Why I Left Teaching

If you found this blog post, you may think you’ll find a horrible story of terribly behaved students or a moment in which everything came to a head with administration and I just couldn’t do it anymore…but that couldn’t be further from the truth.

I left a school I absolutely loved teaching, students who were wonderful, and an administration team that was kind, caring, and respectful. So, why in the world did I leave the classroom? It wasn’t one singular event, but a culmination of so many factors of a thing called life.

I taught for twelve years a wide range of grades. I spent seven years teaching 3rd/4th grades, three years teaching high school and middle school English, and two years teaching middle school English and History.

I had my son in the spring of 2013 and after the summer off with him, I went right back into teaching. In 2016, I switched from elementary to teaching high school and middle school English.

This switch took a toll on my mental health. I always loved teaching reading and since part of my degree was in secondary English education, I was excited for this change. However, I found out quickly that although I loved forming relationships with high schoolers, I didn’t love teaching them. I found my place at the middle school level and relished it, but there were behavior problems that took a toll on me at that particular school. From having a desk thrown at me, to having doors slammed in my face, to just sheer disrespect, I found myself dreading going to school and having major anxiety.

I was a working mom with a young son all while undergoing fertility treatments at the time. I had a miscarriage and two fertility surgeries within a three-year span. It was a lot on my mental health.

Then, the last year I was at that school, I finally felt like the behavior problems were much better, I was pregnant with my miracle child, and I had a wonderful principal who became a great friend.

Then, Covid. We went virtual as did every school at the time. It was difficult teaching under those circumstances. I was seven months pregnant, exhausted, virtually teaching, fielding student and parent questions 24/7 (some students messaged at 1 am), and facilitating online learning for my first-grade son. My daughter was born in April 2020 and I was back on the computer one week later. I have vivid memories of my newborn daughter, who had horrible reflux, throwing up all over my computer while I was trying to grade online work.

It is a time that I look back on and don’t know how I did it. I was sleep deprived with a seven-year-old and a newborn, spending hours on the computer daily, and feeling like I was always behind. When the school year ended, I was hopeful that the next school year would be much better. Yet, my principal left and was replaced. I was tasked with teaching three new grade levels, two of which were high school again. Feeling so burnt out from that previous spring, I knew I had to say no.

I found a school, and within a matter of weeks, I was hired. It was a dream. Smaller class sizes, a family feel, a great teacher for my son, and well-behaved students. Yet, Covid.

It was difficult wearing a mask all day and teaching from a cart for a year and a half. Yet, we all had to do this. It was hard learning the new curriculum that comes with working at a new school. I had a separate virtual track to keep up with, but we had a wonderful virtual teacher who helped with this. I had to upload everything online for the virtual students, but every teacher did this everywhere. Covid just made education so much harder. I was just grateful I didn’t have to be on camera all day while also teaching live to classes at home. Nevertheless, I found myself working every weekend and 2-3 weeknights to manage the workload that Covid brought about.

Thankfully, we only had to go strictly remote twice within two years, but it was a difficult challenge as a working mom. My young daughter didn’t let me teach on the computer. She would cry at my feet or toddle around and get into things. My husband was extremely helpful when he was home in the evening, but his job never went remote. He worked every other weekend as well. It was hard.

I chose to be a breastfeeding mother, but in my endeavors to keep my daughter healthy, I felt like I was adding more to my plate. I pumped on my way to school, pumped during my special, and pumped again at night before laying her down to just wake up two hours later. I was in this mental state of being so exhausted from teaching and being a mom during Covid, but feeling so guilty for feeling that way since she was our miracle baby after five years of miscarriages and fertility problems.

Last year, the mask mandate lifted in the spring. We no longer had to teach from a cart, and I felt like I could breathe again. The work uploaded online from the previous school year cut my planning time in half. I was no longer pumping. You would think I would’ve stayed in the classroom.

