4 Surprising Ways a Middle School Teacher Changed Her Life with Digital Curriculum

I have quit using my blood pressure medicine. I just feel like I didn't need it anymore. I wasn't having the episodes I was having, so I've not taken it. [Business&ITCenter21] takes the stress off.

Susan Farrow
Crisp County Schools

Susan Farrow started her career teaching keyboarding to middle school students.

She’s a fully trained and college-educated teacher at Crisp County Schools, Georgia, and she’s responsible for hundreds of students every year.

What makes Susan unique is the journey she took to become that teacher.

“I waited late in life to start college,” Susan says. “I had already gotten married and had two kids.”

While she may have started her education late, Susan knew she wanted to be a teacher well before she enrolled at a university.

At the age of 12, Susan entered into the care of a guardian outside her family. Her guardian happened to be an English teacher, and Susan got a front-row seat to see what it meant to be a teacher.

One part of teaching stood out to Susan more than any other, and it sticks with her today.

“Teachers always care about their students,” she says.

Now, as Susan nears her 20th year of teaching, she knows all too well what it feels like to care for her individual students.

And while teaching is an overall rewarding experience for her, it also comes with some sizable obstacles.

Susan’s 4 Big Obstacles

Susan encountered four major obstacles in her career that became exceptionally stressful.

While they may have come and gone depending on the day, they were persistent in the long run, and they added up to make her professional life a challenge.

To make matters worse, these obstacles didn’t always stay in the classroom — they also crept into her personal life.

Susan’s first obstacle is common for teachers throughout the United States.

She had to teach a lot of students.

1. Teaching 600 Students Every Year

Susan primarily teaches a nine-week typing course. At the middle school level, that means she has about 600 new students every year — or 150 students per quarter.susan-farrow-students-1

To make matters more challenging, she only has 35 minutes for a class period.

That means she had a short amount of time to teach students in each class. But the kicker was all the work she did outside the classroom.  

“My biggest challenge was getting everything graded, coming up with tests, and coming up with quizzes,” Susan says. “We have some pretty strict deadlines and kids get behind. I really stressed out a lot because I still had to grade the kids who fall behind on top of the folks who have already turned in their work.”

Those “strict deadlines” are often part of Georgia’s state standards for computer applications courses. That means there are no shortcuts or workarounds — they have to be met.

Meeting and tracking these deadlines gets even more complicated once Susan accounts for state requirements at different grade levels.

“We have to pick and choose what [standards] we think are most important,” Susan says. “So my sixth grade class, is a little different from my seventh grade, and my seventh grade is a little bit different from my eighth grade.”

Even with the variation in grade levels, Susan’s work got even more complicated when she looked at individual student learning levels.

2. Working 20 Hours of Unpaid Overtime

Almost every teacher spends time outside the classroom planning and grading.

Usually, teachers will have some resource that helps them work or organize.

But Susan had to do it all herself. 

“I ended up spending a lot of time grading,” Susan says. “I mean, a lot of my time grading. I would be here until 5:00, 5:30 at night for at least four nights a week.”

All in all, that extra time added up to about 20 hours per week, with 10 hours alone focusing on grading assessments.

That meant Susan worked 50% longer than the average American workday, and she didn’t get a cent more for all that extra work.

But that’s not the only task that Susan needed to complete every week.

She also need to keep her students engaged and learning through differentiated instruction.

3. Differentiating Instruction for Students

susan-farrow-students-2It’s no secret that teachers struggle with student learning levels.

Some students just catch on faster than others. It’s a fact of life as a teacher, and it’s even more prevalent when you teach a lot of students.

“When you have 150 kids and you have all of them at different learning levels, you have some that are faster and get stuff done more quickly than others,” Susan says.

To make matters worse, all of these professional stresses created one big problem for Susan’s life in general.

4. Starting Blood Pressure Medication

For how rewarding it is to teach, it’s equally stressful — sometimes more.  

At a certain point in her career, Susan noticed an effect of that stress that she didn’t expect.

“I ended up having to get blood pressure medicine because of the stress of 150 students every nine weeks and coming up with the things for them because I have no books,” Susan says.

It’s no wonder. Working 60 hours per week and being responsible for 600 individual students in a year aren’t easy responsibilities.

And when you take your responsibilities as seriously as Susan, issues like high blood pressure are almost sure to follow.

Thankfully, Susan saw a light at the end of the tunnel.

She found a digital curriculum.

Susan’s 4 Solutions with Digital Curriculum

Susan discovered Business&ITCenter21 in 2017.

