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  • Writer's pictureAmanda Stumfall

From Teacher to Instructional Designer

Updated: Apr 21, 2023

Why I'm quitting the classroom, but not my career in education.


Hello Educators!


I'm Amanda, a current fifth grade teacher in Hawai'i. After putting much thought into this decision, I've decided not to return to the classroom next year. Here's why:


The Road to Teaching


Becoming a teacher was my dream job. I couldn't wait to have my own classroom, make a positive difference in the lives of my students, and try out the units I worked so hard to plan in college. What I enjoyed most about my teacher preparation program was designing interdisciplinary units. I worked with my peers to create project-based units around themes and essential questions. We picked our favorite novels and informational texts. We made cross-curricular connections to math, science, and social studies. We made sure to cover the national standards. We studied best practices for teaching and integrated effective instructional strategies. When I finally landed a teaching position, I was so excited to put my ideas into practice!


However...


The true reality of teaching hit hard. More and more teachers are leaving the classroom, feeling overworked and underpaid. I truly LOVE being a teacher, but the education system needs some major transformation.


What I love about my job:

  • My students. They are the number one reason why I love to do what I do.

  • Creating fun and engaging lessons for my students using technology and best teaching practices.

  • Collaborating with other educators.

What I don't love about my job:

  • No energy at the end of the day to take care of myself.

  • Not getting paid nearly enough for the amount of time and effort I put into my career.

  • Working outside contract hours to do everything that's expected of me: grading work, analyzing data, attending meetings, checking emails, communicating with parents, planning creative lessons that engage students and meet their diverse needs, etc.

  • Not enough training and support to meet the school's goals. A school could have really great goals, but if teachers aren't supported in meeting these goals, how will they ever get implemented?

But wait...


Don't teachers have summers off to prepare for the school year?


Yes, summers that we are not paid for. Summers that should be spent taking care of our mental health and enjoying time with our families. Why should we spend our summers working long hours planning and attending professional development when we are not getting paid for it? Plus, teachers need the two-month break. Our profession is a high-energy job.


As you can see, public school teachers have so many responsibilities and are not paid nearly enough for the amount of time we put into our profession. As a matter of fact, teachers are only getting paid for 45-minutes of time each day outside of the hours we spend teaching. It is impossible for teachers to work within their contract hours and fulfill all the responsibilities that are expected of them.


Teaching alone is not sustainable income, and yet it requires a four-year degree and teaching credential at the minimum. Not to mention, California requires an additional two-year teacher induction program. So what I'm saying is that I spent seven years working hard to get the credentials I needed to teach, only to find out that this is the kind of job I signed up for. And the curriculum I'm handed to work with needs major revisions to meet the needs and interests of my students. I want to get a master's degree, but I don't have the time, energy, or money to do that while teaching full-time. It's not worth my mental health.


Now do you understand why there's a major teacher shortage in the country?


Teaching is hard work.


Yes, there is a lot wrong with the education system. I can’t change my pay to match the amount of time and effort I put into my career. I can’t make the work week four days instead of five. But instead of complaining about it and focusing on what I can’t do, I’ve decided to focus on what I can do.


So What's Next?



This past year, I have had numerous opportunities to share my ideas with colleagues, speak at professional development and district meetings, co-facilitate a professional development course for teachers, and revise/adapt place-based science curriculum for Hawai'i. I started thinking about what I could do to support other teachers while improving my own teaching practice. I thought to myself: What if I could utilize technology to create instructional resources that will help struggling teachers work within their contract hours while engaging students with 21st-century learning experiences? Resources that I will use myself one day if I choose to go back to the classroom.


It only took three years of teaching for me to realize how little time I had to continue doing what I love: designing authentic, relevant lessons that are engaging for my students.


That is why I have decided to pursue Instructional Design.


I want to fully commit my time and energy to creating resources that are engaging and relevant to students. I hope to collaborate with other educators who share my passion for designing learning materials that prioritize the interests of our students.


I know I can’t do it while teaching full-time, so that is why I have decided to step away from the classroom for the time being to focus on my spiritual, mental, and physical health. To invest in my ideas, travel with my husband, and enjoy the rest of my twenties. I am currently looking for instructional design work in education that will allow me to be fully remote.


This is a huge risk for me. It wasn’t an easy decision!


I absolutely love being in the classroom and building relationships with my students. I like the school I currently work at. I truly do. This past year of teaching has been the best and most successful year. I have learned so many skills that have deepened my teaching practice: small group rotation models, project-based learning, number talks, and more. I wouldn’t change a thing. I would do it over again. I have made connections out here, and I’m planning to continue working with educators on place-based science curriculum that is relevant to Hawai’i. I am sad to step away from the classroom, but excited for new opportunities. It was a hard decision not to renew my contract with a school I enjoyed working at. I doubt myself at times and wonder if I’m making the right decision. I question if I will find a way to make money next year if I don’t keep my teaching job. I could keep doing what I’m doing and live comfortably.


Or...


I can take a risk. Without taking that risk, how will I grow? How will I ever find out what I'm capable of becoming? I've got to take the first step. A step of faith. Out of my comfort zone and into the unknown.


My goals are the following:

  • Integrate technology with effective teaching practices to design instructional content that save teachers time and prepare students for the real world. Digital content that is cross-curricular, cohesive, thematic, relevant, and based on student interest. More on that in a future blog.

  • Find the balance between being a great educator and taking care of myself.

  • Invest in relationships and collaborate with other educators who share my vision to transform education.

Teacher friends:


If you can relate to any of this, I invite you to follow me along on this journey. You are working so hard for your students. What you're doing really does make a difference. I want to help support you so you can live your best life as an educator! I strongly believe that transforming education should be a collaborative effort.


To wrap this up...


Bilbo Baggins once said, "I'm going on an adventure!" It will be a real adventure. I could fail. And that's okay. At least I tried. I could say I was bold enough to put my ideas out there. That I've learned. I grew. I would rather live without regrets instead of asking myself what if I took that chance? Thank you to anyone who made it to the end of my first blog post and took the time to learn about my journey through education thus far. I can't wait to see how this new chapter will unfold!


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