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Teaching Tips & Tricks, Uncategorized   |   Jun 11, 2010

Switching grades: teacher needs vs. school needs

By Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Switching grades: teacher needs vs. school needs

By Angela Watson

8 little words can invoke panic in the heart of almost any teacher: “You’re moving to a different grade next year.”

Changing grade levels is a big topic of conversation in June. In some schools, nothing’s been decided yet, so the rumors are flying and everyone’s unsettled. Other principals have already dropped the bomb: I’ve heard of one school in which a kindergarten teacher is being moved to 7th grade, which means the 7th grade teacher is being moved to 4th, so that teacher’s moving to 2nd, and the 2nd grade teacher’s going down to kindergarten.

Why the huge shuffle? Because one teacher is the weakest link, and the principal’s playing a game to make sure he inflicts the least amount of damage on students.

Situations like that infuriate me. It’s one thing when a drastic move is necessitated by budgetary reasons; for example, when a position must be cut due to decreased enrollment or funding. I can also understand moving a teacher into his of her field of expertise or preference. However, causing a chain reaction of switches for no reason other than to shuffle an incompetent teacher is a tragedy.


I’m amazed at how often this happens. Sometimes the principal is trying to run the teacher off or force early retirement (and it often works). But many times it’s a matter of placing ineffective educators in non-standardized-testing grades, as if children who don’t get scored by the state one particular year are of any less value or don’t deserve a top-quality education.

Another grade-switch reasoning that bothers me: This teacher’s been in the same grade for too long. He’s getting stale and stuck in a rut. I’ll move him up two grade levels and he’ll have no choice but to change with the times!

Wrong, wrong, wrong. He DOES have a choice: to get really angry, shut down, and try even less. He has the choice to take his frustration out on the kids and everyone around him. And chances are, if he’s the kind of teacher who refused to try new things in his former position, he’s not going to be too excited about learning to work a SmartBoard now that he has a whole new curriculum to figure out.

I’m not excusing the laziness and incompetence of certain teachers. I’m ascertaining that moving ineffective teachers to another grade level doesn’t fix the problem by itself, and it can make things worse for everyone else affected.

Most teachers have an increasingly limited amount of autonomy in their jobs, and I believe that choosing the age level or subject area they’d like to devote their career to teaching is a reasonable expectation. An unhappy teacher is never going to be as effective as a happy one, so shouldn’t a principal honor a teacher’s wishes whenever possible?

Not everyone agrees with me on this, I know. Whether you do depends on your feelings about a few fundamental questions:

  • What is a legitimate reason for forcing a teacher to switch grade levels?
  • Are administrators obligated to make any switch that will benefit the maximum number of students? If so, how can those potential benefits truly be gauged in advance?
  • Is it worth making a few teachers unhappy if it’s advantageous to the school as a whole? And when we refer to the benefit of the ‘school’, do we really mean the faculty, the students, or the test scores?

We can all agree that the purpose of school should be to meet the needs of children, but teaching is a professional career choice. I don’t think anyone should be stuck teaching something they’re not passionate about.

So what’s more important in your perspective, the good of the ‘school’ or the good of the teacher?

Angela Watson

Founder and Writer

Angela created the first version of this site in 2003, when she was a classroom teacher herself. With 11 years of teaching experience and more than a decade of experience as an instructional coach, Angela oversees and contributes regularly to...
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  1. I think it should always be for the good of the students. From my point of view, my job is to create the best possible educational experience for my students, and that should always be the priority, not teachers’ personal preferences. I have heard of instances where teachers switched grade levels because it was apparent that they were better suited for a different age level of students. Yet, when doing this it it is important to get the teacher’s buy in because if the teacher is holding a grudge/upset then it will not be optimal for the students either. Though change can be hard, hopefully most educators would go at it with a positive mind knowing that it is to the best advantage of the school. I can see how it would be frustrating if it was a bunch of shuffling because of some of the reasons you listed.

    1. Mrs. V, getting that buy-in from the teacher is so critical. I’m finding that it’s a critical part of my job as an instructional coach when teachers come to me upset about being assigned to areas outside of their expertise. I, too, get frustrated in these situations–like when I work all year to help a teacher become a really outstanding reading instructor and then find out she’ll be teaching math the following year. Sometimes I struggle to find the big picture and see how there will be real benefit to the change, but I feel that it’s my job to find the positives in the situation and help the teacher acclimate to what really IS an opportunity for learning and personal growth.

      I think many teachers go through some version of the 7 stages of grief when they’re told they have to move grade levels (especially if that process involves moving to a new classroom, which is often as much work as moving an apartment). Eventually they come to acceptance and start getting excited about how they’ll be able to try new things and grow professionally. As long as they reach that step by August, it’s all good. 🙂

    1. That’s an important point, Justin, and something that’s often overlooked by administrators in situations beyond grade level changes.

      There’s a really good discussion going on over on my Facebook page. I’m amazed at how many teachers have not encountered this phenomenon. I’m beginning to think this is a characteristic only of large urban schools…yet another way kids there get the short end of the stick.. ;-(


      1. I work in a rural community, and right now with budgets there is a lot of shifting around with local schools in our county. For example, as teachers are retiring or moving out for other reasons, those positions are not being filled. Instead teachers are getting shifted all over, sometimes not just different grade levels within a school but shifts from elementary to middle school or middle school to high school. I wonder if we will be seeing it more and more as a sign of the economy. While I am sure affected teachers are still thankful to have positions, I can’t think of anything more stressful/unsettling than to not know what positions will look like in the fall. I feel fortunate that I know my exact position, but I feel for those who do not know and will not only be out of their comfort zone but they might not have the full summer to prepare either.

  2. 1. The good of the students.
    2. The support of your coworkers.

    If I know that students will be benefiting from lower class sizes and more individualized instruction as a result of my move, I’m more willing to do it. Same goes for teams and support. If there is a welcoming staff on the other end of the line you already know that you’re going to be receiving great materials and great projects ideas for the new curriculum that, if you are adaptable will be quick to learn and implement (I’m doing it again next year!) It’s when you feel like you’re moving to a pre-established team of unwelcoming cliquey people for bs administrative reasons that the resentment sets in and you are less effective in the actual position.
    .-= TeachEnEspanol´s last blog ..Dead Poet’s Society =-.

    1. Good point about needing a welcoming team. What a difference that makes when a teacher moves! I think that being friendly and helpful and willing to share ideas is even more important for teachers who have transfers coming to their grade level. A good attitude from coworkers can make a big difference in an involuntary transfer. I always liked to make a big deal of welcoming new teachers to the team and tried to pump them up on why third grade was going to be soooo much better than whatever they taught before. Usually by the end of the year, they agreed! 🙂

      1. I am very excited to be moved from 1st to Kindergarten. I wanted to be in Kindergarten when I first arrived 14 years ago at my school. I finally am being moved, but I am having problems being accepted by the other team teacher. Others are making stories up about me and I feel I am going into this with a little bit of Bullying by others. Please suggest what I can do to be a participating team member.

  3. Before I moved to TN I never knew of this happening unless the teacher wanted it to happen. Now every April all of us in our building are wondering “who is moving grades?” or just as bad “who is switching classrooms?”… the way I see it, if you want ANYONE to be an effective teacher, you need to leave them in the grade they are happy in and let them grow there. If the teacher is ineffective in one grade, moving them to a grade that is not tested does not help. That child will still be tested at some point, this year or in another grade. So, for example, you move Ms. Ineffective teacher to 2nd grade, a non tested grade (for example) and then I get students from Ms. I’s class in 3rd grade (a very important grade and tested) I am now starting from behind because Ms I is probably still ineffective.

