The Benefits of Looking Outside of Your Grade Level
Why Should You Care About Other Grade Levels?
There are a lot of resources and blogs out there that focus on a specific grade level. If you teach Kindergarten, of course you spend your time reading about all things kinder, and speaking with other K teachers others who “get it.” They understand and can sympathize with all of the trials and tribulations that go along with your particular group of kiddos. But there are a lot of great to reasons to learn and care about what goes on in other grades. Here are a few.
You Never Know Where You’ll End Up
Schools and districts change over time, and you always need to be prepared to change with them. As the numbers in your school change, you may be asked (or told) to make a grade level change. Some principals move teachers to keep things fresh or avoid conflict among teachers. If keeping your job is important (and to most of us, it is), you roll with the punches, gratefully accept the new position, and then proceed to spend hours (days, weeks) trying to learn as much as you can about your new grade level.
Staying connected with teachers in other grade levels will make this transition smoother, and oftentimes you’ll find out great things that you never knew about working with a different group of kids. The advantage of Kinders? – They are so sweet! They tell you they love you! No standardized testing pressure! The advantage of 5th graders? – They can do SO much! They read and work independently! They can sustain their attention! Each group offers its own perks and being open to new grade levels will make the transition smoother.
You Need to Know Where They’ve Come From
When you receive a group of students, you may be banking on the fact that they’ve learned everything they were “supposed” to learn in the previous grade. Wishful thinking. In order to fill in the inevitable gaps, you need to be able to identify what was missed, and in order to do that, you need to be familiar with the standards of the previous grade level/s.
You Need to Know Where They Are Going
To prepare your students for the expectations of future grade levels, you need to know what those expectations are. Talk to the teachers about what it takes to succeed in their grade level. Remember, you are not just a third grade teacher preparing your students for fourth grade, you are teaching your students to be lifelong learners and citizens of the world.
It’s Important to Avoid Tunnel Vision
When we get so laser-focused on our particular grade level or group of students, we close ourselves off to professional growth opportunities. Widening your point of view and learning about all “ages and stages” gives you an even deeper appreciation for your colleagues. You can learn so much for observing teachers at other grade levels – from classroom management to assessment techniques, there is a multitude of opportunities to learn and implement new strategies with your own group of kids.
Child Development is a Spectrum, Not a Series of Fixed Events
We all know that children grow at their own pace. Physically, academically, socially, emotionally. These changes do not occur at the same time or rate for every student. An emotionally mature Kindergartner may be far more independent than his or her peers. A fourth grader who is not yet fluently reading may need intense phonics instruction. Whether you like it or not, you will be asked to differentiate your instruction and classroom management based on the kids you actually have. Increasing your knowledge base on child development will help you serve all of your kids.
Many of us are lucky enough to find an age/grade level that suits our personality and plays to our strengths. We know that becoming a teacher means making a commitment to continually grow as a professional. Exploring different grade levels is just one way to refine your teaching – you’ll be amazed at what you’ll discover in the process.