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What to Do When You’re Asked to Change Grades at the Last Minute

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Show Notes:

Imagine you’ve spent all summer prepping and preparing to teach second grade. It’s the position you were hired to teach, and you’re ready to start in a week and a half. Then, you get a call from your principal letting you know that you’ll actually be teaching fourth grade. 

Your mind instantly goes into freak out mode. What are you going to do? You aren’t prepared! 

If this scenario gives you anxiety just thinking about it, I completely get it. This has happened to me, and it’s happened to teachers from our Beginning Teacher Talk private Facebook group…and panic is always the first feeling that people have.

For those of you who may be in this situation, deep breath, friend. I’m here to ease your overwhelm and worries.

When switching grade levels, a lot of the overwhelm comes from a fear that we have to start all over. The reality is, you actually don’t! If you have ever set up and run a classroom before, then you never have to start from scratch again.

Whether you’re transitioning from kindergarten to fifth grade, or fourth grade to first grade - whatever grade you’re teaching - you will still be thinking through the same elements at the beginning of the school year. You already have a framework, you’ll just need to tweak it a bit to fit your current situation. 

Your foundation and core beliefs of teaching will stay the same. You will still want students to take ownership of the classroom, you’ll collect and organize student data, you’ll have expectations for parent communication, etc.

If you already have a system and plan for these things, it will easily translate into a new grade level. Don’t worry, you can even keep the same classroom decor!

There are 5 main elements of teaching to focus on. You likely already have a plan for these, so aside from learning specific content, you're already set to start the year in any grade level: 

  1. Your classroom layout and organization 
  2. Classroom management
  3. Planning and student data organization 
  4. Your first week of school plans
  5. Meet the Teacher Night & parent involvement

My biggest advice is to focus on what you do have. Take it one week at a time and you will be okay. Don’t forget that you don’t need to do it all by yourself. Lean on coworkers, Facebook groups, Teachers Pay Teachers, and wherever else you go for teacher support.

Inside this week's show, you'll learn:

  • The 5 key areas of what you really need to set yourself up for success, no matter what grade you’re teaching
  • The many things you can keep the same in your classroom, even when switching grade levels
  • How to handle the overwhelm of learning and teaching brand new content for a new grade level
  • Why I encourage you to avoid planning more than 1-2 weeks in advance during your first year in a particular grade

Links & resources mentioned inside this episode:

I hope this information is helpful as you prepare for your first, second, or third year of teaching. Until next time, remember, just because you're a beginning elementary teacher, there's no need for you to struggle like one.

💛 Lori

Dr. Lori Friesen | Beginning Teacher Mentor

Creator of the R.E.A.D.Y. for School Academy, Dr. Lori Friesen has mentored thousands of beginning teachers across the country through her workshops and courses. Host of the popular podcast, Beginning Teacher Talk, and creator of the innovative literacy program for 1st and 2nd grade, Dogs Help Kids Read and Succeed, Dr. Lori is dedicated to serving educators and inspiring learners. Learn more at and at

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