- Expect to feel overwhelmed: there is a sense of sinking when you change year levels. The routines, team dynamics, ways of discussing and dealing with planning suddenly changes. There are established structures and organisational elements that you must fit in with. After all, schools do not change to suit one person. There will be people who are already great friends or who have worked together for a while. On top of that, there is a new age level to understand and develop relationships with. No wonder changing year levels can be difficult!
- Expect a time when you feel like you cannot teach: there was times when I felt like I wasn’t a good teacher. Others seem to do it easier and it takes time to adjust to a new stage of learning. Honestly, I felt like I had made a mistake changing year levels. I felt like I wasn’t good enough or maybe I just was better at teaching a certain year level. This changes of course over time but expect to have those feelings.
- Be prepared to compromise: as much as your adamant that at your old school or in your old unit it worked, it may not work for a particular group of teachers. Some teachers and teams are ahead of their own learning journey and others are behind. Be prepared to compromise that even if your gut is burning and telling you it is right, you may need to pick your battles.
- Try to do new things: as overwhelmed and nervous as you feel, you will need to try new ways of teaching. This is no matter what year level. I had to learn how to help put on jumpers, pay more attention to lunches and items of clothing than I did when I was teaching the seniors. I had to try new things and adapt. I am glad I did because I can know be more attentive to the little things.
- Sit back and observe for a bit: I wish that I had done more of this. Sit back and watch how the team interacts, how people operate and then say things. Sitting back and getting a feel for things can help move your new journey forward quicker.
- Give yourself a break: You can teach, you will adapt, you will become a better teacher it just takes time. If it is taking a while to adjust, give yourself the space and time to feel what you need to. It took me longer to set up classroom displays than I normally would have in the seniors but it was worth it. Give yourself the time to learn new skills and ways of working. Teachers have an inbuilt beat yourself up button. You need to be kind to yourself.
- Know your curriculum: this is one that can help settle things quickly. If you know the standards and expectations, then you are better equip to handle questions. Parents, naturally want to know if their child is where they should be and what they can do to help get them to the next level. You need to know your stuff in order to respectfully and truthfully answer these questions.
- Share your expertise: Teaching doesn’t change so dramatically with year levels. You still know good practise and the fundamentals of teaching. Yes, different approaches and strategies may be required to learn. However, structure, routine and classroom management are still essential to good teaching no matter what level. Don’t be afraid to share tips and strategies that you know work.
- You will be exhausted: moving down from seniors meant that I was exhausted by the difference in independence of the kids. Each year level has a different set of demands. I found grade 3 and 4 the year of power plays and friend dramas which was draining in a different way. Juniors and their building independence is exhausting and seniors come with well, puberty.
In my career, I have only had to change year levels four times. I have spent four years at each year level (except prep, gosh I admire prep teachers). Now I am back to where I started. Changing year levels is always a challenge, one that I am glad to have experienced. It keeps you on your toes and learning. It also helps you understand the developmental stages of learning better. So if you are changing year levels this year, here are some things you can expect:
Annette Palma and Carley Rogozik/ Dawson