Interview With a Teacher #7: Ms. L

A big thank you to Ms. L for being my first elementary school participant! Perhaps elementary school teachers are the busiest of them all and that’s why they don’t have time to complete surveys? It’s possible. I don’t know how elementary teachers do it. The lower grades were always too huggy and sticky for me. But Ms. L obviously brings a large amount of positivity and patience to the classroom each day. I can tell she’s loved by her students.

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A Note About These Interviews:

I taught seventh grade for almost twenty years and was constantly surprised at the difference between what friends, family, parents, neighbors, and community members imagined my job was like and what it actually was like. The few times I had the privilege of inviting a friend or family member to visit my classroom, they always left wide-eyed and exhausted. The purpose of these interviews is to allow the world a glimpse inside the lives of current educators. Now that I’ve quit teaching, I want to do what I can to support all the teachers still fighting the good fight, and I don’t want to forget what life is like inside a school.

All questions are optional. The teacher may write as much or as little as they want. If they don’t feel comfortable answering a question for any reason, they’re allowed to leave it blank or say “I prefer not to answer.” For confidentiality and privacy purposes, the name of the teacher’s school will not be published, and they may choose how they refer to themselves. (Full name, initials only, or even simply “Teacher.”) Participants have been asked to refrain from using student names or to change names. When describing student or parent interactions, they may be vague or change slight details to protect anonymity as long as the message/tone of the encounter stays the same.

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Interview With Ms. L:

  1. In no more than three words, describe how you feel right now.

    happy, sticky(it’s humid), tired

  2. What is today’s date?

    September 18, 2022

  3. How old are you?


  4. How many years (total) have you been teaching?


  5. Have you ever taken a break from teaching? If so, why and for how long?

    Yes, I took a break during the pandemic.

  6. What is your current salary?

    $58,000 and some change

  7. Is there anything you would like to share about your personal life or family situation?

    My husband and I have lived in Austin for 25 years. We have one child, a dog, and a bunny.

  8. In what city and state do you teach?

    Austin, TX

  9. What grade(s) and subject(s) do you currently teach?

    5th Grade Science

  10. How many years have you been in your current teaching position?

    This year, I am teaching fifth grade. I have taught this grade level and academic area before, however that was 11 years ago.

  11. How many conference periods do you have per day?

    Tricky question. Our district is trying a new schedule where students go to P.E. each day. This means that some days, I get two 45 minute planning periods, some days one. About once a week, due to meetings, I do not get a planning period.

  12. How many students do you teach total?


  13. If you teach multiple classes, how many students are in your smallest class and your largest class?

    My largest class has 24 students, my smallest class has 22.

  14. On average, how many meetings do you have per week?

    I have 3-4 a week.

  15. What other responsibilities do you have at school besides teaching your own classes? (For example: bus duty, cafeteria monitor, after school club, chaperone, committee member, team leader, coach, etc.)

    Besides teaching my three classes, this year I am the team leader and am on the science and health committees. Elementary teachers also monitor students during recess time and stay with students during after school dismissal. After school tutoring has not started yet, but I expect those to start the second semester. Those typically happen once a week for an hour.

  16. Are you compensated for any of your extra duties?

    For the first time in my 23 years of teaching, I am receiving a $1,000 stipend for being the team leader. I believe I will get this stipend in my May paycheck. On our campus, teachers typically do tutoring in the Spring semester one or two days a week, especially in the STAAR tested grades. Our campus is not a Title 1 campus, which means we do not receive extra federal funding for tutoring. Some years, our principal has funds to pay for tutoring and sometimes not.

  17. When was the last time you took a day off?

    Two weeks ago

  18. Describe the reason for your absence and the process you went through in order to take the day off.

    I took the day off to be with family. This was my first time to take off for this school year, so preparing my lesson plans took 3 hours. Creating the activity for my day off was not hard, although it does take time to provide for the substitute the different accommodations for different students in each class. Most of my time was spend putting my substitute folder together. This folder contains things like: nurse passes, medical alerts for students, class lists, seating charts, daily schedule, dismissal procedures, and my substitute attendance card. I also leave a letter for my substitue that lets them know the location of my phone and list of office extensions, student pass, and first aid kit.

  19. Describe a positive interaction you’ve had with a student this year.

    Honestly, I cannot pick out just one interaction. Our student group this year is empathetic, engaged, and for the most part ready to learn. Every day, I recieve thank yous and smiles. If I had to pick, I would say I feel good about the new student in my homeroom who was having stomach aches the first week of school due to nerves. That student’s mom told me during our fall conference that the stomach aches have disappeared and the mom only hears positive things about school. That makes me happy!