My husband’s job changed and it was a blessing but would require more hours away on his part. I knew I could teach and figure it out with him not being home as much, but I knew I was holding it together by a thread. You see…I was able to finally breathe for the first time, which is when it all finally caught up with me. Do you ever run around and do a bunch of things and then when you rest, you get sick? I didn’t get sick, but I felt like I had hit a wall mentally. I had a moment to think. I had a decision to make.

Like my favorite character Rory Gilmore, I made a mental pro/con list. I could be a stay-at-home mom and work on this business, Obsessed with Learning. I could take a break from the classroom and just focus on my own kids. For the longest time, I had been juggling so many hats. Wife, mother, teacher, house cleaner, cook, laundress, landscaper, mental load bearer…and I thought if I could take away the teacher part, maybe I could manage better. The teacher part that kept me away from 7 AM to 4:30 PM every day. The teacher part that made me so exhausted every night. It’s hard taking care of the education and well-being of multiple kids all day. It’s hard making a million decisions all day long. The teacher part that made it hard for me to keep up with the house, so I’d spend all day Saturday cleaning and all afternoon Sunday lesson planning, just to realize I didn’t have a life at all.

I made the decision to step out of the classroom. I do realize that stepping back from teaching is a privilege. We couldn’t afford it for years and years. It’s still a sacrifice for us, but it’s more doable. 

You see, since I became pregnant with my daughter, I felt this nudge from the Lord to stay home with her but we financially couldn’t do it yet. Leaving her felt unnatural. Then, last school year,  my son struggled a bit in school because of a teacher that didn’t quite match his learning style, among other things. I would come home and reteach math and reading to him, which took a toll on me. Then one night, while going over math with him, it was like God turned a light on in my head.

I could take everything I had ever learned as a teacher and use it on him. It felt counterproductive for me to teach all day other students and then allow him to struggle all day in school when I could just teach him instead. My Christian faith is a big part of my life and I prayed about this new idea of homeschooling my son. I asked the Lord that if this was something He wanted me to do, He would have to make it work financially. And, about three months later, He opened the door to make it work. That’s when I had my answer.

Now I work part-time from home on Obsessed with Learning and as a social media manager for a school, and I homeschool my fourth grade son while taking care of my two year old daughter. I am enjoying all of these roles. I get to create resources and design units, and also create content for social media. It is two jobs that bring me joy. I used to say my favorite job of teaching was just designing the lesson plans, and I wouldn’t even have to teach them. Now, I GET to do just that. I also still get to teach through my son and it’s been so much fun! Once a teacher, always a teacher and that has proven true for me.

I have found that God is so good and He weaves all the details together. As a former English teacher, I utilize the grammar skills I have acquired in my new jobs whether that’s editing or writing a blog, resource, or social media post. The attention to detail that was needed to teach is now carried over into these roles as well. The ability to stay organized and focused that I learned as a teacher is something I must do as I make my own hours.

For the first time in twelve years, I’m not falling asleep at 8 pm. I am able to enjoy my kids, keep my house from becoming a tornado, and feel like a sane person, which made me realize how teaching can be so unsustainable.

The Future

I am the type that feels guilt over everything. I felt so guilty for leaving the students I had come to love over the past two years. I felt so guilty over leaving the administration that I loved. Yet, I bore so much guilt for not being with my kids or being the wife and mom I wanted to be because exhaustion made me someone else. I think most teacher moms are riddled with guilt and I wasn’t any different. I think the education profession is built on the backbone of teacher guilt. Guilt that we’re failing our students if we don’t stay after school. Guilt that we’re failing them if we don’t respond right away to their emails. Teaching is a difficult profession because of this guilt and because of the way it has become in this cultural climate.

Teachers are ridiculed, judged, not trusted, and disrespected. Sometimes teachers are micromanaged depending on your school district. Not only do you have to educate and take care of these kids in your care all day long, but you have to manage trauma from students. You have to manage atrocious behavior from students AND parents. You are questioned at every turn. Education is not what it used to be when I started twelve years ago. I fear that it’s only getting worse. Did I burn out? Yes, I did. And I do realize that there are thousands of teachers who are burnt out and are still going. 

