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Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Grade Assignments?

It's that time of year when grade assignments are on the minds of some educators.

Once again I'm in a position where there will be some changes.

I am very sensitive about grade changes for the following reasons:
  • I changed grades and classrooms last year and six years before that. 
  • It's a lot of work to change grades, classrooms, and/or schools, and most of that work comes from your own summer time and time after school. There's little to no professional time given for learning new curriculums or changing grades. 
  • It means leaving a team you've bonded with and moving to a new team and a new curriculum.
  • Leaders make the decisions for you so you don't have a lot of power in the decision with the exception of expressing your choices.
The upside of changing grades is that it gives you a chance to clean up and organize your teaching materials, learn new content, meet new educators, and see the job from another vantage point. At times changing grades, schools, or rooms is just the right decision. There have been times in my career when I requested a change in order to learn more and/or differently. As an elementary school teacher, teaching a number of grades is profitable to your long-term work and practice. 

In general I believe that grade changes need to be taken seriously and sensitively by all. When you've taught a grade level for a number of years you really get to know the materials, developmental stage of the students, and best practices. Every time you change, you take a few steps back with regard to preparedness and depth. Hence I don't think it serves children well to move teachers too often.

Also with the current educational movement towards the strength and benefits of collaboration, changing teachers often upsets the development of team and camaraderie at a grade level, and this upset does not serve children as well as possible. Further if teachers are changed again and again, that frequent movement could lead to a lack of trust and transparency developing more competition than collaboration.

In general, I have always felt that it's best to share the details of the process including a time line and protocols as well as the factors that demand change with all educators who are candidates for change. When that's done with choice, educators often choose positions and decisions that best benefit the children and team. Though I realize that kind of collaborative, shared process is not always possible due to sensitive, more private issues related to a team or individuals.

How does your school deal with the need for changes in teams and teacher assignments? Is it a collaborative process? Are the decisions made early in the year or later--I can see benefits for both. Do you receive a timeline of events related to change and preparedness for next year's assignments?

Change will happen in your professional career. It's ideal when colleagues and leaders work with teachers to support those changes with positivity, resources, and time for preparation. Timelines, explicit process, and when possible, shared decision making, serve to bring a sense of team to necessary changes.

In the meantime, the important focus is on the here and now by teaching students well. Onward.