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4:00 p.m. — I head to the grocery store to pick up a few items we ran out of mid week, such as almond milk, orange juice, and apples.

4:45 p.m. — I curse myself for not reading packages well — I got the individual packets instead of the big bag! Arggh!!!

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5:00-6:00 p.m. — Clean the kitchen and make dinner: Balsamic Glazed Baked Tofu and Roasted Vegetables

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  • 1 block extra firm tofu, cubed, and water slightly pressed out
  • 2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
  • garlic powder, basil, pepper to taste
  1. First, drain your tofu and cut the block into one inch cubes. Press the water lightly out of it (it doesn’t have to be drained completely) and press between paper towels for about 5 minutes with a recipe book on top.
  2. Combine the balsamic vinegar, dijon mustard, and spices together in a small bowl.
  3. Place your drained tofu in a larger bowl and pour the marinade over the tofu. Mix until the marinade is spread throughout.
  4. Spread tofu on a greased baking pan and cook at 400 degrees for 20-25 minutes.
  5. Enjoy with dipping sauce of choice!

6:45 p.m. — Debate whether of not I should check my school email one last time. Cave in and respond to about 5 parents.

7:15 p.m. — Collapse on couch and only get up to use the bathroom and eat for the rest of the night.

My days are long, my job is stressful, and I am constantly getting pulled in 10 different directions. However, I would never change it for the world.

Question: What is your day like at your job?

PS — Don’t forget to enter my Crunchmaster giveaway! The giveaway ends Tuesday, October 19 at Midnight!

{ 42 comments… read them below or add one }

helennaturally October 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm

I could do an entire post on this!! I am itinerant so I have two babies on homebound, a middle school, and a Headstart program that I service for speech therapy. I am constantly on the go, being pulled in different directions. On top of therapy I have to fit in interventions, consultations, meetings, observations, evaluations, paperwork, etc……But I LOVE my job!


carascravings October 14, 2010 at 8:30 pm

That is one full day!
Being an English teacher in a foreign country definitely has its perks. I only teach about 4-5 classes a day and the rest of the time I have to prep and do my own things (read blogs :)
I am so blessed!

p.s. The Witches is a fabulous book. Have you seen the movie?


Kevin October 14, 2010 at 8:34 pm

Nothing at all like yours. I wake up sometime between 0530 and 0700, eat a bowl of cereal, have a piece of fruit, drink some OJ, and hit the road. As soon as I get in the car, I fire up the traffic on my phone and decide which way I’m going to go. 32 miles and 40-60 minutes later, I pull in the parking lot at work. First thing after I get to my office, I grab my coffee cup and head to the kitchen for some coffee. This is usually accompanied with some chit-chat w/ coworkers about their night. Finally, I get to my desk. I long ago unscrewed all the lights near me, and have a nice soft desk lamp; that gets turned on first. After booting up all the various computers and monitors and whatnot, I read my email. I usually write myself notes each night to remind me where I was when I left off. After refreshing myself with those, I get started and don’t stop till 11, when I eat lunch. More chit chat, followed by working till 2. At 2 I get another cup of coffee, check email, surf the web, etc. Around 2:30 I go for a walk around the building to stretch my legs and get the blood moving. When I get back to my desk, I plow through another hour or two of code, then check traffic. No accidents? Head home. Accident? Stay at work for another couple hours. I pull in the garage between 4:30 and 6:30, do a couple things in the house, work on homework, etc, until 9ish. Then the wife and I watch some TV or a movie before bed.

This is a bit of an oversimplification, of course, as there’s small group, social events, classes, etc scattered in the week, too.


Donna October 14, 2010 at 8:37 pm

I made the overnite oats again last night but heated them up in the microwave this morning. DELICIOUS!


Ayla October 14, 2010 at 11:17 pm

This was great, Chelsea! If I decide not to go the Dietitian route then a teacher is one of my other choices so it was awesome reading this. What made you decide to be a teacher?