    I am going into my 3rd year teaching 3rd grade next school year and hopefully will stay in third (we can have shifting as much as 20 days into the school year based on our numbers… another phenomenon I never knew of until moving here). I would love to stay in 3rd as long as I WANT TO in order to better myself as a teacher. How can a teacher possibly feel effective and great when their grade keeps changing?

    1. Gina, you’ve pointed out something that 3rd grade teachers complain about all the time–ineffective teachers being placed in 2nd grade and then the 3rd grade teachers have to work twice as hard! Very frustrating! It’s amazing how much more 3rd graders can learn in the beginning of the school year when they’ve come from a strong 2nd grade teacher. I wish more people understood this.

      I hope you’ll be able to stay in 3rd next year so you can continue to refine your teaching skills and really feel confident about what you’re doing. I know in FL, too, teachers sometimes have to switch grades after the first 20 days based on ‘warm body counts’ (how many kids actually showed up to school). Hopefully your student population will stay the same!

  4. It’s a tough situation. Definitly the good of the students always wins, but if a principal sees that a teacher isn’t being successful at a certain grade level, I can understand the change. As for me when I read your first paragraph about the K teacher switching to 7th…I literally gasped. As a Kinder teacher I wouldn’t know what do to with myself in 7th grade. Obviously my degree is in Early Childhood because I enjoy teaching those grades and I know I how to be a successful instructor there.From K to 1st or 2nd is acceptable but K to 7th I don’t even know what to say.

    1. Yeah, that’s a HUGE jump to a grade with a totally different teaching philosophy! I’ve found that kindergarten teachers are especially loyal to their grade level: 1st, 2nd, and 3rd grade teachers might move around a bit, but K teachers are their own unique breed. Most of the veteran K teachers I’ve met have never taught anything else and couldn’t imagine doing so. It’s a special niche. 🙂

  5. I really believe that teachers should have more of a say in the matter of switching because they are the ones who have the largest impact on student learning. This was my first year of teaching straight out of college. I really wanted an early childhood position in a preschool or kindergarten classroom at my school. I was given a second grade position with the principal’s word that if a lower grade level position opened up I would be moved down. This sounded great, because with the current economy any job is better than nothing. I had a wonderful first year! Then I was told that next year they needed me in third grade because the strongest teachers needed to be in the grade where state testing is given. 2 weeks after I was told this 2 preschool positions opened up, I approached the administrators again about really wanting that position. They jotted down notes about my request and then nothing happened. I found out that I was still moving to third when the board minutes were released and I saw 2 people hired for the open preschool position. And come to find out one of the teachers they had previously fired from 2nd grade at a former school they were the administrators at, was hired for that position. It really infuriates me that they have so little belief in early education. Research is all about the impact that a foundation in quality care/education at a young age can have on children and yet they would rather wait to have children meet a quality educator in the grade level where testing will begin instead of giving that child a great beginning. It makes no sense!!! I know that I am a much better teacher in early childhood and yet my administrators are never going to know this because they only see the importance of test scores.

    1. I’ve found that in some schools, once a teacher has established him/herself as someone who can get high test scores, the chances of being moved down are slim to none. At one point in my career, I tried for several years to get out of third grade (not because I didn’t like it, but because I was burned out with test prep, and also wanted to have some experience in other grade levels). I had two principals during that time period and neither would move me down. Transfers to second grade were reserved for teachers who were pregnant (going out on leave soon), suffering from physical ailments and missed a lot of work, were about to retire or take a leave of absence mid-year, or who were just not able to get the high test scores in the older grades. I’m sorry you’ve experience that, too. How sad that you know your expertise is in early childhood but you aren’t allowed to teach in that area. 🙁

      1. It really is a bummer. Well, maybe that maternity thing will work out for me. That’s part of our plan in the next couple of years. I’ll keep my fingers crossed for that!

  6. It really is a difficult situation for principals, I suppose. They are under pressure too. However, being moved because other teachers are incompetent will only breed anger and resentment. I know I have been very frustrated over the years when I’m told I’m getting more of the tougher students because “you can handle these kids better”. I get very tired of being punished because I’m doing a good job. If the other teachers “can’t handle” a grade or their kids, they should be getting extra help so they can improve. There’s not really much incentive to do a good job when it results in you teaching a grade or subject you don’t want to teach. I agree that happy teachers are going to do a better job and have happier students.

    1. Donna, I agree that many times the best teachers are burdened with unwanted teaching assignments and a disproportionate number of challenging students. It’s an okay temporary fix in the sense that there’s no point in giving difficult kids to teachers who won’t be able to help them experience success, but are you really servicing those kids properly if they’re altogether in one chaotic group instead of spread out amongst other classes? Giving all the tough kids to one teacher is not a permanent solution year after year. I know a school with 5 first grade teachers and for the past six years, one incredible veteran teacher has had outrageously difficult classes EVERY YEAR. There has to be a point in which the other teachers are trained and supported in behavior management so the challenging kids can be evenly dispersed.

  7. It was very nice to read your thoughts on this topic. I have been one of the teachers that were involuntary moved. I have taught Kindergarten for six years and love it. I have to agree with what you said that administrators do not know exactly what goes on in the younger grades. I am being moved to fourth grade. My administrator told me all reasons this will benefit him and nothing for me. I taught fifth grade for one year and that was six years ago. I said a lot of things have changed in those six years in state testing and requirements. I told him that I would love to end up in a second grade position or a first grade job or stay where I am in Kindergarten. As you can see I am still working through the shock and feeling of betrayal. I do feel like I have to go through the steps of grief. This has taken away a small piece of my passion and my light and that hurts. I love my job but feeling like I am being punished because I do my job and love doing it. As I said it was nice to hear your article to know it is not just happening here. I have to take day by day but I will get there. Thank you!

    1. “As you can see I am still working through the shock and feeling of betrayal. I do feel like I have to go through the steps of grief. This has taken away a small piece of my passion and my light and that hurts.”

      I’m glad this post made you feel that you are not alone in these feelings. I’m sorry that you’ve experienced them. I hope you’ll be able to rekindle that passion in your new grade level. It’s a big jump for you, I know. If it’s any consolation, 4th grade is one of the best to teach, in my opinion–I think you’ll find that most of the kids are still very sweet and cute most of the time, and the level of independence they exhibit will allow you to try all kinds of new things you couldn’t have done with your kindergartners.

      1. Thank you ! I will do my job 120%. In my 11 years of teaching there has been little bumps in the road and that has not stopped me. I love teaching this is just a big bump in the road I will get past it too. I have had a lot of support and that makes it a little easier. I can feel a little of the spark has returned when I was told that fourth grade will have a Promethean board in the room. I love technology. Again thank you for writing the post. Have a great summer !

  8. Hi Angela,
    These are some great comments. This needs to be emphasized… switching grade levels is inefficient! I think you said in your book that teaching a new grade level takes about 20% more time. This means a teacher has to work Saturdays to catch up.

    1. Hey, exhibit a, it definitely takes a lot more time when you switch grade levels. I used to nearly double my normal working hours in August/September whenever I changed grades. Ugh!

      1. Hi Angela,
        Looking for research and data about the effects of involuntary grade level assignments on teachers. Wondering where to find this (if there is such a thing!)

