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Farewell, First Grade...

Have you ever had to make a huge grade level jump?  Here is how one teacher handled the news.

Fourth Grade.

I am not a 4th grade teacher.  I am a first grade teacher.

I have been a first grade teacher for 16 years.  It is in my blood and my brain and my bones.  I can recite first grade standards off the top of my head even after a full moon-holiday-Friday-before a break-pajama day-some kid didn't have his meds-day. While I clean up spilled milk, tie a shoe, and write a clinic pass. I've got the developmental intricacies of the six year old child down pat. Dear sweet mother of short vowel sounds, if I were a tattooed person, I'd probably have First grade tattooed on my first grade teachin' behind.

I am a first grade teacher, dang it!

Except that now I am not.  Now I am a first grade teacher who has been asked  told to teach fourth grade.

Fourth freaking grade, people!

I know many of you teach 4th grade, love 4th grade, and can't get enough of the fabulousness that is 4th grade.  I have the utmost respect and admiration for each of you (especially the ones who taught my boys:)
But I am not a fourth grade teacher.   (Remember all that first grade-got it all down-tattooed butt stuff? First grade teacher right here, folks.)

Now, I know what you're thinking.
Stop whining, you big, first grade baby.  At least you've got a job and you're certified for fourth grade so just suck it up, buttercup.

And you are right.


But, you see, I have only progressed to the second Stage of Grief.  Anger.  
(I quickly moved through stage one (denial) when I had to pack up sixteen years worth of first grade crap and drag it all home in cardboard liquor store boxes.)

Stage two is much more fun than stage one.  I have pretty much wallowed in stage two and it's working for me right now.

The third Stage of Grief is bargaining.  Well, I can just skip right over that useless mess because there's no one with whom to bargain.  The principal has spoken and that is that, apparently. 
I suppose I could bargain with God, but I kinda used up my three wishes on that full moon-holiday-Friday-before a break-pajama day-some kid didn't have his meds-day.  And it's pretty darn clear that my Guardian Angel has also been reassigned.  She's probably watching over some poor middle school teacher.

So anger it is for now.

Although, I did get  glimpse of Stage Four today.  Depression.

When I was moving some of my stuff into the fourth grade classroom, I happened across a math book.  A fourth grade math book.  It had decimals it, people.  DECIMALS!  And multiplication.  And long division.  Good lord, I can barely type that without breaking into hives.

Clearly depression is on the horizon for me if I can ever break free of stage two.

Now, I have heard all the lovely, supportive, uplifting, motivating bunch of crap (there's stage two rearing it's ugly head, again) encouragement that has been sent my way lately.

  • You might grow to love it:)
  • Your principal sees something in you that can't see.
  • Everything happens for a reason - it will all work out.
  • If you're a great teacher, it doesn't matter what grade you teach - you'll be great!

I sooo appreciate all the words of support and encouragement.  I really do. 
I'll come back and read them again when I reach Stage Five - Acceptance.  If I ever get there.  
That'll be the day that I am sprawled out in the tattoo parlor getting Maurice to figure out how to turn First Grade into a dragonfly fluttering across my backside.

59 comments

  1. Any chance you could try to go to another school?

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    1. Unfortunately, I cannot transfer within my division at this point.
      I have applied with another school division, but honestly I don't think that's very likely either. I have 18 years experience and a Master's degree so I'm a pretty expensive new hire. They can hire Suzie-Q right out of college and save thousands of dollars. :(

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  2. Been there, done that. Tried it for 2 years. Quit & went to a new school. I have now taught Kdg for 8 years & I LOVE it!! Good luck to you!

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    1. I am glad you got out alive! Congrats!
      I'm gonna try to do the same:)

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  3. Nikki - this post is soooo good (you are so funny and I felt so guilty laughing as I read your post), and could be from a handful of teachers that I know. Why is there this practice of randomly reassigning teachers without any good reason? I don't get it, but apparently it is a common practice for admin to "shake it up." I don't know if that it what has happened in your situation, but I can give you one very important tip - A glass of wine (or more), or other adult beverage will help you arrive at Stage 5 much more quickly.

    Nicole ;)

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    1. Oh, don't feel guilty! At least some good has come out of this!
      And clearly, another trip to the liquor store is in order. Only this time not for boxes.