I’m not sure what the future holds. After Covid hit, I learned really quickly never to predict the future. It’s impossible to determine. Maybe I will go back to the classroom again. Maybe I will settle into this role and never go back. I have no idea what the future holds.

Conclusion

In the end, it wasn’t just one single thing that made me leave teaching. It was a lot of years of life happening that made me realize I needed to be home. I needed to focus on my kids and that I needed a break. God has called me to homeschooling and being at home during this season of my life. The Lord calls us each to something different.

Teachers are leaving the classroom in droves. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 44 percent of public schools will report teaching vacancies at the start of this year. As a nation, we need to do better by our teachers. They need our support. This is just one teacher’s story of leaving the classroom. There are many more out there. If you are a teacher thinking about leaving, pray about it. Consult someone who has left the classroom. Pursue your options. You will be led to what is meant to be for your life.

How to Write a Biography: Upper Elementary to Middle School

Writing a biography can be a daunting task. When students hear the assignment of writing a biography, they may have thoughts of long, boring essays or a tedious 10-page book report. There are various ways to tackle writing a biography, and they can even be fun in the process! Let’s look at some less intimidating ways to get your kiddos to write a biography, whether in elementary or middle school.

Step 1: Read a Biography

The first step for students before writing a biography is to read one. They need to see a real-life example before tackling their own biography assignment. Elementary students can read biography picture books or Who Was? biography novels. Biography picture books are especially interesting to students as the splendid pictures bring the person to life. 

Here are some picture books we recommend for younger students: 

I Am Rosa Parks by Brad Meltzer

The Girl who Thought in Pictures by Julia Finley Mosca

On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne

Upper elementary students love the Who Was? novel series. These books are more challenging, contain some pictures, and are age-appropriate. We recommend:

Who Was? Anne Frank by Anne Abramson

Who Were? The Tuskegee Airmen by Sherri L. Smith

Who Was? Selena by Max Bisantz

Middle school-aged students can read a variety of biographies from sixth graders reading Who Was? to advanced readers conquering even adult biographies. Some biographies or autobiographies my middle school students have read and loved are: 

I Am Malala by Malala Youfsazai

Gifted Hands The Ben Carson Story by Gregg Lewis

Life in Motion: An Unlikely Ballerina by Misty Copeland

Step 2: Research a Person

Once students have read a biography to gain an understanding of what one looks like and how it is organized, as well as more about the person they are learning about, they can complete research from the biography or autobiography. A simple graphic organizer to help students organize crucial information would suffice. Important information that the student should gather from their book includes: 

  • Birthdate and Birthplace
  • Death Date and Place If Deceased
  • Childhood/Family
  • Education
  • Adult Family
  • Major Accomplishments
  • Major Obstacles
  • Fun Facts
  • Lessons we can learn from this person’s life

Step 3: How to Write a Biography Tips

As a teacher, you can provide choices for students or provide a project students can tackle. Some biography projects require students to write a biography in a different format than a typical essay.

Paper Bag Biography

For elementary grades, a paper bag biography book report is an interesting way to create a biography. Once students have read their biography or autobiography, they color the front of the paper bag with a picture of the person as well as display the person’s name. On the back of the paper bag is written the major accomplishments, obstacles, and a lesson learned from this person’s life.

On one side of the bag is written fun facts and on the other side is written basic information such as birthdate, birthplace, family, death date, etc. Inside the paper bag, students place varying objects that symbolize the life of the person and explain or write about them. 

Cereal Box Biography

This same concept can be completed with a cereal box. Students would utilize construction paper and glue over the cereal box instead. They can create a cute name for their cereal that coincides with the person they’re learning about as well. For instance, a biography about Sugar Ray Leonard, a professional boxer, could become Sugar Rays on a cereal box biography report. 

Pizza Box Biography

Speaking of food, a pizza box biography report is something I have utilized for years in the classroom. It combines creativity, art, and writing to display a biography. A simple Google search can give you tons of templates, instructions, and student sample pictures to choose from. I’m not certain of the original creator of this project, but it is amazing!

