Grades 3-5 literacy specialist
Mary Scroggs Elementary School
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
I always wanted to teach in a high school. I imagined great debates on engaging topics that mature seniors would not only tackle, but also embrace. Then, as a student teacher, I was assigned to a middle school. I dreaded my first day because I knew nothing about 12-year-olds.
Yet teaching these young students became my passion. I loved the atmosphere, the age level, and the curriculum. Projects and activities engaged them, and they were always ready to take ideas and run with them.
Some years later, I did get my chance to teach at the high school level and had a terrific time. Then I took a leave of absence to have my own children. I found great happiness in seeing all there is to learn through their eager eyes and in helping them explore the world.
When I told my young sons that I’d be going back to work as a teacher, my oldest—a wise 3rd grader—asked if I was going to work with “big kids” like him. His comment made me realize I wanted to do exactly that—work with the “big kids” in elementary school. I had learned, from my experiences at home, that those I’d once thought of as “the little ones” could handle great conversations and loved project-based learning.
The challenge of integrating subjects has evolved into the joy of helping students understand how “it all fits together.” The bell, which once sent high-schoolers scurrying out of my classroom after 42 minutes, no longer controls my lessons. Relationships grow quickly as entire school days, not just single periods, are spent together.
Which grade level is my favorite? That’s like asking me which son I love most. As my 5th graders have ventured on to middle school, it has crossed my mind to follow along. But not right now. I’m having too much fun!
A version of this article appeared in the May 01, 2007 edition of Teacher as Take This Job and Love It—Elementary