Sunday, June 16, 2019

Why I offered to switch grade levels...


I have been meaning to write a post like this for awhile; to let people know some of my thoughts about WHY I wanted to make the change from Upper Elementary to Primary, more specifically Kindergarten.  I thought I would write about it last summer, before the school year started, but alas, life.  Now that I have gone through my first year in Kindergarten, it seems time to at least begin to put some of my thoughts down.

First off, I loved 5th grade.  I really enjoyed teaching it and many of the colleagues and teammates I had.  However, I was struggling personally with many things, and needed some sort of change to "shake things up."  I wasn't happy, and thought that switching grade levels might be one way to give myself a restart.  I needed to get myself out of the rut I was in before I burned out.  I was burning out teaching 5th grade.  {see post I wrote about heading into my 6th year of teaching 5th grade here}

The 5th grade team had to go down a section, as we had 5 classrooms and couldn't justify that with the number of incoming students for 2018-19, so I offered to make a switch.  I really didn't know what this meant, what grade level would have an opening, but I decided to tell our principal I was willing to be the sacrificial lamb.

After the first day, actually probably after my last day as a 5th grade teacher, I knew I had made the right choice.

I had been happier this school year than some in the past.  A few reasons are easy to pinpoint:

  • Primary students test A LOT less than Upper Elementary.  There are not the state-wide standardized tests that cause stress, on both the students and teacher.  In 5th grade we took these tests in Reading, Math and Science.  Although I knew my kids were and are more than a score and the snapshot a test provides, it was hard to not see the growth or progress you KNEW they were capable of or had accomplished throughout the year.  Additionally, I always took these tests to heart, as a reflection on me and my teaching.  If a student failed, then I had failed them.
  • As a 5th grade teacher I was getting students that had had 5 other teachers (K-4) before me.  I found that I was frustrated with some of the concepts or standards that were taught {or not taught} the years prior; because it was then making my teaching that much harder.  I felt I had to cover more or even "reverse" teaching that had been done.  I wanted the students I had to feel ready to leave at the end of the year and be successful in Middle School at 6th grade, so I put a lot of weight on my own shoulders trying to accomplish this feat.
  • Location.  The Kindergarten classrooms, at my building, are at the far end of the school.  Very removed from the other grade levels; almost in our own little world.  This was great for me, as I needed to separate myself from negativity in the building.  I didn't eat lunch in the teachers' lounge, I instead ate it with just my team down in our common area.  I gossiped far less and "worried" less about what others were doing because I wasn't walking past their classrooms or seeing things in the hallways.  I didn't care what I showcased in the hallway or in my classroom, because the ones who saw it were really just my kids and other kindergartners, not the entire school.  So, in turn, I wasn't comparing myself to other teachers because I was able to let it go better; my anxiety and depression were certainly lower this past school year than others.
After my first observation as a Kindergarten teacher my principal actually said "You were meant to be in primary, I don't know why we didn't move you sooner."  I know she could tell I was much happier and in a better place, professionally and personally, than I had been in my 6 years of teaching 5th grade.

I am happy I made the switch and took a leap into the unknown; it turned out to be one of the best things I have done for my teaching career.  If you are feeling stuck or in a rut, I encourage you to change grade levels or disciplines, give it a go!  It's very scary and nerve-wracking, but also the most rewarding thing I have done.