My To-Do List: A Peek Into a Teacher Leader’s Week

Amethyst Hinton Sainz Life in the Classroom, Teacher Leadership

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The simple fact that this is my second “list” blog post in a row should tell you something. No matter how many hours I am putting in at home right now, there do not seem to be enough. Teaching is always busy, and balance elusive, but between designing and implementing new programs at school, and managing extra projects (both meant to supplement income as well as realize pet ideas of mine), this was my teacher-leader to-do list as of last weekend:

  • Plan community building, instruction and assessment for the students in my classes.
  • Collaborate with a high school teacher to plan lessons to exchange video reading reflections between our students.
  • Test out the microphones on our classroom laptops to make sure the re-imaging fixed the issue. Otherwise, no video exchange.
  • Attend a RED meeting in the process of exploring what data might help us identify learning needs of one of my English learner students.
  • Fill out a vetting form for a supplemental software subscription that can be funded through our Title III funds.
  • Refine and implement alternative schedules for 9 of my English Language Learners who, if I scooch them around within our ELD program, can have much more access to curriculum and grade level reading and writing, not to mention electives. These are beginning students who are ready for more. The laundry list of people I must communicate with and details to iron out comprises a four-page document that I created on the last day of fall semester. The students tried out their new schedules yesterday– and I forgot to chat the teachers to let them know the kiddos were finally coming! But the exhilarated and nervous looks on my students’ faces reassure me that all the rough patches are worth it.
  • Examine data from every angle to look for early signs of success for the English Learners in our new Rhodes to Success program. The Arizona Department of Education will be visiting this week because of our school’s F grade.
  • Read and give feedback on work from other teacher leaders in NEA’s Teacher Leadership Institute.
  • Help facilitate an online virtual workshop for the TLI.
  • Collaborate with our local NBCT network to host a celebratory happy hour for new NBCT’s in the district. Call the restaurant. Post on social media.
  • Send out a Remind message, email and social media posts about Arizona Educators United activities and #RedforEd efforts prior to the legislature session beginning. Plan a walk-in for next week.
  • Develop test-preparation strategies and activities prior to AZELLA, which begins next month. This is a high-stakes test for my students, and success can unlock opportunity for them.
  • Meet in a PLC with the other ELD teacher on campus, who is new to AZELLA, and exchange resources, anxieties and successes.
  • Converse with our SEI Tech on campus about new students, testing logistics for AZELLA, test prep strategies, parent conversations, student conversations, schedule changes, course section mix-ups and our upcoming guest speaker.
  • Communicate with Friday’s guest speaker (an ex-student from Tucson, once an EL who is now Miss Tucson USA) to plan her presentation, which will hopefully motivate our EL’s to go after their dreams!
  • Communicate with teachers on three different teams about arrangements for Friday’s guest speaker.
  • Plan an ELD parent outreach night in conjunction with our school’s career night at the end of January.
  • Use teacher feedback on Google forms to create progress reports for my ELD students in the four-hour block, whose classes are not all reflected on their report card (lonnnnggggg story.)
  • Send home our hand-made progress reports to students. It feels kind of old school in a good way, really.
  • Coax gracious thank-you notes out of students for two grants that funded classroom projects.
  • Fill out the application for Title III Compensatory Education funding for our English Language Development tutoring program; research supply prices.
  • Communicate with teachers who want to be tutors for said program.
  • Arrange transportation for our tutoring program.
  • Contact the cafeteria to arrange snacks for our tutoring program.
  • Coordinate with the tutors to fill out individual learning plans.
  • Send home individual learning plans and invitations to tutoring.
  • Send congratulations notes to my two new peer tutors.
  • Update instructional-team flexible scheduling spreadsheet templates to reflect alternative schedules for the identified ELD students and for peer tutoring days.
  • Revise peer tutoring program to address “bubble students” who are poised to make a lot of progress on AZELLA.

Seems like I forgot something.

I am not trying to be a martyr. I am excited by everything on this list in one way or another. I have been fairly good at saying “no” to all but the most important things over the past few years. But I look at this list, and say “yes” to everything. It’s a trap easy to fall into as a teacher. So much meaningful work to do. I suppose there are worse traps.



Amethyst Hinton Sainz is National Board Certified Teacher in Adolescent and Young Adult English Language Arts, and is constantly trying to live up to that standard! This year she will begin teaching at Westwood High School in Mesa, Arizona as an interventionist. She has taught junior high ELD and high school English in Arizona for 25 years. She has been a Stories from School blogger since 2012. Amethyst’s alma maters are Blue Ridge High School, the University of Arizona and the Bread Loaf School of English at Middlebury College. Her bachelor’s degree in Creative Writing and Philosophy led her toward the College of Education, and she soon realized that the creative challenges of teaching would fuel her throughout her career. Her love of language, literature, and culture led her to Bread Loaf for her master's in English Literature. She is a fellow with the Southern Arizona Writing Project, and that professional development along with, later, the National Board process, has been the most influential and transformative learning for her. As a board member of the Mesa NBCT Network, she works with other NBCT’s to promote this powerful process throughout the district. She supports candidates for National Board Certification, and loves seeing teachers realize and articulate their teaching and leadership power! She enjoys teaching students across the spectrum of academic abilities, and keeping up with new possibilities for technology in education. Last year she had the privilege of running our school garden, and will really miss that this year. She is currently learning more about social and racial justice and is striving to be an antiracist educator. She lives in Mesa, Arizona with her family. She enjoys time with them, as well as with her vegetable garden, backyard chickens, and the two dogs. She also enjoys reading, writing, cooking (but not doing dishes), kayaking, camping, and travel, among other things.

Comments 5

  1. Austine Etcheverry

    Finding balance is definitely critical when being a teacher leader. And while meaningful projects are around every corner finding you and family time is just as important.

  2. Amy Casaldi

    This list is such a good window into what a teacher leader’s week looks like and gives a great vantage point to the community on all of the various duties or projects. Thanks for sharing!

    1. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

      I feel like one side effect of the teacher shortage is that there are fewer experienced teachers out there who are at a point in their career that they can focus on projects outside the classroom as well as provide high-quality instruction, which means that a lot of these opportunities to do meaningful work are spread among a smallish group of people. I suppose it depends on what school you are in. But then I think about all the other work being done by a very strong group of teacher leaders at my school, and, I don’t know. There is just so much to do. LOL.

  3. James King

    I recall learning in college about all of the work that teachers do beyond content instruction. It was about all the “hats” we wear.

    This week I found myself overwhelmed by ALL of the things that make me a great member of my campus culture. I had to remind myself that my job was my classroom, and the rest was nice, but not my job.

    I find making lists is beneficial and prioritizing is key. I think anything I add on to my lists may benefit my development or my students, but I need to always protect my instruction time.

    Thank you for making me feel less alone in my ever growing list making.

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