Perhaps you’ve swapped the stress of Sats and pre-adolescent hormones for carpet-time and runny noses. Or you’ve moved away from boisterous Year 5s to equally boisterous - but much smaller - Year 2s.
Either way, just a couple of years can make a huge difference, especially at primary level. So how do you get your bearings in a brand new year group with a brand new age range?
- Accept that you’ll spend the first few weeks trying to get it right In the throes of my own one-time move from the top of the school to much younger children, I found my tone veering wildly between all-business Year 6 and manic Blue Peter presenter. Getting to know the children is half the battle, just like any other year, so allow yourself time to find a happy mid-point.
- Leave your pre-conceptions at the door It’s entirely possible to go in assuming Year 1s will still need everything doing for them and discover that, actually, they’re reading Dickens and discussing politics. (Or at least remembering to do their classroom jobs far better than the older children.)
- Make the most of the chance to join up the dots It can be hugely useful to develop an understanding of where the children you teach have come from – and where they’re going. You’ll be able to sympathise more when the Year 6 teachers moan about too many special events disrupting the curriculum, or the Year 2 teachers complain about the bigger children pushing, if you’ve actually had chance to walk in their shoes.
- Embrace the chance to learn something new It’s a cliché about teaching and it’s sometimes hard to feel it on a grey Monday morning, but children do often offer a brand new perspective on the world. This is particularly true when you suddenly find yourself spending your weekdays with children at a different point in their lives than you’re used to. There’s also the straightforward opportunity to get your head around a whole new group of topics. Goodbye Second World War, hello Ancient Egypt!
- Recognise the constants No matter what age group you are teaching, there are some things that are as certain as death and taxes. A blustery day will still cause you to question whether you are teaching children or 30 mini-hurricanes. There will still be that one child who you worry about long after the three o’clock bell, and you will still spend equal portions of your time tearing your hair out and feeling that everything is finally going to plan. In this sense, it still holds true that age is nothing but a number. You can’t expect changing age groups to be easy straight away. But after a few weeks, and once you’ve got to know the children, you’ll feel just as comfortable and confident as you did before.
Kate Townshend has been teaching in schools in Oxfordshire and Gloucestershire for more than 10 years. She tweets as @_KateTownshend