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June 26, 2019

The Move to 5th Grade

A little over 2 years ago I was presented by an opportunity to leave what I thought was my dream grade to move to a new one.  Age wise, it's really not that different between 4th and 5th.  It's still upper elementary, the kids are still independent - or they are compared to their primary selves, it's still the same type of material to teach.  But after 10 years in 4th grade, I was ready for a new challenge.  I had gotten to the point that I was starting to dread teaching certain units, even though overall I still loved it.  This coming year will be my 20th year in the classroom.  I've taught every grade (except 7th) in some manner and fashion over the years, with the majority of my time in 4th grade.

Now, back up a little... why would I have moved from my dream age?  It's mainly about the classroom.  You see, my mom had taught for years and years in an old moldy classroom and ended up getting some major health issues because of it.  Oh, she loved the primary ages with her whole heart and she was in her happy place while at school, but looking back some of her health issues could have been changed due to the physical classroom she was in for those many years.

I was in an old, falling apart portable.  I didn't want the possible mold and whatever else was living up there to cause the same issues that something similar has caused my mom.  Now, I know every classroom has it's highs and lows.  The portables are the largest floor space of all the classrooms (besides the science labs).  There are options to move those rolling cabinets to wherever you want them to go.  But it was mainly a health thing for me.

Like I said, I've taught everything from K-8th (except 7th).  Here's the run down of what I've learned with the different grades... they are ALL special and unique.  They all have pros and cons (can we say a Kindergartener's wet shoelaces anyone?).  They all have exciting moments and they all have those moments that you wonder what in the world the kids are thinking.  As the kids get older, you can definitely have more conversations with them as individuals.  As the kids are younger, they tend to show their love to their teachers a little more open.  I learned over the years that it's very hard for me to teach the same age span that my own children are in.  I like variety, I like learning new things, and when I get into a rut - even if it's a self imposed rut, then I start screaming for something different.  I want to be creative, I want a challenge, I want to keep growing.

When I graduated college in 2000, there were NO jobs in my hometown.  Here I was a newbie graduate with the thought that I would go back home (I went to school 367 miles away), and there were no general ed. positions available.  I had to be open to taking whatever job came my way - and it happened at the last moments of the summer, a 40% + 40% positions of being an elementary science prep teacher.  I worked 2 days a week at one school in the district, and another 2 days at a school across town.  I had to learn to share a classroom with a veteran teacher, have 15 classes of students, and teach 5 different grade levels.  But I did it and that experience taught me so much.  You know, growing up I always disliked science, and yet I was totally immersed in it.  I learned to appreciate it.

Then the next year one of my principals called me up and offered me a special needs classroom - adorable Kinder and 1st graders that just needed some extra love and help with communication.  Again, not what I expected, but after having hundreds of students, I absolutely loved my TEN students.  My 6 Kindergarteners went home at lunch time, and afterwards I could work with my 4 first graders on their material.  You can't always imagine what the next year will hold.  I knew with both of these years that they were a 1 year deal.  I had to get an emergency credential to teach these special classes for the year, and as a newlywed I wasn't able to go back to school at that point.

Then the principal once again made a phone call, there wasn't another position at his school, but he called a superintendent friend in the neighboring district.  She then called me and offered me a position right away... get this - as a SIXTH grade teacher!  I went in for an interview - which was more of a "you have the job if you want it" interview, and found out that I would teach 6th grade CORE half the day, and 5,6,8th grade Science the other half.  So from Science to Kinder to 6th/5th/8th in 3 years.  It was amazing teaching in a country school.  Same thing though - country vs. suburban - each district had it's pros and challenges (can you say baby mice in a pencil box?).

You have to bloom where you're planted.

As great as all this is, when I had a chance the next year for a 4th grade classroom, just a 4th grade classroom, I jumped at the chance.  I was pregnant with our oldest, I was commuting 2.5 hours a day since we had finally bought a house where we could afford one, and I just needed a little break.  So I took that year and loved learning more about California history.  History is my thing.  I love it, and I love making it come alive.  The next year that 4th grade class turned into a 3/4 combo.  I was ready to move closer to home and not make that daily commute, but my superintendent/principal gave me the great honor of district Teacher of the Year.

I am forever grateful for that recognition.  I think, no, I know that award opened up doors in my hometown to get me a position.  The last 14 years I have been teaching at the school around the corner from my house.  No commute.  My kids - now three of them - attend or have attended my school.  I taught 8 of the last 14 years in Fourth Grade.  I went to 2nd grade for while too, when I had my second and third babies, it was another favorite.  Smaller class sizes alone was special.  This will now be my third year in 5th grade.  I have fallen more in love with American History.  I really do love the intermediate age group.

The younger grades definitely had more prep work to prep for lessons, the older grades have more time grading after the lesson.  Every grade is special, every grade is unique.

Now why in the world did I tell you all that about me?  Maybe you are a brand new teacher and don't yet have a job figured out for next year.  It's okay.  Something will work out.  After all those beginning years I've realized that I tend to fall exactly where I'm supposed to be.  You may not know the big reason why you are in certain positions, but that's okay.  Every situation will teach you something.  I honestly wouldn't change the beginning of my career - even with all the headaches - because I learned so much.

The other reason? Well, after two years of not blogging I am going to start sharing what I've done the last couple of years in my 5th grade classroom and I wanted to "set the stage".  I want you to know where I've come and maybe why I do things the way that I do.  I'm still trying to figure out what I'm supposed to do in the future, I have some ideas that just won't go away.  Maybe by writing things down I will see the big picture.  Anyhow, that's me.

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