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  4. I feel so bad for you, Nikki! I know this is a shock, and you do have to go through all the stages until you get to acceptance. But try, really try, to be open minded. You may discover a few things in fourth grade that make you an even better teacher when they realize their mistake and move you back to first where you belong. This is just a small detour along the highway.

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    1. It was definitely a shock. Sadly, I think they will realize the mistake after a group of fourth graders has to suffer through the year:(

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  5. Oh you hit the nail on the head. When someone is uprooted it HURTS and it isn't fair! I predict you will accept it eventually and if you hate it you will make a bigger change soon. Is admin trying to push you out? If not, you will get moved back. I watched a K teacher get moved to 4th, she is back in K. A 1st grade moved to 4th, she is back in 1st. Maybe you will just serve a 1 year sentence in 4th. I hate when people are uprooted. Teaching is hard enough, then when they are ripped out without good reason it isn't fair! Good luck to you, and good job on expressing your feelings and working through the stages!

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  6. I don't understand Why they would do this. They still need a first grade teacher, right? Why move someone with so much experience? In our district if a position becomes available a teacher can request to moved but I've not heard of someone being moved against their will. It doesn't make sense for those 4th graders either. I am an instructional assistant who works mainly with Kindergarten. We also have what we call "Success Time" and I have to work with 4th grade for half an hour every day. My degree is in English. I have worked with Kindergarten for 8 years. They are totally different animals. I remember what I leaned about multiplication, and decimals, and grammar, and paragraphs, but times have changed since I learned those things. Standards have changed. I guess I'm confused as to how it makes sense to move someone who KNOWS 1st grade in their soul to a grade where you will be learning along with the kids. I'm sorry for you and the kids. :-(

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  7. Did you ever find out the WHY behind your movement? Who is taking your place and WHY????

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  8. I have that tatoo...NOT really! I will have a glass of white for you...Let's go with ..."Maybe it will only be for 1 year...180 days...when is the next vacation? I know...have those 4th graders start making your needed stuff for when you COME BACK TO FIRST GRADE! :) Good Luck! Stupid Admin! :( Wendy 1stgradefireworks 1stgradefireworks

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    1. Good perspective! Let the countdown begin:)

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  9. I'm sorry, Nikki! I hope that you are able to get through your stages quickly. I know how it feels to be moved unwillingly. I hope that this turns out to be a wonderful experience for you. Just remember you have so many friends out in internet land that are ready to support and help. Good luck!

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    1. Yes, I do have lots of cyber support to help me get through this! I couldn't do it without all of you!

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  10. Keep your head up. I would like to think that you administrator wouldn't give you something they didn't think you could achieve greatness in. Just remember, like Dory from Finding Nemo, just keep swimming :D
    Spend some time surfing the net (teacherspayteachers, pinterest) and look for fun activities to start the year off with! That should help to make your transition easier. I feel for you though in all honesty...I went from teaching 6th grade Spanish to a K-1 multi-grade. I was more terrified than anything, but now I wouldn't trade it for the world.

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    1. I'm glad your move went well - that's a BIG move!

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  11. I hear that you are not ready yet, but I have just gone back and read a bunch of you old posts. And just based on that....I truly believe you can handle it, and.....you will be great! You know the right things...how to teach, how to show respect, how to manage, and so on. The things you have concerns about (teaching decimals, etc) can be learned quickly, the other stuff, not so much! It's time for your brain to grow again! Good luck!

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    1. Well, you are quite the confidence booster! Thank you for your kind words:)

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  12. I am LITERALLY in the same situation... first to (possibly) fourth! I'm still waiting for enrollment numbers, but I'm guessing I'll be 4th. We will have to compare notes and cry over our amazing first grade "crap" that is stowed away in boxes together!
    Best of luck to you!
    CaseyJane
    WigglingScholars

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    1. Oh no - I'm sorry you're in the same mess! I just read your blog and it seems you have had quite a few moves - hence the fabulous packing method! We'll have to keep in touch as we muddle through next year:)

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    2. Indeed... but I recently just heard that I may not be in 4th... I'm "yet to be determined!" Yikes. We'll keep in touch one way or another!

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  13. I'm SO sorry. So sorry. Wishing you go through the stages more quickly than you think.

