What to do?

11454297503_e27946e4ff_hI’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.” imagesWhat!!!??? 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.

imgresI 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?
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!


22 thoughts on “What to do?

  1. Good luck! Isn’t it wonderful to get smart advice from your son? If you love to read aloud, Hank the Cowdog by John Erickson is laugh out loud funny. I always love to start the year with it.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Anonymous says:

    Molly, This is a wonderful decision you’ve made! I’ve thought more than once, that you’d be amazing with older kids-not that you’re NOT with primary aged children! You are a seeker of knowledge, a person who sparks excitement in others to find out why’s etching works the way it does, then move a step forward to create their own project. Fourth graders are terrific! I taught that age group for five years, and , yes, the reading, writing and vocabulary work is over the top!! The kids will amaze and challenge you in ways you never imagined!! I’m ecstatic for you! Will send suggested readings soon!


  3. Amy says:

    Oh! This is so exciting!!! I have grades 4, 5, & 6 and I love them dearly. I use to teach 3rd grade but now I can’t imagine going back. Yes, I have some professional books and read aloud books I can and will recommend. I’ll gather my thoughts and send them your way! You got this. Glad you listened to your son and decided to nix the comfort zone! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      I’m so excited about all the new books I’ll be reading. I’ll be looking for that list. Thanks, Amy!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Amy says:

        There are soooo many great books out there! Here are a few that came to mind. Kids love books by Roald Dahl and I can’t resist the classic stories by Beverly Cleary. Some newer titles you may want to consider would be THE CROSSOVER by Kwame Alexander, PAX by Sara Pennypacker, and THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN and CRENSHAW by Katherine Applegate. We also enjoyed A HANDFUL OF STARS by Cynthia Lord and I love, love, love LOVE THAT DOG and HATE THAT CAT by Sharon Creech. And then there is the WONDER by R.J. Palacio and THE MIRACULOUS JOURNEY OF EDWARD TULANE by Kate DeCamillo. Oh, I could go on and on!

        Here are some professional books I would recommend: THE READING STRATEGIES BOOK by Jennifer Serravallo and THE NEXT STEP IN GUIDED READING by Jan Richardson. I also like the THE LITERACY TEACHER’S PLAYBOOK also by Jennifer Serravallo. One thing that is important to remember about 4th grade literacy is that many of the students are now “reading to learn”. They have crossed the bridge of “learning to read”. While you will still have a handful of students working on the skills and strategies you taught so well in 1st grade, many will be ready to move on to deeper comprehension!

        Last but not least, I’ll be participating in #cyberpd this summer. Our book is DIY LITERACY by Kate Roberts & Maggie Roberts. It’s a great book too! Join us if you’d like our or just stalk us! Either way you’ll gain some valuable information. 🙂
        Here’s the link:

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Adrienne says:

    Although I;m teaching 6th grade now, I’ve taught 4th off & on throughout my career. They are the BEST. Independent, but still in love with learning. My favorite first read aloud of the year is The Worm Whisperer by Betty Hicks. It is amazing because the author really gets how 4th graders think. It is short (only 185 pages), but you can really use it to set the tone for read aloud in your class and to establish a community of learners.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. cweichel says:

    I have taught from K to grade 5 and found that whatever age you teach, you end up loving them. For many years I taught a multiage grouping of grades 3, 4, & 5. That was close to heaven.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. A cat person and a fourth grade teacher? That’s a sure win! Fourth grade is so much fun! Enjoy it!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. danrothermel says:

    I totally agree with your son! Fourth graders are at a golden age. Of course, first graders are too. It takes courage to give things a first shot.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Melanie Roy says:

    I’m very excited for you, Molly! I taught fourth grade for 17 years before leaving the classroom for the library. I would say to help with the transition read Yardsticks by Chip Wood as well as The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild by Donalyn Miller. My favorite beginning of year read aloud was Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing because then they fall in love with the family and will want to read the rest of Judy Blume’s Hatcher family books themselves. My read aloud rule was I would read one book from an author or series and it was their job to continue it on their own if they chose to. There were just too many books to read aloud and not enough time in the school year!
    They really feel strongly about fairness and injustice so it’s great to do read alouds and book clubs around that theme. Oh, fourth grade is so much fun! If you want me to send along a list of great read alouds let me know. My email is melanieroy21@gmail.com.

    Liked by 1 person

    • mbhmaine says:

      Melanie, thanks so much for all the great ideas! It’s wonderful to know I have so many experts I can tap through TWT!!! I’ve already been reading Yardsticks and will add the rest of the suggestions to my growing list.


  9. elsie says:

    I spent 12 years in fourth grade, you will love them! Read any professional book by Franki Sibberson, I especially loved her book Still Learning to Read. I think she is doing a second edition coming out soon. For read alouds you can’t go wrong with Roald Dahl, love George’s Marvelous Medicine.


  10. Erin says:

    Molly, your team will miss you more than you’ll ever realize. However, this is a fabulous move you’re making and the right decision any which way you cut it. I’m so happy for you and happy for the 4th graders who will be lucky enough to have you next year and the many years after that you’ll dominate 4th!


  11. mbhmaine says:

    Thanks, Erin! You’re the best and I will bake whatever you want if it means you’ll come down to the 3/4 wing to visit!


  12. mbhmaine says:

    Amy–for some reason I couldn’t reply directly to your comment. Thank you so much for the wonderful suggestions. I was pleased to see that many of them are on my radar already. Yay! I just bought DIY Literacy and may just cyberstalk you! I so appreciate the time you put into this list. Thank you! Thank you!


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