Interview With a Teacher #11: Ms. D.

A big thank you to Ms. D for being the first teacher to participate in my second round of interviews. I admit, I got tired just reading about your day. I never thought I was cut out to be an elementary teacher, and this interview confirms it. Your students (and their parents) are so fortunate to have you caring about their mental and emotional well-being. I wish I could gift you more sick days. ❤️

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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. For confidentiality and privacy purposes, the name of the teacher’s school will not be published, and they may choose how they refer to themselves.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.

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Interview With Ms. D:

A bouquet of weeds, picked at recess and tied with a paper towel from the bathroom, left on Ms. D’s desk next to her lunch.
  1. What is today’s date?

    February 16, 2023

  2. How old are you?


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


  4. In what city and state do you teach?

    Kyle, TX

  5. What is your current salary?


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

    5th grade ELAR & social studies

  7. How many students do you teach total?


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


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

    Smallest: 22, Largest: 25

  10. Tell us about your day today. 

    After being up from 3-5 AM with my 1-year-old, I got out of bed at 6. I got to school at 7:05, running late as usual. At 9, we took our students on a tour of the middle school they will attend next year. The visit made my heart hurt a little since I spent my first 13 years teaching 7th and 8th grade, and I really do miss it. Our kids were so excited and nervous. One of my students puked in the bleachers. I hadn’t planned much for the rest of the day when we got back because I didn’t know how long the tour would take or how much time we’d have afterward, and that turned out to be a good thing. They had lots of questions when we returned like if they’d have recess, what locker rooms are like, and if they could date people in middle school. Then, I took them outside to write messages of kindness on the sidewalks with chalk. At least 5 of them wrote “Your awwsome” or some misspelled variation. At lunch I had leftovers from our Valentine’s party the previous day, and at recess a kid ran around me in circles for several minutes while 3 others told me about the drama they were having with a friend. I had to send at least 5 students to the nurse for various medical complaints — something is definitely going around. My partner teacher was sick too and had a sub, so my afternoon class came to me with all sorts of reports about bad behavior and complaints about each other. I spent the rest of my time with them playing counselor and having a whole-class meeting. We rolled out our “Peace Path” and I mediated conflicts ranging from “She patted me on the head, and I didn’t like it” to “They were talking when the sub told them to stop” to “I hated it when so-and-so tried to join my conversation with my friend.” After dismissal, I monitored students in the gym while they waited for parent pick-up.

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

    It truly never gets boring. There is something new and challenging every day, if not every minute. I am constantly learning something new about my content, a student, or myself, and I get to be creative to tackle new situations. Plus, kids keep me entertained! They are weird, funny, and they see the world in a totally different way.

  12. What’s the hardest thing about being a teacher?

    I could answer this question differently every year (or even every day), but in this moment, the hardest part is the way it drains my emotional resources. I expend so much patience and empathy throughout the day with my students, I have little for my own family or even myself by the time I get home. I feel wrung out.

  13. What one thing would make your job better? I’m sure there are many, but if you could choose only one, which would have the biggest impact?

    I suppose my biggest gripe right now (and for the last 4 years, really) is the lack of family leave offered to parents. I had been teaching for 9 years before I had my first child, and I had lots of PTO saved up. Between the births of my 2 children and their endless illnesses, I ended last year having used up all of my days and having money deducted from my paycheck for the days I didn’t have but “got” to use because of FMLA. I started this year with 10 days, and I had used 7 of them before November because of my kids getting sick. Taking personal time or mental health days is completely out of the question.

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


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

    My answer to this question also changes every week, but right now I am seriously considering a different career for next year. However, I know with certainty that I will miss parts of teaching, and I do have hopes that I’ll want to return someday.

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 and this glimpse into your world. ❤️

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

Interview with a Teacher, the Sequel: Second Semester

For those of you who enjoyed reading my “Interview with a Teacher” series in the fall, I’m happy to report that it’s back! I have more teacher interviews coming your way.

For those who are new to my blog and have no idea what I’m talking about, here’s a quick summary:

Consider yourself caught up!

This round of interviews is going to be a little different. It’s second semester, which means no teacher has time to do anything extra because they’ve already been asked to do extra, plus some more extra. February was always my least favorite month of the school year. I’m not in the classroom anymore, but I still remember how overwhelming this time of year could be, and if I ever forget, I can just re-read this post called “Mid-Year Crisis” from February 2019, in which I eat Girl Scout cookies for dinner and contemplate becoming a stand-up comic while avoiding grading a million papers.

