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!
I so appreciate your transparency and desire to be yourself in every step of your career. I learned that this year too. 🙂 You are awesome!
This is perfect!!!! I am a 5 AM planner too!!! New school new way of doing things is tough! I am in my 18th year teaching and was in the same boat. I had to go rouge as well to keep myself and the students loving science! You go girl and I love all the things you do and often use them in my classroom!
Girl! Yes!! The hardest years are the years where you really find yourself! I’ve been there for sure! So glad it ended on a good note for you!
I love the part about scripted curriculum and how they take away creativity & the needs of our students! I feel 100% the EXACT same about our scripted curriculum in my district…I also use it to guide my lessons, but ya girl can’t teach from a script! This post was awesome. Thank you for being so honest and open!
I have to say…thank you for this post! I couldn’t relate to it more. I switched back to my old district (where I had been split as a TA and teacher) after a year in a district closer to home because I finally landed my dream job. I have had to juggle teacher four different levels and working in two schools. The fact that I haven’t lost my mind permanently yet is because of my coworkers. I have lost a lot of sleep but I know it was all worth it!
PS I am teaching an “edible science” class this summer and immediately thought of your candy cell! If you have any other suggestions please let me know!
Edible slime is always fun!! If you are doing atoms we did cereal Bohr models for review of protons, neutrons and electrons.
Josie, It takes a strong and wise person to stand up for what is right for the students. One day you will look back on that hardest year to date and say, “it was all worth because I did right by my students”. Way to #bethechange !
Thank you so much for your honestly and transparency. As a type A overachiever I totally get it! I am moving from sixth grade in a K-6 school- teaching all subjects to a middle school science position! I also plan to coach volleyball and that will take me through the first 10 weeks of school. This blog helped me tremendously have a realistic picture of what I should expect of myself. Sometimes we are our own worst critics.
I am shocked that they wouldn’t want you to make your lessons creative and fun and that they would utilize such a boring curriculum (former 8th grade science teacher here). I’m glad they allowed you to follow your heart and passion!
I also got my Master’s degree this year. I teach 7th and 8th grade science and with our shift to NGSS we are working without an adopted curriculum. This year was also rough for me but I took some big steps that will make next year so much easier.
I hear you are in an NGSS state as well. I’d love to hear how that’s going for you. Maybe another blog post?
Thank you for sharing! We are adopting curriculum for next year and it’s all online, and I am so worried about it! I’m a first year teacher and since we don’t have any curriculum it has been so fun to create my own stuff from looking at NGSS framework and standards.
Thank you for this authentic post. You are so lucky to have supportive administrators that listened to your concerns and gave you the freedom to really teach the way you want and need to be the best for your students.
Love this post and the transparency of it Josie! A few questions any tips for someone who is going into a year and a half accelerated bachelors degree program? What did you get your masters in? What was the topic of the thesis you wrote?
Thanks for the post! I have followed your Instagram for a long time and I feel like we have such identical stories along with teaching styles. It was comforting to know that other teachers struggle with the same things, but we always think we are the only ones feeling this way or having these thoughts. I look forward to reading more of your posts!
I have taught 5th and 6th grade science for 3 years and thankfully found your instagram towards the middle of the year. Seeing your lessons was a huge inspiration! I am starting a new curriculum this coming school year and I’m terrified!
This is amazing. You made me happy, sad and inspired within minutes. Thank you for being an inspiration to me. I am beginning my 3rd year teaching in August. I teacher many different things, but I am mostly a high school Special education English teacher.
Again, you are amazing.
Absolutely loved reading this post! The transparency is awesome and as an upcoming first year teacher it makes me reflect on why I chose this profession. I am nervous and excited all in one and it is nice to know that everyone gets this way and it’s ok to feel this way.
I was in the same boat as you. Teaching for 9 years and boom! New scripted curriculum this year. All the same feelings as you, thank you for making feel that I too am doing the right thing and walking my own path for my 6th graders with my lesson fun and loosely guided scripted foundation.
Girl. Great. I love following you and your real class and struggles. I’ve tried to replicate similar activities and you NEED to TPT your work/ units. You’re so creative and inventive. .
Glad you spoke up and got through.
Oops. Sorry. Email is : firstname.lastname@example.org
This is part of the reason I’m changing districts after 19 years. I can’t do scripted. Just isn’t who I’m meant to be…I’m so excited to go back to teaching and the freedom to be me again!
Yessss!! 🙌🏼 I’m going into year 4 of teaching Science and already spending so much time thinking about ideas for next year (year 4 in the classroom) and can’t wait but I know it’s going to be tough finally finding my own “voice” of exactly, or more along the lines, of the type of teacher I want to be! Thanks for sharing!! 🥰
I follow you in Australia and I find myself in awe of your energy and passion for teaching. You really do many Science fun and engaging but I agree with your colleagues comment about not needing to be so extra every single day. Look after yourself, teacher burn out is real and find that balance that makes every day feel ok for you! Thanks for sharing your journey!
This is why I no longer want to teach ELA in my district. It is completely scripted. I’m so happy to have moved to career education where I have so much freedom to do my thing!
Way to make it through! I also just finished my fourth year teaching and I had SO MUCH CHANGE this school year. New school (where I graduated highschool from… actually!), self contained (for the past 3 years, I’ve been compartmentalized), ALL THE NEW CURRICULUM, and new relationships with team mates. I felt squashed several times throughout this school year because of the curriculum and not knowing how to use my creativity. It was my toughest year as well and it comforts me to hear I’m not alone in this! Change is so difficult some time, but I’m glad you made it through. Thanks for sharing your struggles being real! Your creativity inspires me!
You are so hard working and dedicated Josie! I love your enthusiasm and passion for teaching; it is so infectious. I look forward to following your journey as I do the same with my high school students in Australia. 😁
Wow! YOU are AWESOME! I am inspired by teachers like you. I am moving from elementary (1st grade) to 6th grade ELA, Science, and STEM this coming year. I love your ideas because they fit my personality and style of teaching. Do you sell your units? I would love to use it to supplement the new curriculum that I have to use which is also mostly online! I strongly believe in hands-on to really learn and retain new info…especially science! The kids will love it. I would love to visit your classroom next time I am in Chicago…. I am in California. Anyway, hope to hear from you!
Admiring the time and energy you put into your blog and in depth information you provide.
It’s good to come across a blog every once in a
while that isn’t the same old rehashed material.
Wonderful read! I’ve bookmarked your site and I’m including your RSS feeds to my Google account.
Thank you for sharing your “real” thoughts and feelings. Your words spoke to my heart because I transitioned to a new school and grade level this year. I am so glad that I threw caution to the wind and seized the opportunity. Thanks to the support of my family, friends, and staff, I had an amazing year. However, as the song says “joy and pain are like sunshine and rain.” Success and struggles were definitely a part of the process. So good to hear that you are back in your happy place! I am right there with you.
The struggle is real! I am also teaching a scripted science curriculum! It is soo boring for the students and me! I find there is nowhere right add creativity and hard to supplement because each lesson is built on the next and all about answering the driving question! I envy the support received from your admin in being able to change it and write your own . Do all the other 6th grade science teachers have to do what you are doing as well?