Katy October 14, 2010 at 11:38 pm

I loved this post! I can’t wait until my life looks something like this, and I’m hoping to teach 5th grade also :)


cleaneatingchelsey October 15, 2010 at 5:50 am

Honestly.. best. kept. secret.


Gail October 15, 2010 at 12:33 am

It was so cool reading this post! I loved seeing what you do on a normal day & especially interesting seeing what it’s like to be a teacher! It’s so cute that the kids blog.


Claire October 15, 2010 at 4:50 am

Hi Chelsey,

Greetings all the way from Australia. I’ve just started reading your blog, it’s great!

I’m a high school teacher and the run down of your day made me smile. We must love it to keep going back, right?!

Thanks for such a great blog


cleaneatingchelsey October 15, 2010 at 5:50 am

Thanks for reading Claire! I’m pretty sure one of my life’s goals is to get to Australia some day! Enjoy your summer as it’s coming around! :)


Amy @ Second City Randomness October 15, 2010 at 5:53 am

My parents were both teachers, but I forget how seriously you have a schedule to stick to. I can pretty much come and go as I want in my job… it’s one benefit I guess… :)


healthyexposures October 15, 2010 at 6:04 am

I loved reading about your day – I enjoy knowing what people’s jobs are like! Maybe that’s weird, but oh well :P You definitely sound like you keep busy, but your work is surely very much appreciated. It sounds like you have really fun activities, too. I remember loving that Ronald Dahl book when I was that age ;)
And I found it funny how you mentioned banana oats don’t fill you up as much as pumpkin…I am convinced that if I don’t have at least half a banana with my breakfast, I’ll be hungry all. day. long. :P


cleaneatingchelsey October 15, 2010 at 7:31 am

The thing about my pumpkin oats is they have half a banana + the pumpkin!!! :)


Lauren October 15, 2010 at 6:06 am

Wow, you have quite the day! I love reading these posts because it’s always so interesting to see how people spend their entire days. My days are a bit more sporadic because my schedule seems to change almost ever day of the week but I kinda like it that way. It definitely keeps life exciting.


Jennie October 15, 2010 at 8:11 am

Your desk is so clean! My mom is a 5th grade teacher, and her desk is always so packed! My sister and I try to straighten up when we go in to visit but she yells at us because then she can’t find anything. Organized chaos?

I’ve never tried tofu, but that tofu looks delicious! I think I might have to pick some up!


lizlivingvegan October 15, 2010 at 9:43 am

I love “day in the life” posts!! haha. I think it’s SO cool that your students get to blog!! That’s a really neat idea. My work day is usually full of meetings, with random breaks in between! I can’t complain, I like it :)


Heather @ Get Healthy with Heather October 15, 2010 at 3:00 pm

Your day is definitely super busy, i’d just want to plop on the couch too when I got home. I have the same coffee maker :)


Jaime October 15, 2010 at 3:01 pm

HI! I just found your blog! My hat is off to you! I think teachers have the hardest job in the worold! I’d have to say you’re the prettiest 5th grade teacher I have ever seen!


cleaneatingchelsey October 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Well thank you! I think that comment will help me float through the weekend! You’re too kind!


Mama Pea October 15, 2010 at 3:22 pm

Congrats on the new domain! I’d tell you what my days are like…but you pretty much see them every day and I hate to be repetitive ;)

Just wanted to say hi and thank you always for your kind comments!


cleaneatingchelsey October 15, 2010 at 5:13 pm

Thanks! I do love reading about the Peas – cracks. me. up.


teenagehealthfreak October 15, 2010 at 4:46 pm

this was such a fun post to read!!! it’s so interesting to see what other people do! i know what u mean about starving..that’s how i feel at school…STARVING> lol. i bet you’re a really fun teacher, oh how i miss elementary.


helennaturally October 15, 2010 at 8:19 pm

Congratulations on your domain!! One of my goals is to have enough readers to justify purchasing my own domain. You are an inspiration to me for that! Keep up the great work:)


cleaneatingchelsey October 16, 2010 at 7:52 am

Thank YOU for being such a dedicated reader – it’s because of readers like you that I decided to! :)


