I’m a “late to life” teacher. I’m pushing 50 but I’ve only been teaching for 8 years now, all at the same school. My student teaching was in 5th grade but my first job was teaching a multiage 1/2 class. Since then I’ve looped 1st to 2nd and for the past two years I’ve taught 1st. This is relevant background because about a week ago my principal stopped by my room late in the afternoon. In a nutshell, this is what he said: “So, Molly, T is leaving next year and I wondered if you’d be interested in teaching 4th grade.” What!!!??? This was a bolt out of the blue. I had no idea T was leaving and hadn’t been looking for a change. I had been comfortably wrapping up the year while simultaneously making and refining plans for next year’s first graders.
I have a complicated relationship with first grade. Before I got my job I used to turn down first grade sub jobs. Mrs. T. stands on the blue carpet square when she talks to us about the calendar. Then I got into first grade and realized that first graders are an awful lot like puppies. They are adorable, affectionate, and messy. They chew things. They need lots of structure and supervision. They make you smile and laugh and they bound right into your heart. They have seemingly unlimited energy…until they don’t. They are super cute and ready to leap enthusiastically into everything! They change and grow so quickly and make amazing progress over the course of a year. I love puppies. I love first graders. I’ve loved teaching first grade. But the thing is, at heart I’ve always been a bit more of a cat person.
My principal gave me a few days to consider and I wavered all weekend. What should I do? Should I switch to fourth? Should I stay in first?
Pro: A fourth or fifth grade position would have been my dream job 8 years ago. It’s what I originally wanted to do. I know I enjoy working with kids at this level.
Con: I love first graders and my 1-2 teaching team and don’t want to leave them.
Pro: The remaining fourth grade teacher is a dynamo–collaborative and welcoming. She’s also a literacy superstar and I know I’d learn a ton from her.
Con: I’ve just stopped looping and felt like I was finally really gaining traction with the first grade curriculum. I’ve been so enjoying having the same curriculum this year. 4th grade curriculum is a world away from first and there will be a definite learning curve involved. That’s a bit daunting. Maybe more than a bit…
Con: And…and this is a big one…I’d have to clean out my classroom. Eek! I am a book hoarder and borderline supply hoarder and my classroom is loaded! And let’s not forget that storage area.
Pro: I often find myself regretfully putting aside material that’s just too sophisticated for first grade. I would love working with some of this material in fourth grade.
Con: I love the rewards of working with students in such a pivotal year and I so enjoy my colleagues in the K-2 wing. Also, where else can you get hugs every day on the job?
Pro: Literacy work in 4th grade sounds really exciting! The thought of in depth vocabulary work makes me swoon!
My mind whirled over the course of the long weekend. Back and forth. Pros and cons. What should I do?
After listening to my rambling thoughts and disjointed mutterings all weekend, my son cut through my mental turmoil with a simple statement, “I think you’d regret it if you didn’t try it.” And really it was just about that simple. He was right. Most of the reasons I hesitated were superficial or temporary. (But OMG, cleaning out my classroom!!!) This is my chance to push myself. I’m not a huge fan of change but I’ve been working on seeing it as opportunity. As my blog name suggests, I’ve been trying to push myself out of my comfort zone and try new things. A move to fourth grade is an opportunity to make a change within the existing boundaries of a school I already know and with the support of my colleagues. That’s a pretty comfortable change!
So, I’m looking for recommendations from all of you–and all the cosmic goodwill you can send my way as I make this change! Is there a professional book that has been invaluable to you? Do you have an amazing read aloud? I’m already planning a summer of middle grade and professional reading. I’m scared. I’m excited. I’m overwhelmed. I’m energized. Apparently I’m going to be a fourth grade teacher!