A Day in the Life of an Online School Teacher (and Mom)

This is the day in the life of an online middle school teacher.

an online school teacher working

Monday, November 30, 2020

5 a.m. Up for the day. I’ve made the rule that my kids are not allowed to come downstairs to the kitchen until 6:30 a.m. My intention is always to use this time to read, make breakfast and prepare for the day. Most days I end up scrolling on my phone, on my couch, in the dark—today is one of those days.

6:30 – 8 a.m. Help my kids get ready for school. Breakfast, get dressed, chores, yelling—you know the usual.

8 a.m. My third grader starts class with her morning meeting and I start responding to emails. My two oldest sit in the basement where they think I don’t know they’re already on their screens. This is a battle I have chosen not to fight.

8 – 8:15 a.m. Talk myself into resisting the urge to only dress professionally from the waist up. I do wear jeans more this year than ever before, but I have a strict “no sweatpants” rule for myself on work days.

8:15 – 8:50 a.m. Get my course pages set for the day. Write the warm ups I will use and select interesting problems for my classes. I also have to select the song my homeroom students will rate “bop” or “flop.” By now, I’m on my third or fourth cup of tea.

8:50 – 9:13 a.m. My third grader and I sit in the same room for school because she doesn’t like to be alone. This means she’s in the background for homeroom (my song selection is a flop, according to the 13-and-14 year old music critics). My seventh and ninth graders start their classes for the day. Our set up is ninth grader upstairs, third grader main floor (with me), seventh grader basement.

9:15 – 9:45 a.m. Short walk around the neighborhood. My seventh grader has band this period while the third grader has small group reading. Sometimes this results in wailing and gnashing of teeth—thus my choice to leave for a walk.

9:45 – 10:01 a.m. Emails again. Always emails.

10:01 – 12:19 p.m. Teaching. This year my classroom is a cardboard table, a laptop on a stack of books, and a neutral background. My roommate is a nine-year-old, currently learning about buffalo, division, and possessive nouns. The number of things that her classmates know about buffalo is impressive. We have been at this long enough that she has no problem at all interrupting my class to ask me to help her spell a word, find a link, etc. Thankfully, the students I teach are gracious.

As you know, “formal” schooling (i.e. Zoom classes) end for K – 12 students at 12:19 p.m. on Mondays. From 12:20 p.m. forward, my kids are by all accounts “feral.” We’ve agreed on a few things that are completely unenforceable (on my part). Those “agreements” are:

  • Don’t eat anywhere but the table
  • Make sure you have a fruit or vegetable with your lunch
  • Only an hour of screen-time
  • Don’t bother me. I work until 4:15 p.m.

12:20 – 12:45 p.m. Lunch. Today is cheese, crackers, a granny smith apple and these heavenly dark chocolate, sea salt, and turbinado sugar almonds from Trader Joe’s.

1- 2 p.m. Meeting with instructional coach. My third grader recognizes the voice of the coach and pops into the Zoom meeting just to chat—they talk about cats.

2:05 – 3 p.m. 5 minutes late for a meeting with my teaching partners. My third grader recognizes the voice of my teaching partners and pops into the Zoom meeting just to chat. They discuss the best place to get pumpkin ice cream.

3:05 – 3:20 p.m. On my way out the door, I yell at my kids to stop standing in the pantry eating crackers. When I get back from the walk I yell at my kids to stop standing in the pantry eating crackers.

3:20 – 4 p.m. I’m supposed to be grading, buuuut I spend a lot of time responding to emails when they pop into my inbox. (Ironically, many of the email are “Why hasn’t _____ been graded?”)

4 – 5 p.m. Plan for tomorrow. I try to get most things set for tomorrow before shutting my computer for the night. I write some of the online curriculum for the district though and just like bloggers, content must be written 3 – 4 months in advance, so I actually end up writing a lesson that will be taught 3 – 4 months down the road. Regardless of what gets done, I make myself shut my computer at 5 p.m. Piano lessons are also happening in the background. Every Monday from 4:30 – 6 p.m. — depending on the amount of practice, this can be nice background noise or torture. Tonight, it sounds nice.

5 – 6 p.m. Another walk. I’m really trying to get to at least 10,000 steps a day since I spend so much time sitting this year. I also order take-out on Monday nights. Dumpling Darling donated 10% of all their Monday sales to DVIP for the month of November, so dumplings it is!

6 – 6:30 p.m. CHOMP Delivery saves the day with the dumpling delivery!

6:30 – 7:30 p.m. We all sit in the same room and stare at our respective screens.

7:30 – 8 p.m. Bedtime for the kids. Similar to our morning rule, no one is allowed downstairs after 8 p.m. Mama needs her space.

8 – 9 p.m. Quantico reruns. I resist the urge to check my school email on my phone. I know I will have emails from students, parents, and colleagues but if I read the emails now I will either obsess over how to respond or I will work for another hour or so while I respond, so my best bet is to not see them in the first place. Does that count as self control? Who knows.

9 p.m. Good Night!

Thanks for following along in the day of an online school teacher!


Kate is the mom to Jack (2006), Liz (2007), and Alice (2011) and an avid Cubs fan through marriage. She's an assistant professor of mathematics and STEM education at St. Ambrose University and also moonlights as a mathematics teacher at South East Junior High in Iowa City. Between soccer, running club, tumbling, and piano lessons she likes to cook, run, and do yoga. She's also a sucker for 5Ks with cool swag and awesome medals.


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