She’s taken the time to research, learn, and use Business&ITCenter21 as best she can to make sure she’s getting the most out of the resource.

Her results are nothing short of stunning.

1. Planning, Assessing, & Grading

As Susan used Business&ITCenter21, she immediately took advantage of the program’s pre-made lesson plans, customizable assessments, and automatic grading.

These three built-in tools come ready to use for any teacher.

For Susan, it meant she could stop building a class from scratch and use tried-and-true resources instead.

After all, it’s easier — and more effective — to use proven lessons than to design brand new ones.

For Susan, the results were almost immediate.

Instead of slaving over a keyboard for hours on end, she has the lessons, assessments, and gradebook she needs in a couple of clicks.  

That difference in her workday led to a major breakthrough in Susan’s personal life.

2. Saving 20 Hours of Free Time

Since using Business&ITCenter21, Susan estimates that she’s shaved a lot of time off of her workdays.

“I’m probably saving myself at least 15, 20 hours [per week],” Susan says. “[Business&ITCenter21] saves me a headache.”

That’s 20 more hours every week to spend with family, friends, hobbies, and anything else Susan wants.

She’s not tied to her desk for long hours anymore. She’s simplified her teaching strategy, and it’s paying huge dividends.

The payoff doesn’t stop with Susan, either.

It also applies to her students. 

3. Helping Students Succeed

The ultimate goal of any teacher is to help students succeed.susan-farrow-students-3

Whether that’s measured through test scores, graduation rates, or another evaluation, the underlying ambition is always the same.

For Susan, that meant reaching all of her students — even the ones who struggled to learn — and teaching them according to Georgia standards.

While 100% compliance may not always be possible, it’s still a goal worth working toward.

Why?

Because, as Susan knows, she’s teaching invaluable skills.

“Georgia’s standards are important because these are skills that we need to address for the workforce for kids when it’s time for them to get out and get a job,” Susan says. “These are skills they need.”

Now, instead of teaching from ancient textbooks or an unreliable computer system, Susan can teach right from a digital curriculum where students can work at their own pace.

The result is a differentiated classroom where students can work ahead or get help as they need it.

“This program is helping me differentiate with my students,” Susan says. “It’s so useful for me with the diversity of kids that I have throughout the class. I don’t have a special ed teacher in here with me. I may have anywhere from five to six kids who are special ed.”

But how did one program help change that much about her students’ success in the classroom?

Business&ITCenter21 comes with a narration feature in which someone speaks the text on the screen.

In other words, both visual and audial learners can absorb information in the format that works best for their brains. 

“Students who have a problem comprehending can actually have the program read to them,” Susan says. “That’s helped a lot of my students.”

It’s a good thing that Business&ITCenter21 works so well with Susan’s students, too.

With it, Susan has made a major step forward in her personal health.

4. Stopping Blood Pressure Medication

Business&ITCenter21 isn’t a miracle product. But when a program helps a teacher this much, there are bound to be some positive side effects.

For Susan, that side effect is a major change in her everyday life.

“I have quit using my blood pressure medicine,” Susan says. “I just felt like I didn’t need it anymore. I wasn’t having the episodes that I was having, so I’ve not taken it. [Business&ITCenter21] takes the stress off”

Business&ITCenter21 is by no means built to help with medical issues of any kind.

Still, we won’t argue with results.  

Epilogue: Susan’s Happiest Moments in Teaching

Today, Susan runs her classroom like a well-oiled machine with Business&ITCenter21 acting as the engine.  

Students who didn’t have the tools to succeed can now reach new heights of success.

Students who need help can get it in a heartbeat.

Most notably, students who don’t have support — like those in special education — can complete their work and be proud of the results.

“Some of my special ed students — seeing the look on their faces when they can accomplish one of the skills that they’re working on, like creating a flyer or a business card, and how excited they get about doing it without any help — it’s great,” Susan says. “Kids like that really work hard, and to see them react to making an A or making a B on something, it’s just wonderful.”

Susan’s passion for her students is obvious. While she may have been stressed by certain parts of the job — like planning and grading — they’re far outnumbered by the parts that bring her joy.

Whether it’s intentional or incidental, Susan is a living example of the teachers who inspired her to follow in their footsteps.

Like Susan says:

“Teachers always care about their students.”

Accelerate Your Classroom & Take Your Life Back with Business&ITCenter21

Do you want to get results like Susan’s?

Business&ITCenter21 is your ticket to streamlining your professional life. Plan, assess, and grade all in one digital curriculum system that’s built specifically for you!

We can’t promise that it’ll get you off of blood pressure medication.

But we’re sure it’ll help you in the classroom.

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