  9. I am a certified teacher for math grades 7-12 and elementary K-6. I was hired 7 years ago to teach high school math at my small school. I loved every minute of it and was very effective. I had great test results, great relationship with parents, and a good raport with the remedial math “crowd”. There was another teacher in the math department who at the time was having a very difficult time….making waves every where….and no end in sight. So the plan became this….they abolished my position due to ???? and because I was certified K-12 they had me fill an elementary position where a teacher was retiring….that saved the district $$ because they got rid of a position and still didn’t hire a new teacher. Okay…fine nothing I can do about that …so terrified I worked my tail off and went down to primary thinking this would be my new home because that is what I was told. I worked night and day on lesson plans and units….and again I succeed. I did very well even though it wasn’t my comfort zone. At the end of that year I got a surprise phone call that I would be moving to the middle school the following year because a teacher there was having issues…and they would “affect” the least amount of children in the elementary verses middle school. So again I packed up, moved, and worked day and night on lessons plans etc. This year I get a call, I will be moving back to elementary school. They are cutting back in the middle school, and again I will replace a retiring teacher. Very frustrating indeed….I am a good teacher….but I have not been given the opportunity to become a master teacher because I moved every year under the guise of budget, ineffective teachers, downsizing, or whatever else they can come up with. And it makes me very sad that these decisions have been made every time without what seems like any thought to the students or learning.

    1. WOW. Just wow.

      You know, when I first wrote this article, I almost took it down. I felt like it struck a critical tone and wondered how many teachers would really be able to relate. Reading your comment confirmed that this article needed to be written. These practices might not be the norm (and I really hope they aren’t!) but clearly they’re affecting some teachers in really deep and disturbing ways.

      I hope that eventually, you are allowed to remain in one grade level so you can truly become not just a good teacher, as you put it, but a master teacher. Your ability to succeed with so many different age groups speaks volumes about your talent and the level of effort you put into your work. Well done. 🙂

  10. Elementary Teachers are certified in numerous grade levels for a reason. Master Teachers are not just teachers that can teach a certain curriculum well, they are teachers that can teach children well. Remaining in one grade level for your entire career is unrealistic and lazy. There are valid reasons why teachers need to be moved. One year a school may have five sections of grade 1 and the next year four sections. Someone has to move. Should it always be the new teacher with little experience? Sometimes it must be the more experienced teacher. I was a teacher for many years and am now a very good proncipal. Movement sometimes must be made. Teachers need to stop being so inflexible. You need to read “Who Moved My Cheese” by Spencer Johnson M.D. You are an Elementary certified teacher, not a Grade 1 certified teacher etc… You seem a bit spoiled to me.

    1. Hi, Marianne. I agree that it’s unrealistic to expect to remain in one grade level for your entire teaching career, and that movement must sometimes be made. However, this post was not about moving teachers because of student population changes, etc. as you mentioned, it was about moving competent teachers to compensate for ineffective ones and other highly questionable practices.

      While I agree in principle with your statement that “elementary teachers are certified in numerous grades for a reason”, I’m not sure that reason is a good one–I think the range of grade levels is based on an outdated model of education in which children were all taught the same way. A K-8 certification makes sense based on a one-room school house model or even a model from 30 years ago when kids sat in rows and all read from a basal text with no differentiation–4th grade teaching methodologies weren’t that different from 1st grade. But a K-8 or even a K-6 certification in 2010 is ridiculous in my opinion. I know very few kindergarten teachers that would truly excel in a 6th grade position, and vice versa. Just because a teacher has a piece of paper saying she can teach a grade does not mean it’s the best fit for her. I’d like to see more departmentalization in the elementary grades, as well, because I don’t think the average 3rd-6th grade teacher has enough content-area knowledge to teach reading, writing, social studies, math, health, AND science well (and it’s usually math, science, and social studies that suffer).

      That’s all a bit of a tangent, but my point is that teachers should be in positions that utilize their strengths. The same goes for any profession. And if they’re NOT, then there should be a very good reason.

      1. I really commend you, Angela for your reply to the post by Marianne. I can’t believe a principal would resort to calling a teacher lazy and spoiled for being uncomfortable with a change in grade level. The point of this discussion is that principals need to take into consideration to the greatest extent possible what bouncing educators around means for both the students and the teachers. Yes, if your population changes a principal needs to decide who stays and who goes, but if it is to move an unaffective teacher to a position where she will do the “least” amount of damage or for a bump in tests scores it only serves as a punishment to the students and the effective teacher. Being moved to an age that is not your passion to work with is a hard thing to hear and boards like this help teachers to vent frustration while being encouraged. I truly feel that an apology needs to be said as I am very offended by the rude tone of that post.

        1. I am offended by that principal’s post as well. I’m certainly not lazy. I love my grade level & should not be bumped because a probationary teacher wants to try 5th grade. I’ve worked over 2 decades & have earned my position. I don’t want to be an administrator.How would that principal like to be VP because parents have unfounded complaints about her and the first yr. instructional coach wants her position?

          1. Ditto on the rudeness….I have been in my district for 9 years and have been tenured in 3 areas (reading, spec. ed & elementary)….what does that tell you? Every time we are cut or moved, we have to learn a new curriculum, which takes time…I don’t care how good a teacher you are…until you are comfortable and feel you have mastered it, you cannot each it as well as you would the second, or third year.

            As for being lazy, I am always learning and growing and adding more things to better the curriculum I am teaching.

        2. I am a kindergarten teacher and my principal wanted me to move from k to grade 5, the reason is that i am not fitted to the position because i am a male teacher, but i really love kindergarten, that’s why i have a feelings of frustrations,uncomfortable and freaking my mind. I’m so much mad of this.

  11. I am middle grades (6-8) Language Arts/Social Studies certified. My college had strong, but very separate middle grades and elementary programs, so I graduated assuming most middle school teachers would be middle grades certified. Imagine my surprise when I took a 6th grade position (the grade I really wanted) and realized most of the teachers were K-6 certified, former elementary school teachers. That was all well and good until the end of the year approached, and I realized I was literally the only 6th grade Language Arts teacher who could legally move grades. Luckily, I’ve been able to keep my 6th grade position for 3 years. On our last teacher workday of this year, my principal called me in to tell me I was “taking my show on the road” (his words) and moving up to 7th grade.

    I definitely went through stages of grief. I had to fight not to burst into tears right there in his office, and it took me a few days to even begin to grasp the idea of changing grades. I was completely blindsided. I was especially sad because I spent this past year piloting a two-man team, so I’d just created an entire social studies curriculum and re-worked my LA to match.

    The “anger” stage came later that day when I realized I was being moved up to 7th, and a 7th grade teacher was being moved down to 6th. I’m still not completely sure why I was moved. But the best I can figure, it was because…
    1. 6th grade scores have been strong. 7th… not so much. And through the grapevine, I’ve discovered that the other teacher who’s moving may have been a contributing factor in that.
    2. My scores have been good, and my classroom management is strong. Basically, they figured I could handle a move up to the crazy world of 7th grade.
    3. My two-man team teaching partner had a rough year. She’d only taught science before, so adding math (a tested subject) was a big leap for her. Her curriculum and classroom management both suffered. The majority of our kids went down in math. My principal didn’t hide the fact that they wanted her back in a science-only position, but I think he wanted to spare her feelings by not just putting someone else in her spot and making it obvious they didn’t trust her with math.

    I definitely feel like I was moved to fill in the gaps where other teachers fell short. On one level, I see it as a vote of confidence in my teaching abilities, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t feel a little resentful. Part of me feels like Donna: I’m being punished for doing my job.