I think it’s important (especially at this time of year) for teachers to share the highs and lows and truths and peculiarities of their job with the world, but it’s also important (especially at this time of year) to respect their time. With that in mind, I’ve cut the interview in half.

The new version is only fifteen questions, eleven of which are easier than taking attendance on the Friday before Winter Break. (Seriously, just count the kids who are here.) They cover the basic stats: subject, grade, number of students, years of teaching, number of Hershey Kisses consumed since the start of February… (Just kidding, that question’s not on there. I do ask some personal things, but the amount of chocolate you eat this time of year is between you and the universe.) The other four questions are simple and open-ended:

  • Tell me about your day today.
  • What’s the best thing about teaching?
  • What’s the hardest thing about teaching?
  • What one thing would make your job better?

(I didn’t say they were EASY questions.) This shortened and more open-ended format allows teachers to share as much or as little as they’d like. It’s not about quantity; it’s about honesty. Let’s pull back the curtain and let our friends outside of education take a peek inside.

To the ten teachers who completed the long version of the interview first semester, thank you! And sorry! If you’re feeling jealous of the educators getting the new and improved version, I have great news for you. You can complete the interview AGAIN! Yep! The way we feel about our jobs in September or October is not always how we feel about them in February or March. If you would like to give the world an update, you’re welcome to participate in Round 2 as well. People who participate twice might even earn themselves a little prize. We’ll see. 🏆🥇🌟

The first Round 2 interview will be posted later this week. It comes from a 5th grade teacher in Texas who shows us just how much other stuff is involved with the job besides teaching. You’re going to enjoy it.

I can’t actually post the interview form here because this is the internet, and there are a lot of trolls out there. If you are a current K-12 teacher who would like to be interviewed, just contact me via my blog or email me at or message me on Twitter @CarieJuettner and I’ll send you the link.

Teachers, once again, thank you so much for everything you do. Hang in there. Spring Break will be here before you know it.

Finding Joy in January

January has been taking a lot of flak lately. I constantly see posts and tweets about how it’s a hard month full of broken resolutions, low energy, and depression. This makes me sad because January is often an enjoyable month for me, unlike February which was always really hard when I was a teacher and still causes a bit of dread. January and I get along fine, so in an effort to help you improve your relationship with the first month of the year, here are a few things I did this year to conquer January.

* Note: I realize January is currently ending, so this post may feel like too-little-too-late. But…
A) There’s always next year, and B) There’s no reason why these tips wouldn’t work in February, too.

Geek Out on Goals

I’m a planner. I looooove setting goals. Daily goals, weekly goals, monthly goals, yearly goals. January is a big deal for me because it means making my new planner for the year and starting with big-picture plans and narrowing down to the first daily tasks I want to accomplish. It takes me hours and involves many different colored pens, and I love it. I also like to make an ideal weekly plan that incorporates when I’ll write, when I’ll exercise, when I’ll do chores and errands and house managing, and when I’ll attend my various on-going meetings and events. This kind of scheduling is especially important when you’re self-employed and work from home because, in my opinion, structure is key to consistent productivity.

I firmly believe in goal-setting and taking the time to visualize the “perfect” day/week/month because being mindful about how I spend my time is the first step to actually using my hours wisely. However, I am also a firm believer in being human, and battling perfectionism is always on my to-do list, too. So, in case you haven’t already figured it out, let me say this loud and clear: YOU ARE NOT GOING TO MEET ALL OF YOUR GOALS. Also, LIFE WILL CONSTANTLY GET IN THE WAY OF THE SCHEDULE YOU CREATE. And, DESPITE THE BEST OF PLANS, YOU MAY EVENTUALLY FIND YOURSELF IN DAY THREE OF EATING GOLDFISH CRACKERS IN YOUR PAJAMAS WHILE WATCHING THE GOOD PLACE.

But let me tell you something else: This is ok. Failing to meet a goal or getting sidetracked from your ideal routine isn’t the end of the world, and it doesn’t mean that setting those intentions in the first place was a waste of time. When you emerge from your TV tangent (wrinkled and covered in Goldfish crumbs) and you shower (don’t skip this step) and come back ready to try again, you’ll already have the structure you need to get started. The plan is waiting for you, ready for you to put it into action.

So I say, make those goals, set those intentions, create that ideal structure. When you mess up, don’t throw the whole thing out. Just come back, regroup, see where you left off, and start again.

