Should I Transfer to Another Grade Level?

You can have many teacher lives.

Lifelong teachers are not necessarily static; they may live many teacher lives and teach a variety of levels. The question is, how do you know when a change is right for you?

The question came up on the WeAreTeachers HELPLINE! this week when Randy wrote in: “Opinions wanted! I’m currently teaching fourth grade, and moving to teach middle or high school is a very tempting option. I always thought I might eventually go into high school but didn’t think I’d want to this early on in my career. I feel like I might be a better fit with older students, but I’m scared about switching out of the grade I’m already comfortable with. What should I do?”

Randy, you’re not alone! Many teachers have faced this very question. Here are some things they suggest keeping in mind as you contemplate a potential move.

1. Understand the differences between the levels. “I jumped from fourth grade to sixth grade math, and even though it was just a difference of two years, the job completely changed. I went from being a generalist to specialist.” —Jeanine K.

2. Think about what kind of schedule works best for you. “I realized it’s easier for me to deal with my students 2.5 hours a day versus 5 hours, and so moving out of elementary education was definitely the right move for me.” —Jessica B.


3. Consider a compromise for a smaller jump between grades. “Middle school is something to think about as well. In most middle schools, you would be teaching one subject.” —Susan C. “What about moving to an elementary school that is departmentalized? I’m currently teaching all subjects for fifth grade, and I would much rather have more focused lessons on a specific subject area or two.” —Katherine P. Be aware of the potential for shifts that can follow change, though: “Working in a departmentalized school might mean that any one program could change or be cut. Be sure that you understand the worst-case-scenarios before committing to something new.” —Grace T.

4. If you want to make the change after careful consideration, take the leap. “Last year, I moved from third grade special education to high school special education, and I’m very happy. My focus is in English, and I’ve found my teaching style and personality fit in with the older students much better.” —Kris W.

5. Make the change on a trial basis before jumping into a full-fledged commitment. “If you feel you might like a new grade, see if you can try it for a year before deciding whether to do a permanent move. I had the chance to try that and it made my ultimate decision to switch levels so much easier.” —Stefanie B.

6. Remember that, no matter what, the grass will always be greener. “Teaching is hard no matter what level you’re at. You trade on set of pros and cons for another set.” —Sarah H. “I switched from middle school special education to elementary education, and I love it. However, I have more initial referrals and lots of kids who need re-evaluations because they’re aging out of developmental delays. So, the work is different, but it’s still the same amount of work as before.” —Brenda S.

7. Think about the best fit for your personality. “It’s all about your preference. I have high expectations and am very firm, and I wasn’t a great fit when I worked with elementary kids. High school is a way better place for my style.” —Heather S.

8. Finally, don’t be afraid to try something new! “I am so much happier since I moved to high school from elementary, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I thought I’d hate it, but I was so wrong!” —Helaina W.