    1. HI, Carlie, thank you for taking the time to share that. It is incredibly difficult when you spend hundreds of hours creating curriculum and then find out that you won’t be able to use it the following year (or possibly ever again). Very tough stuff. Your admin’s decision to move you was definitely a vote of confidence in your teaching abilities, and if you stay focused on that, hopefully it will keep you from feeling resentful. Imagine how much stronger your skills will be after you learn to teach another grade level. 🙂

  12. I found this article while google-ing to find support and encouragement from other teachers who have had this happen to them. I am in my 11th year of teaching. I have earned my master’s degree in reading and literacy and am currently about a year or so shy of completing my Ed.D in Teacher Leadership. This is not the same as administrative leadership. All of my eleven years have been spent teaching kindergarten (6 of which have been EIP). I was called into my principal’s office yesterday and told that I was under consideration to be moved to second grade next year. I took the blow quite well in front of my principal and asst. principal. However, inside I felt the breath snatched from my lungs. I live and breath kindergarten. I can often (3-4 days per week) be found working in my classroom until 4:30 or 5:00 in the afternoons, when most other teachers leave at 3:00. I bring my work home with me almost every night. I am constantly looking for or creating activities to use in my classroom. Any teacher knows how much time this takes and not to mention the out-of-pocket expense that is incurred. I have spent countless hours making activities and hands-on lessons to use with my kindergarteners (I am not a worksheet kind of teacher). Because my class is total EIP, I am involved in intervention programs with each child. This requires a great deal of my time to create the lesson and complete the paperwork involved with each case. Of course, this is another task I must complete at home or after school because I can’t do it while I have students and am teaching. When the new performance standards were put into place about 5 years ago, I was one of the first on-board to try and get our curriculum mapped out so that we (kindergarten team) could all know what was expected to be taught, when it should be taught, etc. I spent time trying to get our current report card in place and to reflect the new standards. All of this is to say that I have invested a great deal of time, effort, money, and sweat into my job. Why???? Because I fell in love with teaching kindergarten when I was hired and I put forth all my effort and more to build our program. The reason I am so passionate about kindergarten is because I find such a reward in seeing my students (and remember they are EIP) learn to read and write sentences, add numbers and solve story problems when on the first day of school they can not hold a pencil correctly. Many don’t even know how to tell you there full name. They know absolutely no letters, sounds, or numbers. They are basically a “blank-slate” and I get the thrill of making the first etch! Now, to be told that I may have to move to a grade-level I have no clue about. I don’t know the curriculum. In fact, the second grade level at my school did not get on-board as they should have when the standards were released to us. They continued trying to get by with doing their same-ole, same-ole. Now we have a principal that wants to better our school. She wants to see scores increased. She wants to have our school become accredited. She has a great desire for our school to be a top-notch educational facility and lose the title we have carried for so long of being a second-class school. I admire her enthusiasm and I think she has done a fabulous job running our school and bringing it up to where we are now. However, I don’t want to go to another grade level and start over when I have worked so hard to get our kindergarten built to something we can be proud of. I am not at all insinuating that I have done it entirely along. There are about 5 out of 10 kindergarten teachers that have step up to the plate. If I am forced to move to second grade, I will have leave the grade level that I know and am comfortable teaching. All the money I have spent creating pocket charts, file-folder games, instructional group activities, etc. will be of no use for second grade. And with budget cuts (I am losing $5000 per year due to our local supplement being removed and 10 furlough days taken for this school year) I will have no money to spend on establishing a new classroom of resources. I will only have the textbooks and whatever worksheets that are shared with me from other teachers. Again, I do not like using worksheets unless it is for assessment or for morning work practice while children are coming in and settling in for the day. The reasons I was given for being moved is that my quality of small group instruction, intervention planning, documentation, parent relation, etc. is much needed in second grade “where the scores are” (that is quoted from my principal). I understand and believe that this quality is needed across the board in all grades. I accept the compliment but feel punished for doing my job and putting forth more than 100% effort. I know that what I am about to say does not sound professional and many people would say that if I really love my job and teaching that it wouldn’t matter what grade I am in, BUT…If I am forced to move, I will no longer spend my extra hours after school or taking work home with me. If it can’t be done while I am on duty, then it won’t get done. I guess I won’t be as efficient as I can be. I put forth the extra effort because I love what I have accomplished and I love what is to come IN KINDERGARTEN. I don’t want to start over.

    1. Hi, Annie, thank you for taking the time to vent and share your story. I was cringing the whole time I was reading that, and actually groaned out loud when I read the line “where the scores are”. Ughh! How frustrating!

      I guess the most important part of what happened is that you are “under consideration” to be moved. It’s not happening for sure. I think the best think you can do is focus on the fact that you are in kindergarten now and enjoy every day of it. Don’t anticipate being unhappy in the future; it’s a waste of time. If and when you are actually moved to 2nd grade–and we all know that anything can happen in school systems!–you’ll handle it then and you’ll be just fine. Don’t spend your mental energy worrying about this.

      In the coming weeks, you might consider talking with your administration about about how you feel. Tell them you want to be a team player and you want to help 2nd grade move in the awesome direction K has, but you are truly passionate about kindergarten. Explain that you’ve found you’re niche and you believe your talents are best utilized with the youngest students, and respectfully ask them to consider that when they make grade level assignments next year.

      Beyond that, you can also make a decision about whether or not to request a transfer (if there are other teaching jobs in your district.) If there is a good possibility you can teach K at another school, you might want to pursue that, and/or let your administration know that you would consider pursuing that because you feel so passionately about kindergarten.

      I hope this is helpful. Please feel free to vent some more here, and let me know how it all turns out!! 🙂

  13. I did go back and talk to my principal last week and told her that I would be willing to take that step in moving to second if she felt is was best….She said nothing was definite and that a few things had to fall into place before she could make that decision. Well, today I was called in to her office again. This time I was asked to consider taking a certification test in February to add-on a special ed title to my certificate. She said the cost would be taken care of by the school. I am so confused. I am trying so hard to find the positive in whatever becomes of my career (remind you that I have taught kindergarten all of my 11 years), but I am not feeling the peace about making this decision that I did with the possible move to second grade. Why would I be asked to do this if there are other regular ed teachers who have the spec. ed qualification already on their certificates? I don’t want to seem unwilling to comply but I really don’t want to do special ed. I don’t really prefer being moved to 2nd either, but had made up my mind that I could make it work. I need encouragement again!

    1. OK, Annie, I’m definitely getting the feeling that there’s a lesson you’re supposed to be learning in all this, because this is an almost comical turn of events! Wow! Most of us come to this place of desperation and helplessness at one time or another in our lives and it can be the catalyst for real change is we’re willing to see it that way. This is your chance to really grow as a person and come to a point where your happiness is not based on your circumstances, but on your inner state of mind. Once you get to the point where you can accept ANY teaching assignment and believe it will work out for your good, your emotions will no longer be swayed by anything your principal says or does. You’re already working toward this–you mentally accepted the idea of the second grade assignment–and this is your chance to go one step further and really find peace about *whatever* happens.

      That’s the most important thing that can happen out of all of this mess, because you’ll never have to worry again about being moved…simply because being moved won’t worry you. That’s true freedom.

      This doesn’t mean you can’t talk to your principal about your preferences, and again let her know that you feel your gifts are best used in kindergarten. If you don’t want to do the special-ed add on, let her know. And then release the outcome to God or the universe or however you choose to perceive things. It’s out of your hands. And you’re going to be okay no matter what.

      Is any of this helpful?

  14. Yes, Angela…your words were very encouraging. I have spoken with my principal once again to let her know my feelings about all that she is considering as far as my placement. I still feel a devotion to kindergarten but the willingness to give second grade my best effort is also strong. I have not found any peace about the SpEd add-on at this time. I explained to her how I felt rushed to make such a decision since the test will be this spring-which isn’t far away-and I feel I need more time to really contemplate this decision. She did say that maybe the move to second will be a good start and then maybe I could do the add-on later. I feel that IF a move is necessary, this will be the best choice for me right now. I will continue to post to let you know the outcome since you have been so diligent about responding to my requests for encouragement. I do hope that the move will be for the best interest in the “school” and “kids” and not for the reason that I am hearing through the grapevine, which is to move me out so that a new teacher, who was hired as SpEd this year, can be moved into my place in kindergarten. For one, this won’t be right or fair and second, the teacher is my friend. This is such a frustrating time of year.

