A Teacher’s Day In The Life (1): The Beginning

One the things that sits in the back of my mind when I write articles for this blog is that I do not have direct experience as a teacher. While I’m married to one, I can’t personally understand what goes in on the education-world and all the financial elements that encompass it. It’s for that reason I have bought in a writer, who is a high-school English teacher, to write a brazenly-honest diary of the financial concerns of a young teacher.

Molly Reis is a high school English teacher and she’ll be writing the “A Day In The Life” series. She’ll be adding a post every week or so about the challenges that she faces as a teacher – financial and otherwise. My hope is that the blog becomes more personal and teachers can relate to one of their own through Molly’s writing.



I teach in a small town in a high school that has approximately 700 students.  Currently, I teach four sections of English II (World Literature), which is primarily sophomores, and one section of Creative Writing, which is primarily seniors.  One of my ENG II classes is Honors, and I average 30 students per class.

I happen to teach in the same high school I attended as a student.  I graduated in 2002, hungry for a career in music.  I went to  in Peoria, IL on a partial scholarship.  After two years there, I decided music wasn’t for me.  Several hours a day alone in a practice room didn’t really do it for me.  I thought, “English!”  My advisor said, “English education!”  And so it began.

I transferred to Western Illinois University in Macomb, IL in 2005.  I really enjoyed their program, but I did not graduate until December 2007 due to my change in major.  It turns out education majors don’t really need music theory or sight-singing.

Molly headshot

My student teaching took place in an 8th grade classroom at a school not far from where I work now, but my observations were much different than my current situation.  This allowed me to witness a wide variety of students, populations and teaching methods.  As any teacher can tell you, though, you are never TRULY prepared for your first full-time teaching job.  You can’t know what to expect until you’re in it, no matter how many courses you take or classes you observe.

Because I graduated in December, I subbed for a semester and was living with my parents.  Perhaps that’s what compelled me to apply for jobs all over the country.  I ended up with more interviews in California than anywhere else, so I moved out there the summer of 2008.  I was hired last minute at Hesperia High School.  I remember I only had about 10 or 11 days to get myself and my classroom ready. (And that included in-service days and new teacher training!)

Hesperia is in the high dessert, about 45 minutes northeast of Los Angeles.  It was a great first job – I met many amazing people and learned a lot, of course – but it was also very challenging.  The population was exceptionally diverse, which was not something I was accustomed to.  I was told there was potential for lots of gang activity because parents were moving their kids up to Hesperia from LA to get them away from the gangs there, but then those groups always found each other anyway.  I didn’t experience any violent issues in my classroom, but the student population was definitely different than anything I had experienced in Illinois.

While in Hesperia, I taught freshmen English.  The district had a super tight budget.  We were only allowed 1000 copies a month, which is extremely difficult when not everyone has a projector and you have classes of 30-40 students.  There was only one computer lab to serve approximately 6000 students, so we got creative.

Because I began my teaching career on the cusp of the recession, I was RIFed (“reduction in force”)  after that first year.  Fortunately I was rehired for the 2009-2010 school year, but I chose to cover a semester maternity leave at the high school versus taking a full-time position at the junior high.

I moved back to Illinois in December 2009 and began subbing wherever I could.  I think I was working for five or six districts.  (Doing my taxes that year was FUN – 8 W-2s spanning two states – yippee!) I was lucky enough to land a quarter-long maternity leave position at my current district.  The position would cover all of the fourth quarter and had the potential to turn into a full-time position.  But, I was RIFed again, rehired for 2010-2011 school year, RIFed again, but then rehired for an 8th grade position in the same district for the 2011-2012 school year.  There I stayed for three years until I was moved back up to the high school in 2014 when the district had to make severe cuts in its staff.

I now have tenure (Yay!) so I’m not first in line when the cuts come, but we all know we’re never completely safe from being let go or moved around.  Given the hectic start to my career so far, I expect the future to keep bringing surprises.