Faith formation classes are back! Yesterday I welcomed students into my parish classroom for my seventh year, but with one big change: I’m no longer teaching third grade. The fourth-grade teacher wasn’t able to teach at the last minute, and I was asked if I would move to fill that hole. (My third-grade aide from last year, who has a daughter who is now in third grade, would replace me.) It was a difficult decision—I’ve taught third grade for the past six years and I love teaching third graders; they are old enough to engage in discussions and they ask great questions, yet they are young enough to still enjoy crafts and coloring. Yet, in the end, it was also a very simple decision: I would go where I was needed to teach.
Welcoming the children into my classroom was quite funny. More than half of them were in my class last year. The looks of confusion on their and their parents’ faces as they walked in was priceless. Everyone had lots of questions when they realized I was their teacher. After class had begun I joked with my past students that they didn’t pass last year; it was a requirement that I be their teacher again this year. One of the boys popped up, “So having you as the teacher is our punishment?” I had missed his quick wit and sense of humor over the summer.
I am excited about the challenge ahead. I like the idea of discovering the ways they are interested in learning the material. The kids are another year older, which might open the door to different activities. Will fourth graders be a bit more mature and therefore easier to manage? I have to admit that I had a good class last year and I enjoyed teaching those specific children. It seems only fitting that I have the opportunity to teach so many of them again this year.
Of course, with excitement comes a bit of anxiety as well. As I look at a new curriculum and teaching guides for my new grade, I have questions. First, because I’ve always taught the same grade level, I’ve never had students more than once. Now that they are a year older, will I have to change how I teach? Can I repeat some of the activities and games I’ve always used? Or will they be too familiar? Do I need to prepare all new lessons/activities on the material to keep the kids engaged? Will my students from last year be bored with me as their teacher this year? Will I fail to engage their interest since they’ve heard all my stories before?
I’ve been told that I’m unusual since I’ve only ever taught one grade and many catechists move up with their students. What advice do you have for me as I make this transition? What are the main differences you see in teaching third graders versus fourth graders? How do you handle teaching the same students a second year?