    1. Yes, definitely let me know how this turns out. I supposed we won’t know for sure until the first day of school…and realistically, things can change even after that due to unexpected increases or decreases in enrollment.

      At the very least, you know you are a valued member of your school staff. Your administration clearly thinks of you as a miracle worker who is extremely dedicated to her job and who has the capacity to create far-reaching change. The fact that you are so effective and your school leadership recognizes your talents is a true blessing, and a rarity. In the end, you can look back and know that you were a pillar of your community and made a real difference. 🙂

  15. I agree that what benefits the students is what is best. I also feel that a teacher becomes an expert in his or her grade and best serve students in an area where they are strongest. However, to be succcessful, I strongly believe that teachers should be part of the decision making process, and that they need to know how such a change will benefit students as oppossed to just being told that “they make a good fit”.

  16. Hello Angela,
    I would love your take on my situation. In my school, there are many teachers that have not moved at all for 7 years. I have been at this school for 5 years. Here is my path:
    2nd (I made a request to stay in 2nd because I wanted to master the grade level. My principal’s response was that I mastered the grade and she didn’t understand why I wanted to stay).
    I am now being moved to first grade. The principal said she originally wanted to move me to fourth grade but she couldn’t because I am only certified birth-3rd grade. She is encouraging me to get my k-6 certification as well as gifted. I am the only teacher leaving my grade level. Two other teachers are from different grade levels are going into second grade. I spoke to the principal with these words:
    “I am excited about going inot the new grade level, however, I am questioning my confidence about being moved again because I see others consistently staying at the same grade level. I just want to make sure that I am not lacking in a certain area.”
    Her response was very generic. She said she would’ve let me know by now if I was doing anything wrong or needed help in an area. I will be able to help first grade because I know what the expectations are for second grade. This past year, my students made great gains with me, I had a terrific rapor with ALL of the parents, and I was commended left and right for having a natural ability to teach. I just want your perspective about why you think I moved and yet, ALL of the other teachers stayed. I cannot even tell you how low my confidence is right now. I pour my heart, soul, and pocket book into each grade level change. I feel EXHAUSTED! I’m nervous to get the k-6 certification. Who knows where she will have me next year!I would not mind this if other teachers moved as much as I did. I try to stay positive, but my light gets dimmer with every change. I cannot tell if moving so much is a compliment or an underlying message that I am an ineffective teacher. Any thoughts are much appreciated.

    1. Hi, Lisa! It sounds to me like your principal sees you as an agent for change in your school. If she had her way, she’d move you to every grade level in the school in order to spread your teaching methods and ideology among the entire staff. She probably sees certain teams getting stale and wants to inject new life into them, and sees you as the way to do that.

      While this is a compliment to you and your teaching ability, you have every right to tell your principal how you feel. Let her know that you find moving grade levels very stressful, and ask that she let you stay in each grade for at least two years at a time so you can breathe a little bit.

      I would not advise you to get a K-6 certification in order to please a principal who wants to move you to grade levels you have never taught and are not comfortable teaching. If you don’t want to teach upper grades, tell her so! Say that you think your skills and talents will be of better use with younger students. That’s perfectly fine.

      Though all this movement is not easy on you, I think you’re doing a great service for your school. The first grade team will be very fortunate to have you next year. My advice is to enjoy the challenges of learning a new grade level and keep a positive attitude about it. You’re going to do a great job. 🙂

      1. I was just switched and school starts in a week. My room was already set up.. I have been teaching in this district 17 years. They closed a section of kindergarten so I got moved to first. I am still baffled how the choice was made. I am heart broken. Maybe if I had the summer I would still be upset but with a week to adjust.. I dont know where to begin. Great article.

  17. I found this interesting as in Ireland, it’s very common to change grade level every year. We teach eleven subjects and are trained and expected to teach them all. Some teachers prefer older or younger, and some tend to stay in the same age range, but it sounds like in America there is a much more rigid set up as regards grades. I am also shocked at the emphasis put on test scores in your schools. To me it seems as if everything is based on results, and the fact that every group of children has a different range of abilities and that there could be a lot of teaching for the test and training children to just do well in tests regardless of actual competence and ability in real life seems strange to me. I found this interesting as our system is very different. In a way its a good idea to have some sort of time span for each level you teach, but theres nothing wrong with changing grades every few years in my opinion, as it would improve your range and ability.

    1. Hi, Yvonne! I’m glad you added your perspective to this conversation. Your inferences about American schools are pretty accurate–unfortunately! There are many, many exceptions, of course, but you’ve identified some major trends.

      Your point about Irish teachers changing grades every year is very interesting. I agree there are definitely advantages to that! The problem (as I see it) arises when changing grades every year is NOT the norm in a school, and so being asked to switch grades is an unexpected request that teachers are not prepared to handle. I do know of schools in which all teachers are moved around regularly, and the teachers there are not nearly as unhappy about it. They know the expectation when they’re hired and tend to do a lot of collaborating because they know they’ll need to understand what’s happening at other grade levels. Many of them really enjoy it!

  18. This is a great topic for discussion. It definitely pulls at the heart strings. I am one of those K-6 certified teachers. I am a very realistic and reflective person. I know my strengths and my weaknesses. Teaching preschool let me know I should probably not teach below 2nd grade. (I did it well, but no passion) Coaching middle school soccer taught me I should probably not teach above 4th grade. (coaching was fine, but teaching? No thanks!) With that said, I knew grades 2-4 was my comfort zone. Yes, I could teach others. But my personality and style best suited those ages. So when my principal badly needed help with 5th grade behavior and showed up at my door step I knew it would be less than pleasant for me. Although it is quite the compliment in regards to my behavior management systems, I knew where I could be best utilized. It certainly wasn’t in 5th. I was defeated and crushed. I knew It was not the place for me, but without trying it would I truly “know?” I should have listened to my gut. Boy was it a challenge and a sore in my educational inspiration and drive! I spent so much time dealing with drama and potential recess “hook-ups” that I lost my luster. My principal saw the change in my happiness. All I could muster was, “I just want to teach.” The insurmountable distractions of troubled unmotivated pre-teens consumed my time and energy. These kids needed someone who brought out the best in them and enjoyed the pre-teen daily issues. It was not for me. Thank goodness I was able to return to my comfort zone of 2nd/3rd with much happiness. Plus, I appreciated my kids that much more. No year has been the same. I soak up all moments (in fear of returning to my “hell”).

    So, I have to go with putting teachers where they are strongest and allow their happiness to drive the success of students. In terms of ineffective teachers…ugh, what to do with them? I guess if they must remain at the school shuffling is an option. It sure does create a domino effect that could be deadly. Finding a mentor for these teachers is a must.

    1. How great that your principal allowed you to return to your comfort zone…or more accurately, your area of expertise. There’s no point in forcing someone to work outside of their gifting/calling if they don’t have to.

