So God Made a Mother is Here! 🎉

This August will mark the third summer I did not go back to prepare my classroom. This summer will mark the point I have been out of education as long as I had “technically” been in it. But I don’t say this with a heavy heart, but rather with a sense of relief.

Ten years ago, I began my freshman year of college with the hope that, after four years, I would become a teacher. For anyone who has not studied in the education field, it isn’t easy. It’s like rolling a rudimentary psychology degree with your chosen area of study (for me, English) and spiked with a lot of field work, intense classes, and demanding homework. At my college, there was no guarantee those pursuing degrees in the education field would satisfy all of the requirements in four years—I am pretty stubborn though, so I took full course loads between spring and fall semesters, having no sort of social life during the summers.

My last semester was the student teaching semester. In order to pay for my education, I worked full time while I student-taught full time. I barely slept for five months.

After working my tail off, I received my diploma and teaching certificate. I was certified to teach in my state. I began substitute teaching while I searched for a job. Whereas I didn’t expect to get a job immediately post-graduation, I did expect to get a job sooner than I did. My mentor teacher left glowing reviews, and my teaching experience went well. The principals with whom I worked told me I did well.

Two school districts with which I worked intensely even had job openings. I applied, and those schools did not even grant me an interview. One school already had a person in mind for the job they advertised (the principal’s wife), and another was not interested in me because I could not coach football.

I applied to one school, and I received the letter that the school had chosen another candidate the same day I had my interview. For those of you doing the math, that meant they made the decision before they even spoke to me. My denial letter beat me home. I had placed applications for no less than 200 positions teaching statewide—and that is not an exaggeration. I was interviewed at about two dozen schools. Most of the time, they would call, email, or at least send a letter after the interview. Sometimes, they wouldn’t give any feedback at all.

Still, I persisted. The first school a couple years later had an opening for an English teacher. This gave me hope. I applied and got that job—two and a half years post-graduation.

Already, my journey had felt so long. I fought for all of the interviews I received. I fought for feedback. I battled for that job offer.

Once in the school, finally seeing this goal for which I had so doggedly fought for six years come to fruition was amazing. And in a lot of respects, teaching was amazing. But in more respects, it was killing me. I hadn’t realized it, but the long and hard process had already worn me down a little.

The district in which I taught was small. In a high school of less than 800 students I taught two grade levels, which meant I taught at minimum 120 children per year. 120 names is a lot to memorize in one year, but it can be done. In one of my classes my first year, I had students from five different school board members in a single class—that is a lot of pressure.

My school district was also severely impoverished, very diverse, and boasted a variety of other challenges. My students were lovely, and didn’t let any setbacks keep them from success. Like all kids, there were some turds and there were some high achievers. There were some that didn’t believe in themselves and there were some that would be capable of greatness once they gained a little confidence.

For three years I taught in that school district. It was tough. Between school board members expecting failure, principals who were not supportive in both disciplinary and parental issues, compounded with increased state mandate after increased state mandate, after expectations to do tons of work outside the classroom with extracurricular activities, and after new and intense criteria were introduced, I wasn’t sure how much more I could take. I finally decided I was done on the very last day of school. It was a teacher’s institute day, and some of the teachers had called an impromptu meeting addressing how we collectively handle discipline. It was clear five minutes into the meeting that I, along with several other teachers, was being targeted. I. Was. Done. I loved my students, and I loved some of the people I worked with, but I didn’t love it enough to put myself through the insurmountable stress I had experienced to date. I had a family to care for. Putting in a minimum of 60 hours a week at a job that was draining my soul was not worth it anymore.

For any student reading this, please understand: you are not what is driving your teachers to quit. Adults are. The loud, power-hungry, rule-makers are burning out the profession. Schools with misaligned priorities who like to follow the path of least resistance.

The teachers I know who have retired have told me I made the correct decision. Long-timers in education have said they have not seen conditions this bad ever.

Parents, please remember this as you talk to your children’s teachers. Remember this when you vote. We are churning a machine of turnaround teachers, creating inconsistency for our kids. My story isn’t unique. The system badly needs changing, and needs changing quickly.

So God Made a Mother book by Leslie Means

If you liked this, you'll love our new book, SO GOD MADE A MOTHER available now!

Order Now

Sarah Pearce

Sarah Elizabeth Pearce is a journalist in west central Illinois. She's a mother, wife, daughter, and sister. She's working to bring an arts council to life in her community in her spare time (that is, the time she's not chasing around an energetic son and playful dog). Whenever she isn't writing - she is cooking, cleaning, or crocheting.

Look beyond the Labels for What You Don’t See

In: Kids, Motherhood
Three kids sitting on parents' laps smiling

I’ve always said that labeling someone with high- or low-functioning autism, or any disability for that matter, isn’t ever truly accurate. You may see an extremely smart girl who seems “normal” but you don’t see everything. You don’t see how the noises hurt her ears. You don’t see how the bright lights hurt her eyes. You don’t see how hard she struggles to fit in. You don’t see how she struggles to understand the social cues. You don’t see how seriously she takes what you say even if you’re joking. You don’t see the struggles when she’s having an overwhelming...