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  14. Nikki, I want to CRY for you! :( Honestly though, if I can help you in anyway, please let me know! :( (Once you hit stage 5!)
    Theresa
    Pinkadots Elementary

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    1. Thank you! Still haven't moved out of Stage 2:) Let you know when I get there...

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  15. I hope writing this brought you satisfaction to go with that anger. I truly sympathize, and perhaps a first grade position will pop up in another building within your district. I am so sorry, Nicki!
    Carla

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    1. I don't think a transfer can happen for this coming year, but I will keep trying:)

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  16. Me too. I was asked/told, too. I love first grade. I have no ideas and materials for 4th grade. I'm scared. I soooooo cried when I went home.

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    1. Ugg! I am so sorry you are going through the same mess! I haven't even begun to think about curriculum, etc. And I have a feeling that my fourth grade classroom will look a lot like a first grade classroom...

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  17. That's tough! My school cut 2 sections for this upcoming school year, which meant the 2 lowest senior teachers were displaced to other buildings, and a 1st grade teacher whose section was cut moved up to 3rd to take the place of my colleague who was displaced. What is really awful is the numbers for 1st for the coming year were 27 and 28 BEFORE registration. That also doesn't include 9 kiddos that are supposedly moving this summer! Of course, administration refuses to look at it again until registration at the end of July. So that means they will have to hire for a 3rd section (in my opinion) 2 weeks before school starts. AWESOME, not. I'm mostly bitter because it affects my team, which was entering their 2nd year together. The one moving up is AWESOME, so that's not my problem at all. The other teacher who is on my team is retiring next year, so I will have another change...blah! Also, if the trend continues...I could be displaced 2016-17 because I could be the least senior...

    I feel like I ranted a lot there... OOPS!
    Hang in there!
    Lindsey
    Thriving in 3rd

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    1. Rant away - that is a hot mess! I cannot believe that we are treated like files that can be moved around in a file cabinet at will. I hope things work out for you next year:)

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  18. I'm so sorry! My entire team is moving down to first grade to start the 1-2 loop. I was just about as ready to teach first grade as you are to teach fourth... So instead I decided to loop up with my class to third. The math scares the crap out of me, and not to mention the TESTING, but I'm excited to stick with my kids and to plan lessons for students with a bit more independence.
    ❤ Karen
    flamingofab@gmail.com
    Flamingo Fabulous in Second Grade

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    1. Yes, the testing definitely bothers me. Especially since I am a vocal advocate for opting out and opted my own children out of SOL's this year!
      I imagine I'll get through the year somehow:)

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  19. Hello fellow teacher. I can completely identify with your pain. Last year after teaching 2nd grade for several years then gifted, I was told I was going to 5th grade. Everyone told me the same things they are telling you..you might like it, etc. I spend all summer 2013 crying and I went through all the same steps you describe. However, the year went well and I enjoyed the kids. I always enjoy the kids. But, knowing that 5th is not really what I want. I hate testing and all that is involved in it, I chose to look elsewhere. I will be teaching 2nd grade again but in a different district. Try to find the joy in this year. You will touch lives and be blessed by them as well. I know I was. But, remember to follow your heart and if it say you are a first grade teacher then go back to it. While you are waiting, find joy in what you do. All students are learners and are a blessing to us. After all, it's only 9 months.. Good luck to you!

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    1. Very wise words, indeed. Thank you for the sage advice and helping me gain perspective:)
      I am glad you found a new home - good luck next year!

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    2. Good luck and let us know how it goes..

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  20. You just don't know where change will lead you! I was told that my fourth grade classroom would be eliminated for the next year (but then reinstated for the following 5/6/7/8 years after that!) I loved loved loved fourth grade. I'm teaching first grade this next year. Although my initial reaction was exactly was exactly like yours (I was ticked!!!) I'm starting to see the positives. Here are your fourth grade positives: they get your jokes; they're smart; you can talk about important life issues with substance; chapter books you read to them are the best ever!!!; did I say they're smart?? Enjoy. I'm envious!!

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  21. Moving from 1st to 4th is a HUGE jump and sadly most of the materials you've gathered over the years will not b relevant to 4th, which is just as depressing because now you have to store all those materials and buy all new materials!