  19. I am now in my new position, in 3rd grade. I previously taught 4th grade for 12 years. Although I never received any rational reasoning for the major swith at our school, I will say that I do love my students. I greatly appreciate that I have a job, and understand that I must do what I am told to do regardless of whether or not I like it. I worked with a wonderful group of teachers who always put students first. Both as a team, and as individuals, we were very effective as teachers. For me, a change of this “magnitude” was very difficult. For teachers change is constant. It’s accepted. However, switching the majority of teachers in our elementary school didn’t make sense to me. I tried to seek help in understanding how this change was going to benefit our students. I respectfully asked questions—I didn’t get answers. Basically, I was made to feel that if I didn’t like this change, then I could just leave. Many teachers felt the same way that I did. However, few felt that they could voice their concerns—I understand this, but for me I needed some sort of a rational explanation for this change. I could accept that this change was going to happen, but I could not accept not speaking out, especially when I felt that it was not going to benefit students. I had to do a lot of reflecting on this issue. After several weeks of serious thought, I came to the conclusion that I would simply have to accept this change without understanding it (I would have to form my own conclusions as to the why). I pondered all of the positive outcomes verses the negative. The positives far outweighed the negatives. As I mentioned before, I felt blessed in that I had a job. I also firmly believed that I could be just as effective in 3rd grade as I was in 4th grade. Most importantly, I would still be teaching. I devoted half my summer to getting ready for this change. Just like the other teachers who were switched, I had to put in many extra days to prepare both mentally and physically. However, I began to look forward to the new year (one of the benefits of being a teacher). I was getting very excited. I discovered that I liked the curriculum better. I began to realize that I was going to do just fine. However, I find myself worrying whether or not there will be another switch next year. I am also concerned that if we do switch again, that we will be put throught the same process—Not being involved—Not having a voice— Not being able to express our concerns—and Not brainstorming together to solve “a problem”. I firmly believe for a school to be successful there must be Team Work—Everyone should be involved. I will do my best to make my student’s learning experience as rewarding as possible.

    1. Wow, 12 years in one grade level and then an involuntary switch…that must be have really been an ordeal for you! I can relate to everything you said and commend you for handling the situation so well. I would have spoken out on behalf of the students, as well. It’s disappointing that you didn’t get answers.

      You mentioned your fear of “Not being involved—Not having a voice— Not being able to express our concerns—and Not brainstorming together to solve “a problem”. I guess another good lesson you (and all of us) can take away from your situation is that feeling powerless is awful, and it’s something that we want to make sure we don’t ever do to our students. We can’t control whether a principal makes us feel that way, but we can use those bad experiences to inspire us to give our students a voice and let them express themselves when it would be easier to say “Just do it because I said so.” I will remember your story when I am tempted to behave in ways that make others feel like they have no control.

  20. Hi! I was wondering if anyone knows what happens to a teacher who refuses to move to another grade or to another school in the same district because the principal has discretion to make any changes he/she wants. Thank you! deb ps from NY State

    1. Hi Deb!
      I’m wondering the same thing!
      What if an inexperienced principal demands you change grade levels only because you’ve been teaching the same grade level for 20 years, and that it’s your turn to make a “sacrificial switch.”
      She says it’s in the best interest of the students. But how can that benefit the students in my OLD grade level and the students in my NEW grade level? She’s making another veteran teacher change grade levels, too, because “change is a good thing.”
      Why does a principal choose to “shake-up” some teachers and not others? I think she’s “playing favorites,” but what can I do about that??
      I got my Master’s degree to re-energize and rejuvenate my teaching. I work hard to improve my teaching constantly. My expertise, experience & passion aren’t being valued! WHY?

  21. hi kristi! thanks for responding … i think i am going to ask my union president and perhaps go to NYSUT to find out what happens to a teacher that refuses to change grades or schools just because the principal wants it!
    I too love teaching and learning … do you read Language Arts, the Reading Teacher, Science and Children – i think i have the titles right – they are great journals – and also rethinking schools – one of the very best! – Reading these journals keep me happy and intellectually challenged! take care! deb

  22. I do agree that teachers grow stronger within their grade as time goes by. However, how do administrators get rid of those ineffective teachers?? How do we change those few teachers without having them feel attacked or defensive? How much support is that teacher getting before that admin feels that she is ineffective?? How is ineffectivity being evaluated in your school? This should also be driven by data, test scores and observations. Just like certain students need educational plans, ineffective teachers also need these kinds of plans so that administrators document their progress or lack thereof. I do agree that flipping the whole school around for one teacher will not be beneficial to the school climate, test scores or moral. However, something must be done for those teachers who are just collecting the pay check and often don’t even do lesson plans. I do see this with certain tenured teachers and those teachers that have been in the same grade level for years….. I see this all the time in urban schools and it makes my heart sad. Education had changed quite a lot…. do we blame the system for the lack of moral and teacher burn out or do we blame the teacher for not making more of an effort??

    1. I think “teacher burnout” is a sixties saying, the more up-to-date phrase is “demoralized” for one reason or another, usually negative teacher around the school as well as a negative administration staff can demoralize teachers. They say teachers should stay away from negative people, but how can you avoid them, if you work with them? Teamwork is the key and support of each other with a positive outlook. Many teachers act as though they are superior to others and this causes negative reactions from them to other teachers.

  23. Hi Angela-

    I think a school is a community and that you absolutely need buy in from ALL teachers and administrators when moves are concerned. I HATE this whole unsettled feeling that happens at this time of the year and all the gossiping that goes along with it. It sets people against each other and breaks the community apart instead of bringing it back together. Of course it is about the students, BUT happy teachers = happy and successful students = happy and productive school!

    I have been teaching 5th grade for the past 4 years and this year we departmentalized. I agree that K teachers are a certain breed and I also think 5th grade teachers are a certain breed. 5th graders are challenging – but I have made a lot of headway with them and feel like this is the grade level that suits me. I got to teach math this year and feel like I really made a difference being able to focus on one subject.

    Last week my principal asked to talk to me and of course I got the dreaded, “I am thinking of moving you to 3rd grade. How would you feel about that?” I of course expressed that I might be open to this but wanted some time to think it over which she seemed fine with. The following day I went to her and expressed that while I appreciated her offer, I felt that my heart was in 5th grade. By that afternoon, members of the 3rd grade team were making negative comments to me about the fact that I didn’t want to move. Then today I confronted one of them and apologized saying that it wasn’t personal – just what is best for me. The reply I got from her almost knocked the wind out of me. She said, “I am VERY disappointed in you. Asking to stay in your grade level is completely unprofessional of you and unacceptable. This is how Elementary Schools are – you need to deal with that.” Yikes! I was so shocked I didn’t really say much of anything.

    I have decided to just to brush it off to her having a bad day and didn’t understand that I was asked for my opinion and it seemed like I was given the opportunity to choose. But it isn’t easy and I can’t shake the feeling that I have done something wrong.

    Thanks for giving me a sounding board :)!

    1. I am so sorry teachers treated you like that by the other teachers. I don’t think it’s unprofessional to voice your opinion in a polite manner.

      This is my second year of teaching, and I was asked to move two grades up. I am teaching first grade, and they want me to teach third grade to help students improve their state scores. I understand the need and I also care about the students, but I don’t feel ready to make that jump.

      When I was asked I said that I would be willing to teach the third grade. However, the next morning I just felt it wasn’t the right grade for me. I struggled with being able to voice my opinion because I was also afraid they did not give me an opinion.

      I finally voiced my opinion which I feel really good about it. They said that they don’t want to lose me as a teacher, but that it doesn’t sound good to the higher-ups if I am not willing to change. I am still trying to figure out what I will do. I am sure some teachers will look down on me for voicing my opinion on this.

  24. I know that changing grade levels is a fact of life in the education field. But I was reading the rights of teachers written by the NEA (National Education Association) on grade level change. It stated that teachers can be switched grade levels after at least three years in one grade level. I would like to know if this policy or teacher right is effective in California, throughout all districts or is it decided on a local school district level?

    1. I have never heard of this policy. It seems that school needs trump something the NEA has laid out. I can’t imagine every school district in the nation agreeing to something like this–it would have made big news. Do you have a link you can share?