Keep Reading

When You Look Back on These Pictures, I Hope You Feel My Love

In: Kids, Motherhood
Four kids playing in snow, color photo

I document your life in pictures. I do it for you. I do it for me. I do it because I want you to know I lived every memory. And loved every moment. When you go back through the thousands of moments, I hope it sparks something deep inside of you. Something that perhaps your heart and mind had forgotten until that moment. And I hope that it makes you smile.  I hope the memories flood and you remember how much each moment was cherished.  I hope each giggle and secret that was shared with your sisters at that moment sparks...

Keep Reading

For the Parents of the Kids Who Don’t Fit the Mold

In: Kids, Motherhood
mom hugging her daughter

This one is for the parents of the kids who don’t fit the mold. I see you holding your kid together with nothing but love and a prayer as they cry or feel defeated and you wish the world would see your kid like you do. I see you wiping away their tears after they were yet again passed over for all the awards and accolades. There is no award for showing up for school despite crippling anxiety or remembering to write down assignments for the first year ever. So they had to sit clapping again for friends whose accomplishments...

Keep Reading

Let Your Kids See You Try and Fail

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother and daughter sitting on floor knitting together

Let your kids see you try and fail at something. That’s what I did today!  My daughter wanted to take a knitting class together. I said sure, naively thinking the skill would come pretty naturally. I’m usually good at things like this.  Guess what? It didn’t. Although she picked it up easily and was basically a knitting pro within five minutes, the teacher kept correcting me, saying, “No, UNDER! You need to go UNDER, not OVER.” She was kind enough, but it just wasn’t clicking. I started to get frustrated with myself. I normally take things like this in stride...

Keep Reading

My Kids Don’t Like to Read, but They Do Love to Learn

In: Kids, Motherhood
Two children reading with each other, color photo

I fell in love with books during a war while my kids lost interest in reading during COVID. Between 1975 and 1990 during the Civil War in Lebanon, my mom, an avid reader, was determined to make me one despite many odds. Once every few weeks, starting when I was about 10, she and I would make the half-hour trek by foot from our apartment in Beirut to a place we called the “book cave.” It was a nondescript space—about 15 by 20 square feet—tucked in the basement of a dilapidated building. Inside, it housed hundreds of books in various...

Keep Reading

Dear Teachers, Thank You Will Never Be Enough

In: Kids, Living
Kids hugging teacher

Growing up a teacher’s daughter has given me a lifetime of appreciation for educators. Of course, it’s true; I may be biased. I’ve been fortunate to have learned and been guided by many outstanding teachers, including my mother and grandmother, who passed those legacy skills onto my daughter, who strongly feels teaching is her calling. But if you’ve had your eyes and ears open in recent years, you, too, probably feel deep gratitude for the angels among us who work in the school system. So, as the school year ends, and on behalf of parents, grandparents, and anyone who loves...

Keep Reading

Before You, Boy, I Never Knew

In: Kids, Motherhood
Three boys playing in creek, color photo

Before you, boy, I never knew that little boys could get so dirty. Play so rough. Climb so high. Assess your risks. Make me hold my breath. Messes everywhere.   Before you, boy, I never knew how much my lap will make room for you. My arms will stretch to swallow you up in endless hugs and just hold you close. And love you to the moon and back. And back again. Snuggling and snuggling.  RELATED: I Met a Boy and He Changed Everything Before you, boy, I never knew that there would be so much wrestling. And superheroes, and far-off...

Keep Reading

It Hurts Seeing My Kid as a B-List Friend

In: Friendship, Kids, Teen
Teen girl sitting alone on a dock

Kids everywhere are celebrating, or will be celebrating soon. They will be playing outside, enjoying warm summer days, bike rides with friends, and maybe even sleepovers. It’s summer—it’s fun, right? Sure, it is. And sometimes it isn’t. Sometimes it isn’t fun for the kids you least expect it from. We have that issue, and I knew it was building for the past few weeks with our teenage daughter. She was moody (moodier than normal). Short tempered. Obviously frustrated, but not ready to talk about it. But it was when she came home on the last day of school, in tears,...

Keep Reading

Dear Hunter’s Mom, What I Really Want to Say

In: Kids, Motherhood
Mother holding toddler boy, color photo

Hi, I’m Krystal. I’ve wanted to say that every Tuesday and Thursday when I see you in the preschool hallway. I don’t know why I never say it. It might be because I’m afraid to. Maybe you just want to get the drop-off over with and get out of there. I get it. Hunter is crying . . . hard. People are looking . . . they always look. Your face is flushed, your jacket twisted. You are caught between trying to do what you are supposed to do and what you want to do. I can tell. I know...

Keep Reading

5 Money Tips to Set Your Kids Up for a Strong Financial Future

In: Grown Children, Kids, Motherhood, Teen
Father putting quarters in child's hand

As parents, we want to see our children become independent, but the transition to financial independence has unique challenges. I get it. I have three children of my own, and each of them deals with money differently. The transition can be especially difficult if you are a family that doesn’t talk openly about money. Regardless of whether money has been an open topic in the past, as your high school graduate moves on to the next chapter in their life, it’s important to help them start thinking about their financial future. College tuition, rent, and other expenses can be overwhelming...

Keep Reading