A Day in the Life of an Alaska Bush Teacher

::6:30am:: My alarm goes off around this time each day.  The second it goes off the dogs assume it's time to play, so I don't get to lounge around for long. After walking and feeding the pups, I make myself a smoothie.  In the past, I've always been a cereal person, but milk is scarce out here so I've made the switch to drinking a Shakeology shake for breakfast.  

::8:00am:: After finishing up my morning routine I head to the school sometime between 7:45-8:00am.  Cody and I make the long trek (approximately 30 steps) from our front door to the school.  It's almost completely dark when we walk to work now because sunrise isn't until after 9:00am.  Students can arrive at school anytime between 8:00-8:30am.  Cody holds open gym for the 30mins before school starts to give the kids a chance to wake up and get in a little physical activity. 

I use the thirty minutes before school to get ready for the day.  I teach four skill levels, which is the equivalent of teaching 1st-6th grade.  I taught a similar age range at my last job, and found great success with writing a highly detailed schedule on my board each day.  I always include centers and every bullet point on the board represents a rotation to a new activity (rotations are in intervals of 15-20 minutes).  It's a lot of work to write out each day, but it's the best way I've found to manage so many grade levels and it really helps with behavior.

::8:45am:: After completing our whole-school morning meeting and our classroom calendar I teach ELA to five students. It's a lot of prep work to make our core content blocks work because, even though it's only five students, I need to know and plan for four grades of work. That means four separate lesson plans per class period.  To compare, in a typical classroom teachers would prep for 1-2 lesson per class period.  I end up needing to prep over twenty lesson plans per day.  

::10:15am:: Whole-school break time in the gym.

::10:30am:: For math I teach four levels again, but my class size swells to nine students. My tiny classroom seems almost bursting at the seams with so many students in it. It's interesting to have such a wide age range for math because my youngest students are working on basic addition and patterning while my oldest are working with fractions and long division.

::12:00pm:: Lunch time! We are ridiculously lucky with our school lunches.  Our school cook is a serious chef. Plus, he's made it his personal challenge to try to cook vegetarian meals this year (score for me!) and I've been getting spoiled.

::12:30pm:: Whole-school SSR time, also referred to as the "Power 1/2 Hour."  For thirty minutes after lunch our school comes together in the library and reads as a big group.  I try to read with them every day, which has been pretty awesome.

::1:00pm:: This is our writing and counseling block. One day a week we have cyber-counseling instead of writing class.  For writing class, I have four levels and seven students. For counseling, I have K-5 instead of levels, which is six students, because that is how the content is administered for the counseling class.

::1:45pm:: Whole-school break time in the gym.

::2:00pm:: It's back to the classroom and time for social studies and/or science.  For the first half of the school year (until Christmas break) we are specifically doing social studies.  Then, after Christmas, we will transition to science. We made the decision to do this because we wanted to keep students together based on levels (I keep the kids in levels 0-4 and Mellisa keeps the kids in levels 5+).  That isn't possible if we switch back and forth because one student might be a level 8 in social studies and a level 4 in science.

Our current focus in social studies is on our community.  We've been working on mapping Pilot Point, so the kids and I have been getting out for lots of little walks and excursions to create our own maps.  I alter the mapping assignment to fit the standards for each level (i.e some just show major landmarks and some are topographical).

::2:30pm:: The last hour of the day is reserved for "specials."  Cody teaches PE from 2:30-3:00, so I use that time as my daily prep. Then, my students come back to me for the last thirty minutes of the day.  Monday and Tuesday I teach art, and Wednesday and Thursday I teach technology. We don't meet for specials on Fridays.

::3:30pm:: School's out and the kids are headed home, most of them riding on four-wheelers. The only day we don't release at this time is on Friday. On Fridays, we dismiss at 2:00pm so that all of the teachers in our district can attend PD (professional development).  Some weeks our PD consists of cyber-meetings with the whole district and some weeks we just meet as a site and work on our own things.

::4:00pm-10:00pm:: I always take a short break from work right at the end of the school day and head out on a long walk with the dogs.  For the most part, I try to make the evenings my "me time" but I'm a teacher, so many days I head back to school after my walk and work until dinner time.

Our evenings are pretty much ruled by the kitchen.  There are no restaurants here, and I get very bored of eating the same thing, so we cook a ton.  After dinner, we read, watch TV (we stocked up on season DVD's), and pursue our hobbies.  We have a lot of downtime, so hobbies are important.  I've been learning to knit, Cody's been buying some of his favorite oldies video games, and together we've been brewing beer.

Our lives are much quieter here in the bush than they were when we lived in civilization. There are very few friends to spend time with, so we spend most of our free time alone.  The weather also plays a big part in our daily routine because it can be pretty temperamental, which keeps us indoors on some days. With that said, we're enjoying our quiet little lives unplugged from the bustling world outside. It's a change, but a nice one.

Your turn...What are some unique things about your daily schedule? 
Currently listening to...Mess is Mine - Vance Joy


  1. If you ever need new dvds or books, let us know! Happy to pass some along :)

    We enjoy watching episodes together, cooking, and going on walks as a family after work. The most unique thing about my schedule is that I work from home 3 days a week, so I can roll out of bed and get to work most mornings! Plus I clean my house a bit when things are slow :P

    1. Any dvd's or books you want to send me, I'm game! Hope all is well. Miss you!

  2. No restaurants would not work for me, lol, although I do enjoy cooking - last night I made chicken piccata. Thanks for the post, sounds like an interesting life there!

    1. I LOVE going out to eat too, so this has been a tough transition for me! Haha.

  3. Yeah - my family may starve without restaurants! LOL My husband has friends who used to live in Brevig Mission, so I think their lifestyle may have been similar ;)

    1. That's so interesting that you have friends who taught in Brevig Mission! When did they teach there?

  4. Looks and sounds like a good life. Your days sure are full.

    1. They certainly can be, but there's quite a bit of down time in the evenings, so you have to throw yourself into hobbies.

  5. I think it would be awesome to live walking distance to work. My work commute is insane! I swear it takes up most of the day.

    1. I definitely love being so close! The only downside is that anytime the kids are at the school playground they are stopping by my house. Haha.

  6. When I worked at the Zoo in Anchorage, I love when the bush schools visited us! They were such a unique mix - students of all levels and backgrounds. I'm sure teaching that way is such a challenging, yet rewarding, experience, for both you and the students in your class.


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