  25. Happy teachers make for happy students. Therefore, keep the teachers happy and they will intern make the students happy to learn. The school climate will be an enjoyable place to work and learn.

    When administration disregards the needs of the teachers under the guise of “it’s better for the students” everyone loses. As stated in your article, unhappy teachers take it out on the kids some intentionally and some inadvertently. The staff becomes disenfranchised and negative. Thus creating a toxic atmosphere for teachers, aides and students.

    There is a trickle down effect.

  26. I am experiencing a situation at my school where I have been teaching Kindergarten for over 10 years with passion and dedication at a variety of schools. My current school enrolment in our school went up in 2 years ago and a new teacher was hired with little to no previous Kindergarten experience. The school year was successful for both of us. I shared my resources, collaborated well and things we going really well until we were told that our enrollment in K has declined and the following year will consist of a k and a k/1. Ms. L (the new teacher) felt that she was entitled to remain in a kindergarten class because she was philosophically opposed to a k/1 and felt that she wanted more consistent years in Kindergarten to “master” it . I on the other hand was contemplating the thousands of dollars and hours of work to build up my program and resources, and the over 10 years that it took me to get to where I want to be in my career. I have taught almost every grade level between k and grade 6 in the past in short or temporary contract and have found my niche and passion in K. My experience in k/1 is very limited and I have young children plus ailing parents whom I am caring for. As it turned out, Mrs. L (single and lives alone) reluctantly agreed to teach the k/1 class but said that she didn’t want to be “pigeon holed” as a k/1 teacher and wanted to alternate every second year that a k/1 came up. While in theory, this may seem like a fair solution, it is not the norm in our school or in our school district. The trend has been that if a job is no longer available due to declining enrolment then someone (usually the last hired at that grade level) is surplussed and they can either take another job at the school if available or apply to another school. Mrs. L did not wish to apply to another school to avoid teaching k/1 and is insisting that she should be able to stay and alternate the K job with me. I have had situations in my 18 years with the district where enrollment decreased and I “lost” my grade level at my school and had to change schools, that is common practice and no one has ever received any special treatment because of it. Why should I how have to accomodate Mrs. L when no accomodations were made to me or any other teacher who has been in this situation? I have asked my admin if she thought that Mrs. L was a better teacher and better suited for K and she replied that she considered us as equal. (a total blow since I have substantially more experience). This has been a very toxic experience for our school and no one is happy! Do you have any advice that I could give to my admin if she tries to force us to alternate? This, to me is worth staying and fighting for. It is wrong on so many levels and while it is causing me great stress and frustration, walking away from it all will only leave me feeling powerless and defeated. I feel that there are several reasons why alternating each year is not in the best interest of the students and our school community not to mention ridiculouslly unfair to teachers. Any thoughts as to why you would recommend or not recommend alternating each year would help me in discussing this issue with my principal. Thank you in advance for helping!

    1. Hi, there, I’m sorry to hear you’ve been put in this position! I would not like the idea of alternating K and K/1 each year, either. That’s a tremendous amount of work for both teachers to switch grades every year. I think at this point in the school year, though, it’s better to just focus on enjoying your kinders and doing a fantastic job with them. Don’t stress out about this and ruin your year teaching what you want to teach because you’re worried about what will happen next year. In the spring, you can approach your principal about staying in K, and present a list of reasons why you believe you are a better asset to the school just teaching K. Does that make sense?

  27. I think is best for a teacher to teach a grade and subject that they are most effective and have a love for. It will benefit the teacher and the students. The teacher will mostly enjoy their job and the students will enjoy being in their class. Passion, love, and dedication to something make it a success and teaching a certain grade or subject needs those three things. I do not think a teacher should be made to teach a subject because their good and the school needs them to. Good teachers are moved around all the time for the good of the school. It is almost like being punished for being a good teacher and wanting the best from your students. I think it is very wrong. I got moved around because they need me here and there. We are getting evaluated and held responsible for being in grade levels that do not suit us because the school needs us to help test scores. It all boils down to scores and indiscipline. If you are good in those two areas you will be moved for the good of the school. I really and truly believe it hurts student. You take an excellent fifth grade teacher and move them to seventh, which is not their first choice. The fifth graders could have had an excellent teacher, but the seventh graders get a teacher just trying to make it to the next school year to teach another grade of their choice. Who wins in the end?

  28. I am so disgusted with my new move. iihave teaching for 19 years, the last 6 as a 5th grade resource Room teacher. I was told today that I am moving to a 6th grade RR in January! The teacher is retiring and the person they hired to take him place doesn’t have the correct certification. So, the new hire will take my students. I feel so bad for my kids. Their needs are not taken into consideration. There will be other Special Ed moves to other positions because my district won’t hire people to take the retiree’s place. I feel like I have been stabbed in the back!

      1. Well.I am being moved again! This time, I am going to the middle school for 7th grade self-contained, with no experience in either. Because of the changes in SpEd certs, K-12 certs are no longer issued. So, old timers like me are being moved to the middle and high school because of retirements. I practically begged them not to move me because my husband is in Afghanistan and the earlier hours are a problem. I was basically told oh well! I am trying to be positive about this change but it is hard to leave from a place where you have been for 13 years and the staff is one big family.

  29. I have taught kindergarten for more than 19 years. It is my passion. I was told two days
    before Christmas break that when I return, I would be moved to a first grade classroom
    (all due to low enrollment, etc.) Whatever the reason, I didn’t think changes would be
    made this late in the year. I am definitely going throught the stages of grief. I wasn’t
    ready to leave my class. I’m going from being someone who knew what they were doing, to someone who will have to wing it. I don’t even have a class list or a key to the room ! Somehow I’ll get through this, but it I am devastated that this has happened.

    1. Oh My Gosh!!! It was difficult enough for me to have to switch at the beginning of the following year two yeas ago, but at least I was able to start from the beginning of the school year. It took me half the summer to prepare for the switch. What about the students? We as adults are better able to handle change due to experience, but children have a much harder time adapting. Both the teadcher and students are going to have to build a relationship with each other—Will there be enough time to do this and teach to the curriculum? I doubt it. What will happen to the students that you are already teaching? Is this change in the best interest of the students? I feel for you and your students, and I feel it is really unfair that someone had the power to alter so many lives. I too love teaching, but I find myself wondering if perhaps I might be better off doing something else.

  30. Hi Angela,
    What you posted back in 2010 sure hit home for me. It has also been helpful to read all of the responses that followed as well. I will try to condense my situation as much as possible but need to give you some background. I started out as a special ed resource teacher many years ago. I was dual certified in elementary and special ed K-12. I added reading and art endorsements over the years. I have taught various grade levels and subjects (regular and special ed) throughout my career. Most of the moves I have made were my choice or because I moved to a different state and took what I could get. I have searched for a reading specialist position for a long time (one working with kids, not training teachers) but have not been in the right place at the right time. I have also found that the district I’m in right now tends to put teachers who are perceived as weak in those positions because of classroom management problems. This has shocked me because it doesn’t seem to matter what their background in reading is. I thought that working with struggling readers would require someone who is considered a strong teacher. Sadly, I’ve gotten used to this phenomenon.

    In the district I’m in now, I have taught third grade for 4 years, then moved to an interventionist position which allowed me to work with 4th and 5th graders who were at risk academically. I loved that position but the title I money was cut after one year so that position was cut as well. I was then offered a fourth grade position in another school that I have held for 4 years. Not on a very welcoming team but I’ve learned to deal with that. Recently my principal offered me a special ed position (someone is retiring). He knew that I’d been looking for reading positions during the summers and thought that the small self contained special ed classroom might be a good fit for me. He gave me time to think about it and observe. I decided against it. He seemed disappointed but understanding. I wondered if my decision caused a problem with changes he needed to make. He let me know that it had and wondered if I would be willing to go to a lower grade. We talked a little bit about second grade and pros and cons. It sounded like I could stay in my present classroom.

