You just heard those four words that most teachers dread: “you’re switching grade levels”. This means changing classrooms, a new curriculum and set of standards, new colleagues, and working with a new age group. That’s enough to make anyone panic. If you’re anything like me, you don’t like change. Change is scary. I love being in my comfort zone and stepping out of that makes me nervous. But you can and you will get through this transition. Here’s some tips for switching grade levels that can help the entire process be a positive experience. Who knows? You might even learn to love it!
9 Tips for Switching Grade Levels:
Cry and Get it Out of Your System:
If switching grade levels was not your choice, it can be frightening. (Maybe it’s frightening even if it was your choice!) Not knowing what to expect can be stressful. It’s okay to go through a grieving process, especially if you are leaving a close-knit team behind. The trick is not to grieve for too long. Take the time you need to feel the way you do. Then become proactive and look at this as a chance to grow and learn something new. Every grade level has pros and cons. Focus on the positives of this new grade, rather than what you are leaving behind. This experience will stretch you as an educator, but through it you will learn and earn a brand new set of skills.
Take Inventory and Organize:
As you begin packing up for the end of the year, take inventory of what you have that can used for your new grade level. If you’re not wanting to get rid of resources that are only appropriate to your current grade, pack those separately and label them. Take them home if possible. This way, as you unpack in the fall, you won’t start your new year cluttered with things you don’t need. As you pack, make a list of some things you will need/want for your new classroom and grade level. It’s a good idea to pack a back-to-school survival box with things that you will need right away. Things like adult scissors, a stapler/staples, pens and notepads, markers, etc.
Once the excitement sets in, you’ll probably start downloading tons of freebies and purchasing activities for your new class. While you’re busy printing and laminating, do your future self a favor and take the time to keep everything organized right from the beginning. Whether you use file folders, binders and plastic sleeves, or some type of online storage be sure that you properly label each skill/resource and file it correctly in your storage system. If you need to print an extra copy of something, it’ll be much easier to find down the road.
Meet Your Grade Level:
The greatest asset that teachers have is one another. One of the most important tips for switching grade levels is to build relationships with teachers in your new grade level. It’s a great idea to either meet your new team or e-mail them and introduce yourself. Let them know that you are excited, nervous, and looking forward to working with them. You want to establish early that you are a team player, not someone who will try to take over or someone who thinks they know it all! It’s okay to ask questions and ask them for help. Yes, ask for help
if you need it when you need it. They will be able to give you tips and ideas to help you as you prepare for the new school year. Establishing a rapport with them early on will help nurture the team work process in the long run.
Find a Mentor Teacher:
The first year in your new grade level might feel overwhelming. Even though you may be a pro at the grade you taught last year, you’re learning something new this year. A mentor teacher who is experienced, knowledgeable, and patient can be a valuable asset to you on this new journey. Find a teacher in your new grade level that has years of experience. Establish a rapport with them early on. If possible, see if you can stop by and spend some instructional time observing their class before the current school-year ends. This is a great person to ask big questions to, give you suggestions and feedback, and offer you support when you need it. Be sure to thank them for their time and their investment in you along the way. Gratitude goes a long way!
Study the Standards:
Before you leave for the summer, get a copy of the standards for the grade you will be teaching next year. If you are able to, take home a copy of any Teacher Editions and pacing guides so you can look through them over the summer. Read the standards and familiarize yourself with the pacing guide. But rather than trying to memorize the entire year, focus on the first month or so. You can continue to study and refer to it as the year progresses.
Become a Student:
Social media is uniting teachers all around the country and the world. It has become such a valuable platform for us to share ideas, tips, and inspiration. While you’re learning about your new grade level, be sure to hit up Pinterest for ideas and inspiration. You will find a multiple of tips for switching grade levels. With a few simple searches, you’ll find ideas for classroom decor, classroom layout, alternative seating, management, and more! Be sure to find some new Instagram and Facebook accounts from teachers that are in your new grade level. Follow them and learn from them. Read blogs, join Facebook groups, and interact with teachers online. You can also ask them questions, instead of imposing on your grade level all summer.
Come Up with a Plan:
If you’re making a significant grade change, more than just moving up or down one grade level, you’ll need to rethink procedures, routines, and behavior management. Talk with teachers who have experience in your new grade level or read blogs from teachers for ideas. Whatever plan you decide be sure it works for you. You may need to tweak it and modify it along the way – and that’s okay. Also, rethink your classroom set up. Some areas in your room, like your read aloud area, may require more or less space than what you are accustomed to. Think of it as a work in progress. Nothing is set in stone, you can revamp and make changes along the way.
While you don’t want to spend your entire summer planning and setting up for next year, you will probably want to set aside some extra time to get your room set up. Chances are you are in a new classroom so you will need to do a bit more planning. If you’re able, spend a day or two in your classroom before all of the teachers come back. If you’re not able, use your time at home to be organized and have a methodical game plan.
Yes, changing grade levels requires some extra work and it can feel overwhelming. But relax, you are a great teacher. You will do just fine! Don’t spend your entire summer stressing or working too much. Make a plan and set aside some time either at the beginning or the end of the summer to “worry” about next year. And then don’t give school a second thought. It is important to actually enjoy your summer. Relax, refresh, and recharge your batteries. Those first few weeks back you’ll be so thankful that you spend summer-time for just YOU.
I hope these tips for switching grade levels will be helpful as you embark on this new journey!