  20. Describe a challenging interaction you’ve had with a student this year.

    I have a student who is very kind and respectful until it is time to stop and listen to directions. That student might then look at me when I ask for attention, look away, and continue their conversation. This behavior does not disrupt the entire class, however it is hard for me to focus on what I am doing when this happens. I have talked with the student about this behavior, and they do not feel like it is happening, which makes it even harder to break the habit.

  21. Describe a positive interaction you’ve had with a parent this year.

    I am fortunate that most of my interactions with parents are positive. Most of them want to be involved, volunteer, and often ask how they can help me with anything needed in the classroom.

  22. Describe a challenging interaction you’ve had with a parent this year.

    I have a parent whose child receives accommodations for a learning disability. When these accommodations were created, the parent was present at the meeting. When I use the accommodations, the parent is not always happy about it. The parent does not want the accommodations changed, so I legally have to follow them. I am not quite sure where the disconnect is happening. Hopefully, communications with the parent throughout the year will help the parent understand how the accommodations are helping the student be successful.

  23. Describe a positive interaction you’ve had with a coworker or administrator this year.

    My principal has an open door policy. I love being able to approach her at any time to get help with an issue or to celebrate something positive that has happened in the classroom.

  24. Describe a challenging interaction you’ve had with a coworker or administrator this year.

    I was a rehire to the district after leaving during the pandemic. It took three weeks for human resources to get me back in the system. This meant I did not have access to a gradebook, files on my students (thankfully my team shared with me), or the ability to put in for a sub if needed. When I called to inquire about the situation, I was only able to receive voicemails, never an actual person.

  25. What’s the funniest or weirdest thing that’s happened at school this year?

    Okay, I’ve thought about this one for awhile. It’s been a pretty calm year so far. A few years ago, I was reading a situation to the students where a boy in the story had seven red balls. As I was casually reading, a boy student in my class shouted, “I thought there were only two!” It took everything in my power to not laugh out loud with the other boys snickering. I don’t know how I survived that moment.

  26. What time did you arrive at work today?

    Today is Sunday, so I’m at home. My usual time to arrive at work is 7:15am.

  27. What time did you leave work today? If you are still at work, what time did you leave yesterday?

    Friday, I left work at 4:45pm.

  28. Describe your lunch today. (Length, food, location, what you did while eating, etc.)

    The sit down part of my lunch lasts between 20 and 25 minutes. As an elementary teacher, I need to wait until the majority of my students have gone through the lunch line before I leave to eat my food. My lunch Friday was leftovers, a tomato based macaroni and beef soup. I ate lunch in the teacher’s lounge with two of my teammates.

  29. Describe one success you experienced today.

    My second class is my most challenging group. They are high energy but not necessarily energetic about doing work. I gave them a vocabulary choice board where they were asked to take a science concept or vocabulary word and write a poem, story, skit, or an interview that explained the concept or word. They LOVED it! I am going to spend time tomorrow watching the videos and reading the poems.

  30. Describe one challenge you experienced today.

    Well, it’s Sunday, so my biggest challenge was making sure everything was ready for next week: lessons, lunches, clothing picked out, and all errands done for the week. (Because I know I’m not doing any errands after school.)

  31. What time did you complete this survey?

    Sunday, 6:10 pm and three weeks after I started it. Sheesh!

  32. How satisfied are you with your current job? (1 = not at all satisfied, 5 = very satisfied)


  33. As of right now, do you plan to continue teaching next year?


  34. What’s the best thing about being a teacher?

    I love, love being with my students, helping them reach their goals, and overcoming challenges. I also like brainstorming with my team about how to do things in the classroom.

    Teacher, I want to tell you something, and I want you to listen. You are amazing. You are creative and smart and hardworking and beautiful. You are valued by those who are paying attention, and you deserve so much more than you receive from society. You are a superhero, and the world is a better place with you in it. Thank you for everything you do for your students, your community, and your fellow teachers. I appreciate you. Now, close your eyes and take three long, deep breaths, then open your eyes.
  35. In no more than three words, describe how you feel right now.

    worried (1st nine weeks tests coming up), rushed, hungry

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If you are a current teacher and would like to be interviewed for my blog or if you know a current teacher I should interview, contact me!

Published by Carie Juettner

Carie Juettner is a former middle school teacher and the author of The Ghostly Tales of New England, The Ghostly Tales of Austin, and The Ghostly Tales of Burlington in the Spooky America series by Arcadia Publishing. Her poems and short stories have appeared in publications such as The Twin Bill, Nature Futures, and Daily Science Fiction. Carie lives in Richardson, Texas, with her husband and pets. She was born on Halloween, and her favorite color is purple.

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