Posted by mrsmelva on 28/06/2010
On May 27 this year the Assistant Principal called me to the office and informed me that I would not be teaching kindergarten next year. She offered me a “choice” of grade 1, 2 or 3. It didn’t feel like much of a choice since my heart is in kindergarten and always has been. However, that was obviously no longer an option so I “chose” grade 1, thinking that it is the age closest to kindergarten of the three, and that I would be able to continue to teach as an early childhood, Montessori thinking teacher. In my studies of course, both undergrad and graduate, early childhood education encompassed birth to 9 years old, so that even grade 3 should still be considered early childhood, but reality in the school system is different. I was numb at first, deeply sad but unable to express the strong emotions I was feeling. Part of this was a conscious effort on my part to not let this cast a shadow on the last weeks with my wonderful kindergarten class, and part of it was a subconscious self protection strategy to maintain my personal sanity and work through the feelings in an appropriate way.
My mood picked up when I got my actual class list for next year. Each year, even the many years I stayed in kindergarten, the end of the school year is a very bittersweet time, but when I start looking at the list of incoming students my mood picks up, so I turned to that list the day after our last student day and began to look forward. I will have 16 students (at least at the start, it could change if more students move to the community). I have taught them all previously in kindergarten so I know them as individuals. The ones that I taught this year I know exactly where they were academically and socially at the end of this school year. There are also some who are repeating grade one for the first time and two who are on their second repeat, but I have also taught all of them one or two years ago, so I do know them and it will be good to get reaquainted. It is an even male female split and the reading levels range from 1 to 5. I do know that some of the level 1 students really need a lot more sound work before formal reading instruction, and some are now ready to dive into guided reading. Some of the students have been identified as having special needs and have personal program plans.
While I will need to follow the curriculum for grade one and use the required materials, I can still adapt those needs so that I am following the child and teaching each child from where he/she is at. I can still structure and prepare my environment to allow for student choice and independence.
This summer will be my chrysalis time as I learn the ins & outs of the grade 1 curriculum and the programs mandated by my school and division administration and try to integrate them with my knowledge, beliefs and philosophy of children’s learning and synthesize it all into something that works for me and my students, and the powers that be. The caterpillar does not die in the chrysalis, it changes, but even as a butterfly, it is really still the same being at the core, my challenge is to become a grade 1 teacher but not lose my core as an early childhood educator following each child and helping them do it for themselves.