Tell us if this sounds familiar: You’ve gotten a call from the principal’s office, and after years of teaching one grade, you’re suddenly going to have to pack up your classroom to teach another grade level entirely. You aren’t alone. As much as a quarter of American teachers switch grades in any given year. That’s a whole lot of teachers!
Tips for being a teacher in a new grade level
Maybe changing grade levels is old hat, or maybe you’re doing it for the first time. Either way, we’ve rounded up some of the best tricks out there to make the transition to teaching a new grade level as smooth as possible!
Listen to Your New Team
How many times have you said 1, 2, 3, all eyes on me to get the kids to pipe down and listen up? Now it’s your turn to heed the call to put your listening ears on, says Sarah Barnett. Barnett’s been teaching for 10 years, and the Instagrammer behind @Simply_STEAM has worked her way through grades kindergarten through three in that time. Her advice? “While your new team may not have more teaching experience, they may have more experience in that grade level. Ask questions, and listen to them!”
What the heck is batching? That’s what Lyndsee Cuevas calls taking it one subject at a time as you make a move to a new classroom. Cuevas has taught first, second, and third grades and taught in five different districts over a 10-year span, so changing grade levels is something she knows better than most! That’s why she batches her work, one subject at a time.
The teacher behind the Instagram handle @lyndsteachesworld offered up this insight for newbies to the moving game:
When I’ve changed grade levels in the past, the scariest part for me was learning the curriculum and making sure that I really understood it. I wanted to be able to reach each learner in the way that they needed, and I knew that I needed to have a good understanding of the curriculum to be able to do that.
The best thing that I did was to tackle one subject a day. After school, I would focus on one subject, for example, math. I would look at the next math unit, really study it, understand it, and then plan for it. This helped me to know the background knowledge that students would need, but more importantly, where they were going. Once I felt confident with the curriculum, everything else fell together.
Don’t Limit Yourself
Patti Roche has spent 33 years in the classroom — but never more than seven years in one place. That’s taught her to take on new challenges with confidence.
Roche shared this advice for teachers making the move to a new grade level over the summer:
The best advice is not to limit yourself. So many people say “I could never to K” or “Sixth graders are tough.” As someone with 33 years of experience in all grade levels (and a few alternatives), every grade level has its challenges. You research the curriculum, reflect on your own style, and figure out how you can make this a positive experience for your students. Know what your strengths and weaknesses are so you can prepare all summer for the new challenge.
Save Your Stuff
We don’t need to remind you that teachers have a lot of stuff, do we? A LOT OF STUFF. But often that stuff is pretty specific to one grade level, or at least limited to just a few grades. When you’re making a major move — say sixth to kindergarten or pre-K to fifth — you may be tempted to throw it all away … or donate it at least.
Mike Vreeland says that’s one thing he learned not to do when he was making moves. The retired teacher’s best advice? Don’t throw things out — pack them away because you might just get moved back the following year and have to start all over again!
“Don’t throw out anything, you never know when it’ll come in handy.”
Use a Checklist
When you’ve been teaching the same grades for years, you may feel like you can do everything with your eyes closed (and let’s face it, with your hands tied behind your back … you’ve got this!). The good news is you have got this, too … all you need is a little extra preparation and organization to help make the transition between grade levels.
When we asked around the Teach Starter offices for tips from our teachers on staff, we heard “write it down” a lot … and use checklist! We even created a handy one for back-to-school to help you set up your new classroom. Print it out, check those boxes, and have a great year!
What grade will you be teaching this year? Check out more ideas for setting up an organized classroom!