A Day in the Life of an Elementary School Teacher

An elementary school teacher shares his daily schedule so you will know what to expect in your teaching career.

classroom waiting for elementary school teacher and pupils

If fond memories of elementary school make you want to spend your days in a classroom, and the thought of six-hour days make you want to jump the next train to chalkboard-land, you may be planning on becoming an elementary school teacher.

But, before you start sending advance payments to a teacher training program, it's best to stop and learn what a day in the life of an elementary teacher really looks like. Check out this elementary school teacher job description to see if a teaching career is truly for you.

Elementary School Teacher Job Description

Contrary to the fuzzy memories of your youth, teaching a classroom full of 5- to 12-year-olds is quite different from simply being one of the kids wiggling in a miniature orange chair. Elementary school teachers spend hours each week planning, prepping, grading, conferencing and supporting the children who benefit from their instruction and watchful eye.

However, if you think the potential to take summers off, enjoy long holiday breaks and schedule appointments at four in the afternoon are some of teaching's best perks, you are absolutely right!

So, how do they spend the hours they do work? In short, they spend it richly. In only six to seven short years, they are tasked with the responsibility of providing an effective elementary school education to each child that passes through their doors.

So, they pack each day with the kind of experiences, relationships, skill-building exercisesand, yes, lessonsthat equip young kids to succeed in school and beyond. See the schedule below for an example of how one 5th grade elementary teacher spends his days to get an idea of what an elementary school teacher really does.

One Teacher's Daily Schedule

  • 7:15 – Arrive at school, get coffee and review lesson plans
  • 7:30 – Early meeting (full-faculty, upper elementary, student council, parent conference…) and any last-minute preparations
  • 8:10 – Pledge of Allegiance
  • 8:15 – Take attendance; do lunch count; make announcements; look at any notes from home (while helpers pass out any needed materials)
  • 8:25 – Teach English lesson
  • 9:00 – Library, computers, art or physical education, depending on the day
  • 9:25 – Teach Social Studies lesson
  • 10:10 – 20-minute snack/recess for students on the playground; review daily tasks with teacher's assistant (T.A.); take a short break (sometimes individual help, paper-grading or prepping items for upcoming lessons take up this break)
  • 10:30 – Review of math facts with timed drill; T.A. meets with struggling students or small groups
  • 11:15 – Spelling/Spelling Game
  • 11:40 – Lunch/Recess (Two teachers alternate on lunch duty, serving every other day); 20-minute teacher break
  • 12:30 – Band lessons take some students out of class; remaining students enjoy story time (those in class summarize story for those who were not present), play enrichment games, work on homework or read silently
  • 1:15 –Teach Reading lesson
  • 1:40 – Teach Science lesson
  • 2:20 – Choir takes another few students out of class; assign teams of four to organizational tasks that maintain a smoothly-functioning classroom
  • 2:35 – Quick game, if time permits
  • 2:40 – Go out to car line; optional one-hour study hall begins in classroom
  • 3:00 – After-school care begins (provided by a separate team of workers)
  • 4:00 – Parent conference (when needed); grade papers; input grades online; prepare for next day's activities (Wednesdays – prepare lesson-plans for the following week)
  • By 6:00 – Go home, bringing any unfinished work (as little as possible)