Students decorate the outside and inside cover of a pizza box with pictures and facts of their person. Next, they create a pizza out of construction paper and each slice displays important information. They can use their creativity to decorate each slice with toppings. Some students create a flap that goes over their slice of information and on the flap are toppings they’ve drawn such as mushrooms, pepperoni, and peppers. I am always impressed with how students use their creativity to design elaborate pizzas!

Here is the link to a FREE pizza box biography book report guideline I have used for years. 

*Disclaimer: It is a compilation of information gathered from other reports found online. It is not my intellectual property.*

MLA Biography Essay

I have used the pizza box biography report for sixth graders, but as students move into seventh and eighth grade, there is a huge focus on learning to write an MLA essay. Because of this, I require students to write a biography essay or book report. Using a detailed template, students write their biographies. Each paragraph is thoroughly explained and chunked to display the life of the person they’re investigating. Here is a simple template of how I have seventh-grade students organize their biography essays: 

1st paragraph contains: Title of your biography and the author’s name. The book is a biography of __________, who was born on (Date) ______________ in (Birthplace) ____________________. Why did you choose to read this book? Write a brief summary of their well-known accomplishments.

2nd, 3rd, 4th Paragraph contains: A summary of their life. Make sure their life is in sequence. Tell of major life accomplishments, major disappointments, and major obstacles they faced. Tell of their childhood, adulthood, etc.

5th Paragraph contains: What is the most interesting fact about this person? Explain why. How would you describe this person? If you could meet your person, what questions would you ask him or her? Why? Would you recommend this biography to a friend? Why or why not?

6th Paragraph: Conclusion paragraph. What are the major life lessons a reader can learn from this person’s life? 

Step 4: Publish through Technology

Students can create biography presentations by using Google Slides, all the while utilizing pictures, quotes, and thematic decor to make their project come to life. Slidesgo.com is an amazing template resource in which students can make their presentations fit a theme, and be a bit more aesthetically pleasing and be exciting. 

Furthermore, Canva has a plethora of resources students can use to create biographies, from a standard presentation to infographics to creating a eBook. Canva is an awesome resource. It contains varying fonts, pre-loaded graphics, and the ability to upload pictures online. Canva has become a favorite tool of our students here lately!

Conclusion

Writing a biography can be challenging, but in a great way! By reading biographies such as picture books to novels, this readily prepares students to conquer biography writing. By presenting options such as craftivities or a detailed template for an essay, students can feel interested and ready to tackle the world of biographies.

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Johnny Appleseed Activities in the Elementary Classroom 

Apples, pumpkins, and gourds…oh my! It’s almost the most wonderful time of the year! Not the Christmas season, but the autumn season! We are “fall-o-philes.” We love fall, y’all! With fall, comes Johnny Appleseed activities in the elementary classroom. One of our favorite things.

My mother and I have tons of elementary teaching experience collectively. In fact, I taught elementary school longer than middle school. 

We have a fondness for the elementary grades, and one of our favorite features of elementary school is the opportunities to incorporate fun, interesting lessons with artistic elements. Learning all about Johnny Appleseed in the fall is a way to do this!

The apple activities, the fun fall books, and the interesting facts about Johnny Appleseed, whose real name was John Chapman, are all perfect ingredients for a September lesson.

Johnny Appleseed’s birthday is September 26, so here are enjoyable and educational ideas you can use to teach about him this fall.

Books and More Books!

Here is a list of our favorite Johnny Appleseed books: 

Johnny Appleseed by Anastasia Suen (Adorable facts read to the tune of “The Muffin Man”)

Johnny Appleseed by Reeve Lindbergh (rhymed text and illustrations)

Johnny Appleseed: My Story (Step Into Reading) by David Harrison (a fun biography of his life) My mom said this one was her favorite because it answered so many questions about Johnny Appleseed in a fun, easy way.