    However, I started my teaching career in kindergarten and after changing schools the only opening was 4th grade! It turned out to be the BEST experience! Then, I got moved to kindergarten again, which after being in 4th was NOT fun! I really struggled with kindergarten a grade I use to love and dread leaving after being in 4th grade.

    Well, on June 5th I packed up my kindergarten class turned in my keys and went on my way. Then, on June 16th I get a call from my principal "asking" me to move to 5th grade this coming school year, another story! I gladly said YES!

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  22. I feel your pain! After 5 years of teaching Jr. High Math, I was placed in 5th grade for next year...that means I get (read as have) to teach reading for the first time since my student teaching placement 6 years ago! :(

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  23. I understand your pain. I could have written this same post, word for word, except switch first with fourth. I'm moving in the OPPOSITE direction, from fourth down to first, but the grieving process is the same. The feeling of having my identity as a fourth grade teacher for nearly a decade ripped away had me feeling defeated and angry. Looked into transferring to another school but come to find it's too late for this year. Really hard to hold my head up and smile while friends and colleagues reassure me that it's all going to work out.

    Here's a question I still have. How am I supposed to reply to parents who ask, "Wow, fourth to first, that's quite a move. Why did you decide to do that?" At least with my colleagues I can admit that I'm not happy about this move. What do I say to the parents? Any ideas?

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  24. Thank you for your post!!! I LOVE fourth, ended up in first after 14 years of middle grades,and now "look forward" to SIXTH!!! All to have a shorter commute and better work/life balance. I hope I love it, as I now know that I don't love first.

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    1. Yes, I discovered that I don't love fourth:(
      I'm so glad you have a better situation next year! Good luck!

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  25. I'm in the same boat you are and in the same dtage... except I'm going to 3rd grade. 8 years in 1st and now you want me to teach 3rd? Are you nuts?!?!?! The worst part is the principal at our early learning center wanted to bring me over there and my hr department said no because the transfer window is closed. I emailed applied to other districts but like you said with 9 years in and 2 masters degrees I'm expensive to hire. So here's to hoping for a not horrible year and finding a place in 1st grade again soon.

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    1. I got 3 serious interviews/offers this year but my district won't release you from your contract after the last day of school so I couldn't take any of them. So discouraging that we are allowed to move when we like:(
      Hope you have good year! I think you will at least enjoy the higher level of independence. No shoe tying!

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  26. I went through I major change too. I was hired as a grade 6 teacher and taught it for 2 years, then I was switched to kindergarten. Grade 6 to Kindergarten!!!! Plus during the transition summer I was getting married. It was crazy hectic but in the end I loved the little ones. This year I moved up with my kiddos and taught grade 1 to my same pack. Next year I'll hopefully have grade 1 again but I'm from Fort Mac and we all got evacuated due to wildfire on May 3rd and lost the last two months of school. 10% of town was lost in the fire so enrollment and funding for next year is very up in the air. I can't complain though because everyone is safe, now to move all my teaching stuff again.

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    1. Oh my gosh! What a change! I am so sorry your town had so much trouble and damage. Glad all are safe and wishing you a wonderful year (and move!)

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  27. I taught 7 years of first and now moving to third. Although I was told back in April, so I am now in the acceptance stage. I have started looking at third grade things.

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    1. Good for for getting there! I don't think I reached acceptance until at least Movember of that first year in fourth. It was a long year ;)

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  28. I went through a major change too. I was hired to teach grade 6 and did that for 2 years, then switched to kindergarten. Grade 6 to kindergarten!!!! Plus, I was getting married in the transition summer so was not happy about the added workload. I got everything done though and ended up loving kindergarten! This year I moved up with my kiddos and taught grade 1 to my same pack. That move was nowhere near as bad. Next year I hope to teach grade 1 again but nothing is for sure. I'm from Fort McMurray and the whole city was evacuated due to wildfire on May 3rd. We lost the last 2 months of school and 10% of the town. No one knows what enrollment is going to look like in the fall, we're not allowed in the school and I have to move everything out of my house. I can't complain though because everyone is safe and I get a 4 month paid 'vacation'.

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  29. I see this is in 2014. Do you have an update?

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  30. I see this is in 2014. Do you have an update?

