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October 12, 2011

A Whole New World When Teaching a New Grade

Written By: Wendy Cushing
Category: Career Path
X A Whole New World of Teaching A New Grade

A Whole New World of Teaching A New Grade

Last week I broke my 3rd graders into cooperative groups to do research for a social studies project.  Their enthusiasm was infectious as they clamored over resources and made excited declarations over new discoveries.

At one point, while they were all actively engaged, I was actually able to walk to the doorway of the classroom and hang up some posters they had made.  When another teacher came into the room to talk to me, all hell did not break loose.  My students continued working.

Yes, they did!  I almost had to do a double-take.

A New Grade Means New Behavior

You see, I have spent the past 20 or so years teaching kindergarten and first grade.  Though I’ve taught reading to 2nd, 3rd, and 4th graders, those were small group situations.  I am not used to these older folks en masse.  And I thought, wrongly it seems, that because 5 year olds were undoubtedly my favorite people in the world, adjusting to 8 and 9 year olds would be difficult.

So, my first year teaching 3rd grade has been quite eye opening (and exciting and simply wonderful).

Back in the spring when my principal contacted me to offer me this position, I admit, I accepted a little tentatively.  I had really wanted to continue to work with kindergartners.  They were my people.  I understood them.  Thoroughly.

But, a full time job is a full time job.  So, with very fond memories of my 3rd grade reading groups dancing in my head, I put 100% into preparing for my new grade level.

Thus far, they have not disappointed.

Here are some of my observations having come from teaching early childhood to teaching slightly older elementary students:

  • Not once have I heard this:  “If you don’t invite me to your birthday party, I won’t be your best friend anymore.”
  • As a rule, my students use tissues not fingers.
  • If we’re in the middle of a lesson and they have to “go,” they can hold it.
  • There is far less tattling.  In fact, there is hardly any tattling at all.
  • My students still cut each other in line sometimes, but if they do let me know, they say, “He cut me” not “He cutted me.”
  • No one has wet his or her pants.  At least not yet.
  • Third graders are still sweet, adorable, and complimentary. They give cucumbers for the teacher in lieu of apples because they know they’re my favorite vegetable.
  • They’re independent thinkers and highly opinionated.  I like that.
  • They actually ask for more homework.
  • They can reach the Smart Board and open the door of the classroom without any assistance.  In fact, when the Smart Board is being uncooperative, they tell me how to fix the problem.
  • So far no one has gotten his head stuck in a chair, stuffed a lego up her nose, peed on my shoes, or drawn a toothbrush mustache on his face with permanent black magic marker (yes, those things did happen in kindergarten).
  • When they write they use synonyms like gorgeous, depressed, spectacular, and  overjoyed instead of pretty, sad, good, and happy.

Do I still miss the adorable faces of 5 year olds?  Do I miss their endearing stories, sweet drawings and notes?  When I see them in the hallway, do I reminisce fondly?  Absolutely.  Without question.

But 3rd graders?  They’re pretty cool people, too.  And I think–no, I’m sure–I’m really, really going to like it here.

Now, I’d like to hear from you.  How many of you have made significant changes in grade level after teaching one grade for many years?  What were your experiences like and what are the most salient observations you made?


About the Author

Wendy Cushing has been teaching for 28 years in grades Pre-K-3.  She currently teaches 3rd grade in Monroe, Connecticut.  In addition to teaching, Wendy enjoys pinning teaching ideas she will never use, party planning, freelance writing, and hanging out with her over 300 lbs. worth of dogs.  She is mom to two wonderful daughters, one living in NYC, and the other about to enter 7th grade.


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