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?
I’ve taught students in a regular Catholic school in the middle school grades. I have had them all for 3 years in teaching math and science. They really get to know your expectations and how you teach. The material you cover will be different but they know that. As far as games, they will know how the games work, of course you will adapt them for what they are learning in fourth grade. You will have to add more stories, but you lived more than they have and of course you have more stories to tell than you have used already. Good Luck! I will be teaching 3rd grade, a big change from middle school grades!
Thank you for words of encouragement Susanne!!
This is such a blessing for you and your students! I have been following you for many years and love your advice and tips! I have had the experience you are going into but followed my children from 2nd through their 5th grade year! My reason for this was to not only to be with my child but I totally enjoyed this group of children. The benefits of doing this are many. First you already know what you have taught them so there is no chance of boring them with repeat information, just review and move on. You also know what games they enjoy so use them again! The more comfortable you are with the group the more work you can get down. I also found I know the parents well and was able to include a class trip! Which was so fun! My group is now starting high school at many different schools but I have found that they text each other and still attend our life teen group together! I think you will totally enjoy this year! Can’t wait to hear about it!
Tammy, I hadn’t thought of so many of the things you mentioned. Thank you! I can’t imagine teaching the same kids for years and watching them grow and develop into young adults. I bet that experience is a great reward for teaching. I started teaching when my oldest was in third and she is in Life Teen now. I enjoy seeing kids from my original class in and around the parish as teens. I pray you have a wonderful year!