An Open Letter, Changing Grade Levels

Hi there!  Many of us have taught for awhile, and many of you come to my blog to see my joint blog series for new teachers and you may be brand spanking new to teaching this year.  Today, I want to talk to those who may have taught for a year or two, but you find yourself new to a grade level.  Or, as I like to call it, you are doing the grade level shuffle!  I want to talk candidly with you about some of the emotions you are experiencing, or will experience, as you go through a new year teaching something completely new to you.  Please read further as I write an open letter to teachers who are new to a grade level.

To begin, I am not at all new to this game of grade level shuffle.  Most who have read my blog before will know that I will start year 14 of teaching this year.  In that time, I have taught everything in grades K-4.  Also, a little known fact, I've never spent more than three consecutive years in a grade level.  This may seem strange to you, but if you know me, it isn't.  You see, I get bored, I like the change and I love the opportunity to switch things up.  My grade level changes have come for many different reasons from principals who needed me elsewhere and asked me to move, my section not making and ended up at a totally different campus, to my choice to change because I just preferred a different grade level.

This past May I was blissfully anticipating staying for my first ever fourth year in third grade.  Sure, there are things I didn't like about it, like the state testing.  And things I did like, such as my team and the fact that I only taught two subjects because I got to team teach.  However, one hot afternoon after testing was done my principal showed up at my door to talk to me ... and I knew what that meant before he said it.  He asked me to change, and go back down to first grade.  As much as I looked forward to staying put because I finally had third grade down, I also felt some excitement.  My emotions since then have gone up and down, ranging from excitement to apprehension as I return to my all-time favorite grade to teach, but I also return to new changes as things have not stayed the same in the seven years since I left.

This pretty much sums up my summer...

As I sit two weeks out from the new year, I know that I am excited, I absolutely LOVE where I teach, and I know this combination will make this my best year yet!  Still, there are some things to consider for anyone changing and myself and I want to share some with you below in hopes that it will help you process as you wrap your head around your new adventure.

So here are a few things to keep in mind as you move forward into something new this year!

Hopefully, you were able to move your things already, but now you have to organize them.  As you set things up, make sure you don't just do it the way you always have, ESPECIALLY if you are going down a grade level or two.  You will need to consider how things may be developmentally different for students.

The things you might be able to leave out for a second grader are things that a kindergartner can light your classroom on fire with in 3 minutes flat ... okay, not really, but hopefully you get my point.  It is very hard for the "littles" to control themselves at first, and you may find them exploring things where you don't want them just yet in the beginning.  Keep this in mind as you set up your room.

As you go into the new year, you are going to find that you have to purchase new things.  Even after 14 years, I'm finding that I have to rebuy things that are ruined from being in storage, or things I just don't have, and all of the sudden "need."  Keep tabs and tally to be sure you don't blow your budget.  Remember, you can build it.  Also, ask friends and other teachers for things you might be able to trade and barter for.  I've also found garage sale FaceBook groups to be great resources for finding things I need cheap.

No matter what you find, there is always something else, right?  I have found this to be so true!  Just when I'm done, I find more things that I want my students to have.  Give yourself grace in this and expect it.  Sometimes I am hard on myself for being this way, but the more times I change, the more I realize it is what makes me a good teacher.  When you realize what your students need, and you seek to meet it, sometimes it's hard on the pocketbook, but it is part of what makes you good at your craft.

No matter how hard you try, you will miss your old people from your old grade level, and possibly your old school, if you are changing buildings.  It's okay and it's normal.  Keep in touch with them and have lunch with them sometimes.  Remember though, you have a new tribe ... give that new tribe a chance because they are who will be your shoulder to lean on when you need a bathroom break or forgot to copy something and need their help.  LOL  It's okay to make new friends and to be a new friend.  Spend as much time developing that new relationship as you did the old one, and you will soon find you have two tribes and you are twice as blessed.

As you join your new team, make sure to ask for ways you can help.  Remember, your new team will have a different dynamic and way of doing things.  If change is hard for you, this may take extra effort, but it's a good chance to grow you and to help you gain new skills.  Be prepared that you will have questions in the new grade and that these people will be a great resource to you.  You want to be equally great to them, so help where you can to make it a winning situation for everyone.

If you have the inner perfectionist that I have in me, you feel this overwhelming pressure to be perfect in this new position.  Remember, you are your own worst critic.  There will be things you are great at, and other things that take time...and that's okay!  You may feel like your boss is watching closely to make sure you can handle the new change.  Just be confident and honest in how you take on the new challenge.  It will take some time to get the hang of it, but as you do, that will show through.  Work hard and stand tall, fellow teacher!  You've got this!

There will be things you expect your kids to know, whether you move up or down in grades, and they just won't.  Be prepared to go with it and reteach it, or to teach it for the first time.

I'll never forget sitting with my kindergartners the first year I taught them, coming down from second grade and realizing exactly how blank their slate was.  Don't get me wrong, they were bright children.  It was just their first experience with school.  I had to go step-by-step over procedures.  They hadn't had the benefit of two prior teachers to help them learn how to properly cut or use glue, or for some, the procedures for using a public restroom without a parent ... the lesson of shutting the door to urinate came very quickly that first day!

Anticipate where you can, use your teachable moments, and just laugh about it later when you can.

#7 OH, THE KIDS!!!
My all time favorite part!!! The reason I teach ... the kids!  No matter who you are teaching, whether they are older or younger, guess what?  You were chosen to be the teacher for this group of children! You are the only first grade teacher they may have, or the only fourth grade math teacher they will have!  They don't know that you are learning new content, or learning a new routine.  They are going to know you care.  They know by your smile and your interactions with them.

Every year as I start to think of what's to come, I think of the many kids I've taught.  I tally the amount of students I've reached and think, if just one is successful because of me it is all worth it!  And IT IS!  You will do amazing things with your students this year!  You will grow them, encourage them, and inspire them to new heights!  On the days it's tough, remember this!  Remember why you went into teaching.  Remember,  you get to change lives ... and SMILE because, how cool is that?!?

And when you do get there ... because you will ... when you reach the end, be proud!  You survived the new adventure and you came out stronger for it.  You will be more skilled than before, and you will have a new accomplishment to add to your career!

No matter where you are or what you teach, I hope you have a fantastic year!  Make new memories, try something new, touch students' lives, and make a better future for us all!

Please check out more posts from our series for new teachers by clicking the link below.  Remember to click through the post to get to Beth's posts from Adventures of a Schoolmarm to learn more on our topics discussed!  Stay tuned as we come back in the fall as well, to offer you more support and help as you launch your year!

New teachers can join our FREE supports for new teachers on Facebook through clicking here at New Teachers Unite!

No comments

Back to Top