I'm all about being real, so I won't lie and say my transition to 4th grade was all rainbows and unicorns. The first month was tough. It was not pretty at times. But I am finding more and more to love at my new school, in my new classroom, and with my new class. And I really do believe that my involuntary transfer to 4th grade has been a blessing in disguise.
All of that being said, here are a few of the things I am loving about teaching 4th grade at my new school (in no particular order.)
1) Book conversations
I am having so much fun reading middle grade books, recommending them to my students, and being able to talk to them about what they're reading. My to-be-read pile has grown so much since the beginning of the year, even more than it usually does thanks to my #nerdybookclub Twitter friends. They are pushing me out of my reading comfort zone daily. One student gave me a copy of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief for my birthday, which isn't one I would've picked up on my own. I ended up liking it a lot and now have a crew of kids reading Percy Jackson books.
2) Payday Treats
The staff that eats together... well, we eat together. We get paid twice a month, and on paydays, different groups of people are assigned to bring in goodies to snack on in the Teacher's Lounge. I love how it brings people together to chat in the lounge throughout the day!
3) Book Club
I love the fact that I put the idea out there to have a book study of Chris Lehmann and Kate Roberts' new book Falling in Love with Close Reading... and there were 25 people on board within 24 hours. I guess my enthusiasm carried over to my Twitter feed, because it looks like Chris and Kate will be helping to host a chat there, too!
While two of our three administrators are new to their positions this year, they have still been incredibly supportive as I've made this transition. I am impressed with their vision and ability to think BIG to push us to new places! It impresses me to look up from a small group to see my principal sprawled out on the floor next to one of my 4th graders, talking about what he or she may be reading or writing. Or to see my AP walk around while my kids are reading, grab a book from the table, and start leafing through it.
5) My team
We have a team of 14 fourth grade teachers this year (13 women, 1 man,) and I have already been floored by the amount of collaboration and teamwork I've experienced with them. They have stepped in to help me as I've navigated my way through my first quarter as a 4th grade teacher. They've made me laugh and have reminded me that I do have a lot to offer them. I am in awe of their drive and focus for wanting to learn more and grow as educators.
So, again, I won't mislead you into thinking it's been all rainbows and unicorns. We've had our fair share of technical difficulties. Sometimes daily. But I will say that I love having tablets in the hands of my kids. It opens their eyes to the world around them in a way that was not possible before. Most of my kids were in our school last year, so they have had experience with our tablets already. This made the process a whole lot easier for me and for the four students who are new to our school this year.
7) My fourth graders
Already, they have taught me so much. They've reminded me that much of what I believe to be true about teaching and learning still holds true in 4th grade. But they've also made me realize that I still have so much room to grow and so much to learn! They make me laugh. We've built strong bonds already which allow us to be real with each other. I'm fortunate to have one student who was with me in first grade. Seeing the person she's become in the past few years has made me smile!
8) Coffee Mugs
Silly, but true. I love walking down the hallways and seeing teachers cruising around, coffee mugs in hand. As trivial as it may be, I think it helps remind us to slow down and enjoy our coffee... our kids... our days together.
9) Breakfast Club
Food is always good. And when it comes in the way of a breakfast club meeting, it's even more delicious! Once a month, interested teachers come together to eat and collaborate on a wide variety of topics. Just this past Wednesday, we met to share ideas on how we are supporting RtI goals in our classrooms. Teachers from all three grades (3rd, 4th, and 5th) join in the fun. It has allowed me to meet and share ideas with so many people, and it has sparked further collaborative efforts. My 4th graders will be teaching some 3rd graders how to use KidBlog next week because of a conversation that started at Breakfast Club!
10) Reflecting on the decision to move me to 4th grade
I've had some time to sit back and think about the decision to move me to 4th grade. And I have to say, I'm grateful for the move. Many things have changed in my old building, and I'm not sure it would've been a good fit for me. I'm thankful that my former principal had the insight to know me and my style... and that he had the opportunity to move me to a building where I could find more like-minded people.
Yes, there are times when I miss my little first graders. I absolutely miss the comfort of a school I knew for what seemed like forever. But I do love a good challenge. And although it's been a ton of work, I am happy where I am this year.