I am entering my tenth year of teaching next week. I spent six years at a grade 4-8 school, teaching in the intermediate division (grades 7 and 8). This coming year, I had expected to be teaching grade 4/5. I've taught grade 4/5 twice (well, really only once and a bit because of being on medical leave three years ago), but taught 5/6 last year. Because of student enrolment, some of our classes had to be changed and I will now be moving to a grade 3/4 class.
I teach at an alternative school and one of our core tenets is multi-aged learning, so we purposefully plan for combined grade classes. There are so many advantages to teaching two grades in the same room. All students have built-in leadership opportunities and can model appropriate behaviour within the classroom; having a carry-over of students from year to year allows for consistency in routines; learning with people of different ages helps students understand that we aren't all on the same developmental schedule and people learn in different ways on different days.
As the first week of school approaches, I am planning ways to share routines and expectations with my new students. I read a post by Matt Gomez, a kindergarten teacher in Dallas, Texas, about his only class rule: "Be Brave". The idea of bravery ties beautifully to my own philosophies and the "recipe for success" my students and I worked from last year, "ADD EGGS" (accountability, dynamism, drive, engagement, gratitude, generousity and support) as well as some new ideas I have for this year about storytelling, experimenting and thinking big. I look forward to sharing the expectation of "Be Brave" with my new team next week. I am excited to learn what they think bravery is and then to reflect back on that later in the year and see how our ideas have changed and developed.
I try my best to embrace change bravely. When the chance to try something new came up, I reminded myself to "Be Brave" and take the opportunity to teach something entirely new to me. A grade 3/4 class was formed at my school and I'll be the lead learner with this group, starting next week!
In the past, the combined grade classes I've worked with have been within a single division (in Ontario, where I live and work, elementary grades are split into three divisions 1-3 are Primary, 4-6 are Junior and 7-8 are Intermediate). In the nine years I've been teaching, I've supply taught in all grades, but I've only had classrooms of students from grade 4 upwards. My students and I have always been in one division and worked with one set of colleagues in divisional activities. With half of my class in the Primary division and half in the Junior division, I will get a more clear picture of what is going on in the whole school. I'll also have a hard cap on my class numbers, a wonderful advantage and guarantee for a smaller class than I've ever had before! I talk a lot about how small class numbers make all the difference in education and now I'll get to test that out myself!
I know that children coming out of grade 2 into my room next week will be at a very different stage from the amazing Rainbow Eggheads who I said goodbye to last June at the end of their grade 5 and 6 years. I will be entering what I'm sure will feel like a completely different world from what I'm used to, but that will put me on even footing with my new students. We'll all be starting something brand new together. Bravely.