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    1. Yes! I spent two years teaching fourth grade. I did love the kids. The age level is a lot of fun to teach and they are very independent. But my school is so focused on passing the state test, that teaching became a chore that was prescribed and forced. There was no autonomy or freedom to teach fun, engaging lessons. It was hard to want to do appropriate lessons and not be allowed to.
      Next year I will be teaching Pre K. Another big jump and not exactly where I'd like to be, but I am glad to be moving back down to be with the littles!

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  31. I was in your shoes 3 years ago when I was a forced transfer due to a new school opening and my low teacher on the totem pole status. I went from (my love) 1st to (those kids are huge!) 3rd grade. I didn't dislike it, but 3rd isn't 1st, and I am a 1st grade teacher in my heart. I assumed I would be a 3rd grade teacher for good, but 3 years later, another new school is opening and I was just hired to teach 1st grade! Keep your 1st grade stuff...changes come when you least expect them! I'm sending good vibes your way as you brave double digit multiplication and reading-to-learn. Best of luck to you, and thanks for perfectly explaining how we teachers feel.

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  32. I taught first for 9yrs after teaching K for three. My principal has transferred me to full day pre-K! Nooooo! Centers, early literacy, nap time . What will I do without my reading groups and literacy block :( this is a huge change. They're so little. They can't even walk in line. They'll need to be taught everything. It's gonna be a long year.
    Melissa L.

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    1. I will be teaching pre k next year, too!
      But I am looking forward to this much more than that fourth grade transition.

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  33. Thanks so much for sharing your story with us. Our district's first grade teacher is transitioning to fourth grade after teaching 1st for 25 years and your insight helps me understand what she's going through. Best wishes to you!

    -Jen B.

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    1. Yes, it is a shock to the system. I think admin doesn't always realize that the skill set in lower elementary doesn't always transfer to the upper grades. I hope she has a good year!

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  34. My first 7 years I didn't get to teach the same grade in a row for 8 years. (k-3) But I hated 3. When principal told me he wanted me to go to 4th. i broke down and cried and cried and cried. I told him I don't even know how to do that math. I blaim it on being pregnant. When I got back it was 3rd. I was so g'lad to get anything primary and not upper grade. Ive moved schools. Ive been their 23 years (k-4) Moved from first, but for the last 20 second or third. Now I don't want anything else. I was moved from two to 3, three years ago. Principal approached me about 4th and I empathise with you: I couldn't breathe, cried, couldn't stand. Finally said I haven't taught or taken anything over 3rd grade Math in 35 years. I will do my best but the kids may have to teach me because I never learned to convert fractions, square numbers or double digit long division by hard I'm a primary teacher. So if you okay with fourth grade Math will be reading the book together, I will do my best, but I'm a primary teacher.!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Some of the principals do it to get some teachers to leave so they can hire their own picks. For the jump from 1 to 3, youtube videos and khan academy for every lesson. I pretty much had to do that. Another principal moved me to second He moved me to second and now three years later now back to 3rd. I feel your pain. It's an in thing to do major switch because those dodo's think anyone can teach reading and everyone can teach every level of Math or English. I am sooo sorry. If you are in a common core state. This is what I did buy a fortune in resources.
    1) Corwin Common Core Standards- Grade 3-5. Every standard and how to teach it.
    2) Flip chart of common core standards- I put stickys on the key standards to mast that quarter and another for the supporting.
    3) Daily Math Practice for Common Core math Practice- Life saver it covered all of the grade level standards for Math, 10 mins a day so even though book might have skipped it i got it.
    4) Common Core daily Language- 10 mins every day. covers grammar and punctuation you might miss in the curriculum
    5) ELA/Writing non fiction I found a great book that gave 2 passages on same topic and took you through all the steps of close reading and comparing the 2 in writing citing evidence which is end of the year test.
    6) Newsela was free at our school as was discovery streaming.
    7) www.typing.com is a free website. You just log in your students and give them user name and password and they learn to type. I put it as homework.
    So I have been moved. The good thing is you'll be able to help kids who can't read well, hold their pencil correctly, or scissors correctly because of fifth grade teachers in Kinder. Best of luck. Just do your best. Pacing will be off. Having a journal to use for different educational sponges, helped me, when I was fumbling transitions. Which happens until your familiar again. Hugs.

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  35. My principal just told me I am moving from Kinder to 5th grade...3weeks into the year. I have been crying for days and applying or new jobs in totally different careers!!

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