Johnny Appleseed by Stephen Benet (Johnny in his later years, beautiful illustrations and verse)

Who Was Johnny Appleseed? By Joan Hubb (a chapter book for your advanced or older readers)

Arts & Crafts

Students can make apple stamping paintings.

Johnny Appleseed Activities in the Elementary Classroom 

Have students design their own apple orchard on construction paper. Kiddos cut out apple trees and apples and glue the apple trees onto green or blue construction paper. Have students cut out multiple trees for their orchards and encourage them to choose their own types of apples (green, yellow, or red!) for them.

Students can paint a brown paper bag the color of their favorite apple. Stuff with tissue paper and top with a stem. This makes a 3-D apple craft. 

Using a round coffee filter, students use watercolors to paint their own apples. Top with a stem and leaf. 

Students can even make a Johnny Appleseed Hat to wear. Here is a cute free version from Simply Kinder that we found. 

Writing

Speaking of arts and crafts, “craftivities” are the emergence of writing with an art project. We love “craftivities!” 

Here is our own Johnny Appleseed craftivity. Students research all about Johnny’s life, write a paragraph about their research findings and then glue it all together into a craft that can be displayed. They are “apple-so-lutely adorable!” 

The video below shows my son putting one together. 

Grab your Johnny Appleseed Craftivity today!

Another writing craftivity is having students write fun facts on Johnny Appleseed’s famous hat. 

Since Johnny Appleseed made the world a more beautiful place by planting apple trees, read the story Miss Rumphius, as a way to compare and contrast how Miss Rumphius added beauty to the world. Next, have students write a paragraph on what they would choose to do to make the world a more beautiful place just like Johnny Appleseed did.

 Check out our blog on Miss Rumphius HERE.  

Click over to learn more about
Miss Rumphius today.

Apple Fun 

Using a variety of apples, students can make predictions as to which apple will taste the best. Make a predictions apple pictograph, and then have a fun taste testing. Next, you can graph the actual favorite results and compare and contrast. 

Using an apple per group, have students predict how many seeds are in their apple. Cut open the apple for students to count. Then, they can compare their prediction to the actual total. Bonus points for graphing this as well!

When I taught upper elementary school, we would work together to make applesauce. Using supervision, guidance, and kid-friendly utensils, we would peel the apples. I would cut them into chunks and we threw them into a crock-pot in my classroom. We worked together measuring out the cinnamon, brown sugar, nutmeg, butter and water and adding it to the apple chunks. It would cook all day and make our classroom smell lovely. I would refrigerate it overnight and the next day, we would enjoy our creation!

Similar to taste testing apples, taste test applesauce. There are so many variations on the market, that students can make predictions and graph them. Have them taste a variety of applesauce and then graph the actual results. Compare and contrast the findings. 

Johnny Appleseed Compound Word Game

Johnny’s last name or nickname was “Appleseed,” a very famous compound word. This game’s main objective is to use a variety of separated words to form compound words that then get transferred to Johnny’s basket. This Johnny Appleseed Compound Word Resource can also be used as a center for students to play individually. Check it out!

Myth buster / Fun Facts:

Have students discuss what they believe they know about Johnny Appleseed. Teaching students about reliable resources, have them use books and the internet to find what they believe they knew about him to see if it’s true. Discuss the various myths they know about him and using those reliable resources, test to see if it’s fact or false. Students can present their myth-busting facts to the class. 

Myths/Fun Facts You Can Share with your Class: 

Johnny Appleseed didn’t actually wear a pan on his head, but carried a pan with him to cook. 

Johnny Appleseed wasn’t poor, but was actually very wealthy. He was not into material possessions. He did walk barefoot, and he only had one pair of pants. 

Johnny Appleseed was a vegetarian. 

He also didn’t just scatter seeds. He would spend time planting acres of apple tree orchards before moving on to another location. 

Conclusion

Teaching Johnny Appleseed this September is the “core” activity that will awaken fun, joy, and passion into your students’ learning. They will “apple-aud” your efforts! We hope these activities were “ap-peel-ing” to you!

Okay, we’re done with the apple puns for now. 🙂 

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