by Tricia Ebner
Every summer there are shifts and changes within school districts. Just a few weeks ago, my son messaged me while I was out of state at a conference because he couldn’t wait to tell me that his beloved homeroom teacher is changing grade levels this year, and he has the potential of being in her class again in the future. Within my own building and department, there are shifts as teachers leave for different positions elsewhere and staff changes grade level, content area, and/or building assignment. It’s exciting, but it can also be overwhelming. How does a teacher make this kind of change, whether it’s been a couple of years or more than ten? These five tips may help the transition of moving go smoothly for teacher and students.
- Get to know your colleagues. In the primary and intermediate grades, teachers may be self-contained for the entire day, handling math, science, social studies, and language arts for a single class of students. In those instances, teachers often still work as grade-level teams, sharing ideas and supporting each other in the work. At intermediate grades and higher, teachers focus more on one or two content areas. In those cases, teachers often meet in grade-specific department teams to plan and prepare instruction. In any of these situations, getting to know the ways in which teams or departments function is important. Take opportunities to ask colleagues questions about where staff eats lunch, favorite morning treats, best unit they teach, and more.
- Become familiar with the standards and expectations of the grade level. The Ohio Department of Education web site standards page is a good starting point for reviewing and refreshing understanding. It’s also not a bad idea to review any state tests that might apply for the grade level and subject area(s) of the assignment.
- Ask about a curriculum map or course outline for the grade level and content area(s) of the assignment. This kind of tool shares the focus standards for each grading period or unit, and it will often include information about the kinds of materials, resources, and assessments used as part of the study. Having this information in hand can help a teacher wrap his or her head around the activities and expectations for the next year.
- Learn the “anchor activities” for your teaching assignment. Each school, department, and grade level tends to have certain “non-negotiable” units, content, or texts that every student is expected to have experienced by the end of the school year. For example, in my building, every eighth grader is expected to read A Christmas Carol and view excerpts of various productions of the story. Without an understanding of these key activities, there can be missteps and some additional stress during the first year in an assignment. I speak from experience: as a first-year teacher, my colleagues forgot to tell me that the set of MLA Handbook I had in my classroom were mine for only the first semester because all seniors were expected to write their major English research paper by winter break. Imagine the shock on my face in early November when the junior English teacher asked me when he could have the set of MLA Handbooks, and suddenly I was having to rearrange our study of Macbeth to allow for time to write a major paper.
- Check your favorite websites and resources. Some of my favorites, like Achieve the Core, Literacy Design Collaborative, and EngageNY provide materials across the grades. Literacy Design Collaborative includes modules and mini-tasks for science and social studies as well as language arts. Another resource helpful for math teacher is Math Design Collaborative. Utilizing the tools and resources available on these sites can also help a teacher make a smooth transition from one teaching assignment into another.
Are you a teacher transitioning from one position to another this year? What strategies, tips, and tools are using to help ensure a smooth start to the year for you and your students? Please contact us if you’d like to share your ideas or even write a blog post to publish here on our site!