Educator: Candace Sanders
Location: Halls, TN
Occupation: Grade 6 math and science teacher at
Halls Elementary School
Experience: Teaching for 10 years
What is your daily teaching routine?
5:45 a.m.: My alarm goes off. I hit snooze twice at minimum because those extra few minutes are oh so sweet!
6:05 a.m.: I finally roll out of bed to shower and get ready for the day, trying to be as quiet as possible to not wake up my toddler. That would drastically complicate the morning routine!
7 a.m.: I eat a quick breakfast, go over my to-do list for the day, sneak in a morning devotional, and say goodbye to my family.
7:25 a.m.: I leave for work while jamming out to my favorite “get-me-in-the-swing-of-things” playlist, which includes anything from rap to country to Christian music. I turn it up loud, and I always finish the song I’m on before walking into the school building.
7:35 a.m.: I arrive at work, go through a COVID-19 screening, and enter my classroom to prepare to greet students for breakfast by 7:45 a.m. For fall 2020 and spring 2021, my district adopted a hybrid schedule that divided students into two groups (i.e., evens and odds) and alternated which students learned in the classroom and which students learned remotely each day. Neither group of students crossed paths in person for the entire year, and they only got to see one another occasionally over Google Classroom.
7:45 a.m.: Students enter my classroom, and they’ll remain there until dismissal. (COVID-19 protocols limit student movement throughout the building to lower the possibility of contact and exposure.)
8 a.m.: Students finish breakfast and have their specialty teacher enter the classroom for gym, music, guidance, or computer classes. I leave the room in order to be productive. I find my way to the empty library where I maintain my distance from my grade-level coworkers while trying to plan from the materials I’ve piled onto a small, fabric-covered cart. My cart essentially holds my teaching life: my computer, speakers, iPad® for remote learners, papers needed for the day’s lesson, and personal supplies, like hand sanitizer, tissues, water, gum, etc.
8:45 a.m.: I return to my classroom to find three other adults socially distancing while providing students with their special education services, tier intervention, speech therapy, and any other accommodations needed.
9:30 a.m.: Block 1 Math finally begins. Two students sit more than six feet apart at each classroom table. We are not allowed to do any group work involving shared papers nor any interactive games requiring students to get out of their seats to form teams or travel around the room. COVID-19 restrictions have made student engagement challenging. Before I begin instruction, I connect my remote students to our Google Classroom so they can tune in. This process takes at least 10 minutes out of my class time since someone always experiences technical difficulties.
11 a.m.: Block 2 Math begins once I roll my cart to my partner teacher’s classroom where my next group of math students have been since they entered the school building at 7:45 a.m. It’s hard being in someone else’s room because the space isn’t set up the way I would prefer. Plus, I end up re-entering my classroom no less than three times a day because I’ve forgotten something I need for a lesson. Once I’ve settled into my borrowed space, I focus on connecting a new set of remote students. The class’s shortened academic time is a challenge.
12:25 p.m.: I roll my cart back into my room where my homeroom students are waiting for me.
I pass out their throwaway lunch trays, and we enjoy lunch together in my classroom. Students have only left my room, at this point, to go to the bathroom two at a time.
12:55 p.m.: Lunch ends, and students socially distance outside in the courtyard. Only students within the same classroom are allowed to socially distance in one area. Students do not get to visit students from other classrooms because of COVID-19 protocols.
1:15 p.m.: Break is over, and science class begins. I roll my cart back into my partner teacher’s room where I teach science to her homeroom students.
2 p.m.: I roll my cart back into my homeroom where I teach science to my homeroom students.
2:40 p.m.: Students pack up and begin the end-of-day cleaning process. Students are required to take everything home each night in case there is another building shutdown or they need to go into quarantine. Daily cleanup is a long process because students have so much to take from school to home and vice versa.
2:55 p.m.: Dismissal begins. Students who walk or drive to school move to one socially distanced area, while students who take the bus are sent directly to the buses.
3 p.m. (or after I finish any late duties): I return to my classroom to spray it down with 24-hour disinfectant, and I exhale. The day is over, and I pray I did my students justice and gave them everything they need for their remote day tomorrow.
3:30 p.m.: I arrive home if I don’t have any meetings after school, change clothes, and quickly wash up to give my baby girl the biggest hug! My mother, who watches her because there aren’t any daycares in my area, drives an hour back to her home only to wake up and do it all over again the next day.
4–8 p.m.: I dedicate my time to my family and refuse to do any schoolwork. These four short hours fly by faster than I can complete all the household chores, cooking, and laundry I’d like to get done. Luckily, my mother typically helps throughout the day, so I don't have as much on my plate.
8 p.m.: Bath time, books, and bed for my little one.
8:30 p.m.: I check my email and/or social media, Netflix® and chill with my husband, and think about tomorrow’s challenges.
10 p.m.: Bedtime, finally, so I can get up and do it all over again tomorrow!
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How did your daily routine change during the pandemic?
My daily routine changed with all the COVID-19 protocols during school hours. I had to stop doing several interactive lessons due to students being unable to move around. I also made sure to change and wash up every single afternoon when I got home from school before greeting my little girl.
What are you most looking forward to for Back to School 2021?
I am most looking forward to not having the hybrid schedule anymore and seeing all my students in person every day.
How did you get into teaching?
When I was in elementary school, I was selected to tutor students in the younger grades twice a week for 30 minutes. I had two students who were paired together because they were on the same level and needed the same peer instruction. I developed a close bond with these students and still consider them friends to this day. One even became a teacher, too! It was a wonderful opportunity that gave me insight into the teaching world. It was that year when I first mentioned wanting to be a teacher when I grew up, and it stuck!
The experience instilled a love of helping others learn. Learning is beautiful, and education is something no one can ever take away from you.
"Learning is beautiful, and education is something no one can ever take away from you."
What’s your teaching philosophy?
While my teaching philosophy has changed a little over the years, one thing has remained the same: Education is about adapting to whatever may be thrown your way. Teaching the future generation is not about the latest standards, methods, etc. It’s about the relationships you form with your students to encourage them to be the best and do the best that they possibly can. The world is made up of all kinds, and each one of our students makes up part of that world in the most precious of ways.
About the Series
In our “A Teacher’s Day in the Life” series, we honor and follow educators as they move through a typical day—as typical as a teacher’s day gets, that is.
Individual teachers from across the country and from a variety of backgrounds and specialties take readers from first bell to lights out. Along the way, readers learn about their classroom rituals, what motivates them, their mantras and mottos, why they do what they do, and more.
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