Stop Spending

One goal I consistently set for myself in January is no spending money on myself, at least not frivolously. No clothes, no books, no random household items that catch my eye. (I can’t seem to stop buying lamps lately.) Some people do dry January (no alcohol) and some people give up caffeine at the start of the new year. I don’t do this because I don’t overindulge in alcohol during the holidays and how much coffee I drink is between me and the coffee gods. But I do sometimes slide down the icy slope of slippery spending in December. It starts with buying gifts for other people, and then I just happen to maybe see something (or somethings) that I would like to have for myself as well. Add this to the expense of Christmas trees and travel and “just a few more strings of lights” and it definitely puts a dent in the credit card.

Feeling broke in January is common and can easily bring a person down, but if you come at it proactively and set a goal to not buy anything, it feels more empowering. It’s not that you can’t buy that book, it’s that you’re choosing not to because you made a promise to yourself. Subtle difference maybe, but it changes the perspective for me.

Do I get tempted to break this goal during January? Certainly! Do I have a pair of pants in my Old Navy shopping cart and my eye on a lamp at Target? Without a doubt. Will I buy those things in February? Maybe and maybe not. I often find things lose their appeal after awhile. I’ll probably do some shopping in February, but I’ll be more discerning about it.

Pay no attention to the dog hair on my bolster and the kitten teeth marks on my blocks.

Be Active

My favorite way to get exercise is to get outside and walk or hike while talking to a good friend or listening to a good audiobook, but I also love to do yoga. Since January weather can’t be counted on to cooperate with outdoor activities, I decided to add more yoga into my life this month. I already have a lovely class at my local rec center taught by the wonderful Chrissy Cortez-Mathis (<– Check out her website to learn more about Chrissy’s yoga instruction, passion for nature, and upcoming mindfulness workshops!), but I wanted to add some more styles of yoga to my routine and practice with some new teachers as well. The desire to expand my yoga world led me to The Mat Yoga Studio, and I’m so glad it did.

You may be thinking, How did you join a new yoga studio while not spending any money on yourself? I made an exception. Spending money on improving my mental and physical health did not seem frivolous. Plus, The Mat has this phenomenal introductory offer where you get unlimited yoga for three weeks (both in-person and virtual classes) for only $39. There’s no contract, no commitment to purchase a pass after the introductory period ends. Just three weeks of as much yoga as you can fit in your schedule. It was awesome. I was able to practice different yoga styles with different teachers at different times of the week until I found the ones that were the right fit for me. (Though, I should mention, they were ALL good.) And yes, I am going to buy one of their passes now. But I don’t have to.

Whatever you do to stay active, try to make room for it in January. If money is tight, taking a walk is free, and luckily we have lots of nice January days here in Texas. (Although, today is not one of them.) If outdoor exercise isn’t your thing, look for a place that has a no-commitment introductory offer like The Mat or check out the affordable classes at your local rec center.

Seek Inspiration (And Maybe Find a Bit of Magic)

If you have a creative endeavor on your 2023 to-do list, you may need something to boost your creative energy and help you get back to the page or easel at the start of the new year. I always like to read a book about writing craft or a book of poetry to inspire me, and this year, thanks to Ashley B. Davis‘s recommendation, I found the perfect one.

I listened to the audio version of Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (from the library — no spending) and I loved it. This book did exactly what it was supposed to do: it made me want to write. The last part of 2022 threw some life challenges my way. While I was able to meet my deadline on a writing project and accomplish some small goals in November and December, simply writing and producing words and working on my own stuff didn’t happen. In January, I felt ready to jump back in, but I needed something to help me start. Big Magic was the perfect companion to get me to the page. Because of Gilbert’s enchanting mix of inspirational anecdotes and practical advice, I was able to break out of my rut and start writing again. I began writing first thing in the morning on most days, unexpectedly started a fun new project that’s keeping my brain engaged, and (most importantly) finally took a peep back inside that unfinished novel I’m determined to complete this year.

Big Magic may not be the right book to get you back into your creative groove, but I guarantee there’s a book, magazine, podcast, or meet-up that will give you the burst of inspiration you need to dive back in to your artistic pursuits. Look for it!

Dedicated Downtime

When making all these plans and setting all these goals, make sure you don’t overdo it. Schedule plenty of room for the activities that relax and refuel you. For me, that’s reading. I make time to read every single day (unless life gets in the way one day and I don’t get to– no big deal) but I set aside one block of time per week (usually on Saturday morning) to do nothing but stay in my pajamas, drink coffee, and read in bed. That scheduled time is just as important as the rest of my goals.

There’s nothing ground-breaking here, but if January got you down or if you’re dreading February, maybe give one thing off my list a try. Sometimes a small change can make a big difference.

What recommendations do you have for getting through your least favorite month? Share them in the comments!