Every year I always ask my students to reflect on their year in 6th grade, so why shouldn’t I do the same?!
If I am being honest, this was the hardest year of my teaching career to date. Granted I have only been teaching for four years, but everyone always talks about how tiring and exhausting your first year of teaching is! That was NOT the case for me.
This school year I: moved schools, got a brand new curriculum for science that I had never taught before, coached 8th grade softball in the fall, completed my last year of my Master’s degree & the giant research project that came with it, coached high school softball in the spring, and barely survived through it all. I was constantly saying to my friends, family, and co-workers, “I don’t think I can make it.”
Let’s go back to the beginning of the school year in August 2018. I loved my old school and all of the relationships I made with the staff and students. Leaving that school was one of the hardest decisions I have made, but ended up being exactly what I needed for my career and a perfect fit. I student taught at my new school and was in awe the entire time. They were progressive, wanting their teachers to try new things, put students first, and were extremely active on social media. I always knew I wanted to go back someday, but I never knew it would be possible, especially so quick and in my dream grade and subject. In the past I taught science, reading and writing and now I get to teach science all day long which was my DREAM! It honestly fell into my lap at the perfect time. I was SO excited to be a part of this school
August and September are crazy times for EVERYONE! Like I said earlier, I coach 8th grade softball at my school. This starts the last week of July and goes through the middle of September. This makes for an absolute crazy start to the school year. I hardly ever saw my 8th hour during the first 6 weeks of school because I had to leave for our games! This also meant I had to get to school at 7am (we don’t start until 8:45am) to get ready for the day since I could never stay after school! Exhausting but worth it because I love being a coach.
I felt super confident with all of my “Back to School” activities during the first few weeks of school. I completely revamped them and ended up loving them. (Don’t worry, back to school posts will be coming!)
Then I started our new curriculum…
For the past 3 years I have taught all physical science in 6th grade. With our new curriculum (which I am not going to name), I would now be teaching a little bit of physical, life, and earth science. Even though my heart is with physical science, I was excited for a change! What I was not excited for was a curriculum that was 100% online and that it was SCRIPTED. I had to give it a shot because how could I not like something that I never tried?
September and October I followed the new curriculum day by day, 100%. This was the absolute most miserable time of my life and no, I am not being a drama queen. I went from making all of my own lessons to following a script made by someone who doesn’t know my teaching style or my students. I went from super engaging and hands on lessons to the students being on their computers for entire class periods for weeks. I was counting down the minutes of the school day. I didn’t want to go to school because I hated what I was teaching everyday. I cried almost daily because this just wasn’t who I was. I cried to my team, my mentor, the science department chair, my mom, my principal, and my friends. What hurt me the most was that the students were starting to hate science. How could I let this continue? The students come to me in 6th grade with very little science background in elementary. I am supposed to instil a passion for exploration and science into my students but instead I was teaching them to hate science. My heart was breaking.
This had to stop. I was contemplating moving districts but had no idea where I would go. I wasn’t sharing anything teaching related on Instagram because frankly I hated everything I was doing.
After many discussions with my team, my mentor, my mom, the science department chair, my principal, and the curriculum director of my district, I decided I couldn’t do it anymore. It took a lot of courage for me to finally admit that. I didn’t ditch it completely, but instead used it as a guide to plan my units. I am so lucky that I have such understanding admin who knew I was miserable. They have supported me from the beginning and I am so thankful for that!
*It is not this specific curriculum that I disliked. I honestly would hate any scripted curriculum because it denies teachers personal creativity and doesn’t take into account the needs of our students. Thank you for listening to my TED talk.*
My cells unit was born 🙂
My creativity was bottled up for so long that I may have gone a little overboard with this unit!! (Just kidding, I am always extra.) But seriously, this was my favorite thing I taught all year and I honestly think it was because I finally got to create my own lessons again which is my favorite thing to do as a teacher. From building the giant cells, to making candy cells, playing spoons, to “Cell”bucks, I loved every single day for a month straight. I found my passion and love of teaching again and the halls were buzzing with students saying, “wait till you go to science today!!!!” My heart was full again.
I was excited to come back in January because the unit after break was Thermal Energy. This was the ONLY unit all year that was the same as before. I taught my old unit with labs, stations, and ended with our Penguin Project. (Info can be found on IG highlights)
The remaining units for the year were Oceans, Traits and Reproduction, and Weather. All of these were new units, but I ended up loving them because I got to put my own spin and flair on them. I was extremely happy with how the second half of the school year went. I was myself as a teacher, I was incorporating hands on lessons again, and the students WANTED to come to science class.
Since I’m being honest in this post, let me just say that the second half of the year was tough but in a different way. I would say 4 out of 5 days of the week I would wake up at 5am and plan my lesson for that day because I had no idea what I was doing day to day! I felt like a first year teacher all over again! I also put an insane amount of pressure on myself for my day to day lessons. I think I have to have these elaborate plans every day but it was getting to me. My schedule was crazy and I just couldn’t do the outrageous lessons every day. One of my teammates said to me, “Josie, you do know you don’t have to be at a 4 every day, right?” (We are on Standards Based Grading so a 4 means going above and beyond.) She was right! I had to do a reality check and realize that I needed to chill. I was planning these overboard lessons daily, going to night class on Mondays for 3 hours, having practice or games for high school softball everyday, and writing my 30 page research paper to finish my Master’s. I was constantly stressed!
Somehow, with the help of my amazing team, my friends, family, and admin, I survived it all. My team was my rock throughout it all! They are the most supportive group of women! We all have different strengths and come together to create an amazing team. We laugh together, we cry together, and we do what’s best for the kids!
I hope this post makes people realize that not everything is always as it seems. My struggles this year were real and I never shared them on IG. It was the toughest year of my career and it questioned my abilities and passion for the job that I love. My students were my #1 priority throughout the year. They kept me going. Without them, I don’t know where I would be right now!
I am so excited for year 5 and to keep making lessons for my students. I think I needed this year to realize who I was as a teacher and what was important to me. But now, it’s time to RELAXXXXX!
Happy summer everyone!