The news is now official. Next year, I am making the very big move from teaching Grades 1 and 2 to teaching Grade 6. I just finished my eleventh year of teaching, and all of my experience in the Board has been in the primary division: eight years in Kindergarten, one in Grade 1, and two in Grades 1 and 2. I love teaching this age, and I’ve enjoyed every year that I’ve been in primary, but I’m thrilled to have the opportunity to move to junior.
Change is good! I’ve said this for years, and I really mean it too. As teachers, changes force us to learn new things, try new approaches, and get a better appreciation for the grades before us as well as the grades that come after us. I may not have taught junior in the school Board setting before, but I’ve already started reading the curriculum documents, talking to my fabulous teaching partner, and preparing for this big change.
That being said, there’s many things that I’ve learned as a primary teacher that will help me next year as I transition to junior.
- I’ve met and made connections with the students and the parents. This group of Grade 6’s happens to be my first group of Junior Kindergarten students at the school. While I will have not taught my entire class before, over my time at Ancaster Meadow, I have interacted with almost all of the students. Some of the students were even the reading buddies for my students last year. Relationships matter. Knowing the students, what they like, and what matters to them will help me as I work with them throughout next year.
- I know how to differentiate. As a teacher that has taught a split for the last couple of years, I have always had to teach at least two different programs, and then based on student needs, I’ve had to make changes to both of these programs. I am very comfortable differentiating instruction to ensure that all students meet with success. As a soon-to-be junior teacher, the gap in my classroom is likely to be larger, as I will have students with varying skill levels. Being able to meet their individual needs will be crucial, and I feel confident in being able to do so.
- I know how to break skills apart and simplify them. As a primary teacher, this is key. I am often teaching new skills to my students — many of which are complex — and I need to simplify them. I need students to understand what they’re doing and why they’re doing this. My very best example is teaching the Grade 2’s addition and subtraction with regrouping. When we started this math unit, the students did not understand regrouping at all, and now they do. Next year, I will have to teach even more difficult concepts, and this knowledge on how to break things down so that students understand the content will be crucial!
- I know how to make small group instruction work. For years I have run literacy centres, math centres, guided reading groups, and even literature circles with much success. I realize that small group activities in junior classes look different than in primary ones, but the ability to create a class of independent, self-sufficient students that are able to collaborate and learn together, remains the same. This I can definitely do!
- I understand the benefits of using manipulatives in math. A couple of weeks ago, I was speaking to Anne-Marie Tipping, a fantastic teacher at our school, about a math conference that she went to. One thing that came out of this discussion is that all students, regardless of grade, need to use manipulatives in math. This is a big change from how things used to be done. My primary experience though helps me with this mind-shift, as manipulatives are essential when teaching math in the early years. I’m thrilled to see how they can be used in junior grades as well.
- I have a fantastic PLN (Professional Learning Network) through Twitter, many of which have junior teaching experience. Every day I learn from my online PLN, and this is no different. Instead of taking part in #1stchat and #2ndchat each week, I can now take part in #6thchat. Learning from other teachers both online and in person has helped me become a better primary teacher, and I know that it will help me become a better junior teacher as well.
A special thank you to my amazing administrators that believed in me enough to give me this wonderful new teaching opportunity. Also, a special thanks to my awesome teaching partner for next year. I’ve already learned so much from you, and I know that we will make a fantastic team. I can’t wait!
What advice would you offer me as I move from the primary division to the junior division? I would love to hear your words of wisdom!