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Changing Grade Levels = A Change in Perspective

Updated: Dec 22, 2023

By Rebecca Brinkman

I have just finished my 16th year teaching third grade in the same classroom I have had for six years. I know the curriculum like the back of my hand. I have a reputation on my team for being tough, but my students come back to visit me all of the time. I treasure the fact that I am the veteran of the team, and can dole out help to those that need it. I have an incredibly soft spot for younger children. My classroom has had the same theme for the past four years. It is safe to say that I can become comfortable in places in my career, however, this is not always a good thing. I have been pushed to change grade levels for several years now, and each time, my answer has been the same: no. “But you can be SUCH a great addition to fourth grade!”, my last principal said. “We need a strong teacher that can help our students pass state testing. What do you think?”. During my last evaluation, my current principal leaned forward and asked if I had the desire to move grade levels. I would come up with excuses for why it wouldn’t work. Then I would walk back to my classroom and sit in my chair, thinking, “Whew… I relieved! I don’t have to worry about any changing.”

Yet, there were times when I wondered if I was doubting myself. When I was asked yet again this spring, I actually responded with, “Let me think about it.” I sat down that night and wrote down the pros and cons of moving to a new grade level. Pro? Learning a new curriculum. Con? Leaving behind a team that I love. Pro? Making new friends on a different team. Con? Feeling like a new teacher all over again because I would have to learn a new curriculum. Pro? Having the chance to keep my current students another year. By the time I had finished my list, I realized that I would never grow professionally if I stayed put for my entire career. I had my answer.

The next day in the principals office, I reluctantly told her my decision. I was immediately hugged and told, “You will LOVE fourth grade!.” I spent my last week of school taking down my entire classroom. It was like shedding skin….saying goodbye to the old me, and transforming into something new. I will admit that it was difficult. Each thing I came across felt like an old friend, as it had some type of memory tied to it. Letters, mementos from students, smelly stickers that I had lost YEARS ago…..all brought back some type of memory from me. Looking back, half that “packing” time was nostalgia city for me! When all was said and done, I looked at my rows of boxes and shut the lights off.

On my final day of third grade, I not only said goodbye to my students, but to the desire to stick to my comfort zones in life. I am excited for what lies ahead of me! Seeing familiar faces in August will feel wonderful. Learning new curriculum during summer training will be refreshing for my brain. Choosing a new theme for the new classroom will mean hours of shopping at Target and Michaels. Who knows? Maybe years down the road, I will find myself in this situation again. This time, I won’t spend years wondering, “What if?”. I will say “yes.”

My lesson is: do NOT doubt yourself. Taking a risk and doing something out of the ordinary may turn out to be an incredible experience. You may even find that you enjoy change! Embrace it with open arms, as well as your new students on the first day of school.


About the Author

Rebecca Brinkman is a fourth-grade teacher in Phoenix, Arizona. She has taught at the same school for her entire 17-year career. Her campus is a second home and it has a strong family feel to it. This is what draws her back every year. She is excited to begin her “Sweet 16th” year of teaching! She has taught 2nd grade for ten years and 3rd grade for six years. She has served as a team lead on her campus for six years. She earned a Masters in Education with a focus on Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University, as well as a Masters in Reading. She also earned her Bachelor of Arts in Education from Arizona State University.

Rebecca achieved National Board Certification in the fall of 2019 in Early to Middle Childhood Literacy. She is passionate about building relationships and creating magic in the classroom for her scholars. She credits her former speech teacher as her reason for becoming an educator. She profoundly impacted her attitude towards school and self-esteem as a young student; Rebecca realized she wanted to make that same impact on children by helping them realize their strengths and pushing through personal challenges.

Her second biggest passion is travel! She can often be found planning her next big adventure. She also enjoys hiking, reading, storytelling with The Moth, volunteering and bucket listing. The quote that resonates most with her is, “The dream is free, but the hustle is sold separately.”

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