Meesh October 15, 2010 at 9:39 pm

This is a great post! My best friend actually teaches 5th grade too :)


Megan October 15, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Ahh so early!! And you eat those pumpkin oats every day if you want to! Haha the tofu looks awesome too, I really want to try making it.


cleaneatingchelsey October 16, 2010 at 7:51 am

Thanks for your approval! :)


Ashlei October 15, 2010 at 9:46 pm

It’s kind of cool to get to see what the day is like in the life of someone else. I don’t know why, but I like reading about the life of elementary school teachers (you and “yes, I want cake” blog). What time do you usually go to bed at night since you wake up at 5a?


cleaneatingchelsey October 16, 2010 at 7:51 am

I usually hang out with the husband/read blogs until about 9, then I head to bed to read. That could last a 5 minutes, a half hour, or an hour… all depending on when my eyes get too sleepy to stay open!


paijery October 15, 2010 at 11:06 pm

I love this! What a cool job! Teaching must be so rewarding :) And I loved The Witches!


Sara October 16, 2010 at 7:27 am

I know your days at work are super busy and stressful, but on a blog they sound so nice!! I got so nostalgic for elementary school while reading this post! That’s so cool that kids do their daily journaling on blogs now – I did it in an old fashioned spiral notebook, LOL.

Congrats on the domain name! Who are you going through?


cleaneatingchelsey October 16, 2010 at 7:50 am

through wordpress – <3 them


Simply Life October 16, 2010 at 7:56 am

Sounds like a full day but filled with wonderful and meaningful things -thanks for sharing!


Lauren October 16, 2010 at 5:26 pm

Hey cute girl! I loved reading about your day-especially as a teacher-makes me miss teaching! :( Thanks for all your sweet comments-try to get unplugged for a bit, but always get sucked back in. ;) Question-is it just for ease of sharing website/more professional to buy your own domain, or do you get more options as well? Curious! I hope you’re enjoying your weekend!


cleaneatingchelsey October 16, 2010 at 5:36 pm

The domain was more for the ease of the readers – there were really no other options unless I bought them. Based on the search terms I was getting per day for – I figured, I might as well!


Sarah October 17, 2010 at 1:05 am

Hi Chelsey! I have been reading for a while but never commented before! I love your blog and all of the wonderful ideas you provide. Blogging for students sounds so much fun. I am currently in my last year of my education degree in Canada and you are such an inspiration. Just a quick question, do you usually work out during the day as well?

Thanks, take care! Sarah


cleaneatingchelsey October 17, 2010 at 7:07 am

Hi Sarah,

Thanks for commenting and being such a faithful reader! I do workout during the day. I used to work out Monday-Friday, but to be honest with you, I was very burnt out. Now, I workout Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (plus the weekends). Most likely, I’ll wake up at 4:30 to hit the gym, but some days I’m just too sleepy and I’ll workout after school.


missy miller October 19, 2010 at 7:27 pm

Loved this post..I really want to be a teacher (32…never too late!)…your poster review was excellent.
In 5th grade I read Dahl’s BFG. Think it really got me started off right as far as reading. Highly recommend it.
Now I will catch up on the rest of what I missed now that internet has been down since Saturday.
Clean Eating Chelsey is NEVER a “mark all as read blog” for me.
Don’t you find that fascinating?
I’m like…a fan or something. (0:


cleaneatingchelsey October 19, 2010 at 8:09 pm

:) Thanks Missy – I am glad I am not a “mark all as read” for you – just wait until you see what happened to my camera! ;)


Tandy November 1, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Hey! I am about tostart teaching 5th grade math in January. I graduated in May and haven’t taught before. I just happened upon your website. I am freaked out, scared, and excited all at the same time! Any advice on teaching 5th graders?


cleaneatingchelsey November 1, 2011 at 6:37 pm

Good luck! My only piece of advice? Be firm and flexible!


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