    Later he told me he’d like for me to move to second and that I would need to change rooms. I didn’t want to fight to stay on a difficult team, but really didn’t know what I was getting into. First I thought that it might be a nice break from the benchmark and end-of-year testing, only to find out how extensive the second grade assessments are. This year was extremely stressful learning the common core curriculum and new adopted test and math programs. If I make this change I will really be starting from scratch as far as materials, curriculum, different report cards, and copious assessments. At first the smaller class size and lack of high stakes testing looked good.

    I have learned that the reason for my move is because someone else had to be moved for the reasons you mentioned in your original post. Then I got thinking about how the students and I will pay the price because another teacher didn’t do her job well. I found that I still have a choice in the matter, but I feel that it will change my relationship with my principal.

    I am within five years of retirement and would really like to move away from the classroom to work with struggling readers individually and in small groups (I never intended to be a regular ed classroom teacher, but once I got there my scores were good and I found that this made it difficult to change positions). I think that my present principal thought that second grade would help me get closer to focusing on reading (it will also give him the open spot for the teacher he wants to move). I want to be able to put all that I learned this year to use by staying in fourth grade. I am trying to decide whether the change to second grade will be more stressful and time consuming on top of the stress of this year or if it would be a refreshing change.

    Any thoughts or advice would be appreciated.

  31. I appreciate this conversation very much. In our district, there is a new “philosophy” that change is good. The principals are changing 25% or more of their staff to new grades. We’re upset to say the least. Does anyone know of any studies that have been done that would justify either staying in a grade or changing grades as being more beneficial to the students and/or the school and/or the teachers?

    1. Ask your principal where they would like to work in 8 years, because obviously if change is good they won’t be working in your district anymore.

  32. Well, if you see a teacher is running a class well, and his/her kids are receptive, does moving him/her in the middle of the year make any sense? That’s what is happening to me. I wish there were a way to stop it.

  33. I think a legitimate reason for a principal to move a teacher would be due to student numbers. To elaborate, last year we had six sections of first grade at my school. I taught one of those sections. Due to lower enrollment, we only had five sections of K coming in for the upcoming year. There was an opening in fourth (a dream grade for me). Thankfully, my principal knew that I was interested in older elementary and moved me to fourth. I think that student numbers are a justifiable reason for moving a teacher to another grade.

  34. I teach kindergarten and I have a principal who thinks its appropriate to rotate classrooms every two years to switch teaching partners. She feels it builds a team but it actually adds undue stress on our team and non of us are for the idea. We want to build a relationship with our room partner and never get to that point. I wish someone had information on if this is truly helpful or harmful?

  35. I can’t believe in this day with all the testing that principals still don’t work with teachers to see what they feel most comfortable teaching. If a teacher is moved to another grade they should get extra get 3 years before being brought up on tenure charges if they can’t get things turned around. You can’t just move people around every year and then say you better be highly effective in November.
    I was told a few weeks ago I may be the new technology teacher next year. Something I started as 7 years ago to get my foot in the door. I have taught 2nd grade the last 6 years. I have absolutely no want to push a cart from room to room with laptops. I give so much credit to specialist, but that is not me at all.
    I have had good test scores all year so I really feel like this is a move to bring in a friend or ruin my career. Either way the position they are trying to move me into has been funded more then 2 years in a row and everyone else who taught it got fired. It is a dead end set up.

  36. I need help. I’m a parent that is leading a charge against an elementary grade school principal that is strong arming teachers in to changing grade levels and hence loosing some wonderful teachers at our school in the process. I need to know the protocol/criteria for changing teachers grade levels so I can go to the superintendent fully informed. Sadly, our teachers need the parents to fight for their jobs. He is a new principal that is splitting up the stronger teams in a power play that is unacceptable to parents and teachers alike. Thanks in advance for your advice.

    1. Diane, thank you for standing up on behalf of your school’s teachers and kids. I wish that I could give you a standard protocol, but it really depends on your state and district. I’m assuming you have already attended to speak to the principal directly about the problem. I would think the next step would be to attend school board meetings or request a meeting with the superintendent (or area superintendent, if it’s a large district). Get in touch with the office of the principal’s supervisor and ask for the protocol in having your concerns heard and addressed. I wish you all the best.

    2. Diane you are a saint! Thank you for being an advocate for all the children who would end up suffering if all the teachers get shuffle around. The general rhetoric is, “change is good”. But in my opinion, so is stability. I believe that these ludicrous shuffling of teacher is nearly a cruel tactic to force out the older, more expensive teachers. Then replace them with cheaper new teachers. I’ve seen this happen way to often. This is a tricky way of getting out of dept. I believe there maybe a case for age discrimination.

  37. I am a teacher going into my third year. When I was hired, I expressed that I preferred primary grades but was placed in fifth grade with the promise that the following year I would be moved into a primary grade. My principal made good on that promise and moved me into first grade (which I loved). Now at the conclusion of this school year, I was told that I would be moving back to fifth grade because they want someone more experienced in the first grade positions. As a new teacher, I feel disgruntled and defeated. I was not notified of this thought process until the last day of school and feel that I was not given the support or opportunity to grow. My fear now is that I will have to change grade levels each year and never be able to grow as an educator. Am I justified in feeling like I am being short-changed?

  38. I’m entering my 18th year of teaching and have recently gotten new administration who are clear that we will be moving grades/subjects. Unfortunately we won’t be told where until the end of July and school starts August 17. With only 2 weeks to prepare for something new I’m so frustrated. It angers me when new administrators feel they need to make moves to assert their authority before even getting to know their new staff. How can they make such important decisions without knowing our strengths and weaknesses and passions?

  39. Megan,

    I can feel the pain in your message. It really is something that happens all to frequently these days in education, and with little real explanation. You can only gain experience by letting you go through the motions like every teacher has. I would be curious to ask some other questions. If you would like email me at mpfire24@yahoo.com so we can discuss some more. Good luck and talk to you soon. 🙂

  40. I am so glad I came upon this blog. I have over 20 year experience teaching preschool, 9 in my current district. I was told by phone by the HR director that I was moving buildings and positions. Both my current and new principals were on vacation. I went through the stages of grief. I also moved years of personally purchased materials into my garage and basement because in my new position I would not have a classroom. After speaking to several administrators in the beginning of the school year, I never got a clear picture as to why I was moved. It has broken me. I question whether I want to teach at all now. I also question whether or not I will use my administrative certification, because I would not want to treat staff like I was treated. The funny thing is I am considered an “effective” teacher with our new teacher evaluation requirements. I always consider d myself a mentor and highly effective in my old position. It’s difficult when the choice is not your own. There was no discussion or heads up, only please label your stuff so we can have it moved to your new building. So now, a year later I consider moving to a new district, new position, or leave it behind and try something new. So much for a teacher considered a leader in her field.

  41. During my summative evaluation, my principal asked me what was the lowest grade I had taught. I told him 1st grade and begged him not to move me from 5th grade ELA to 1st grade as I was very young when I taught it (I was in my early 20s), and it was not a pleasant experience. He asked what I felt most comfortable teaching, and I told him 6th grade science. I knew that I would be switching grade level because he had commented that “5th grade was going to to broke up because you are too big for your britches.” I was flabbergasted on the last day of school when he told me that I would be teaching Kindergarten! Since I would be moving classrooms, I packed up all of my personal teaching materials and brought them home for the summer. The school’s grapevine was abuzz with news that he was moving most of the teachers in the school to new positions to punish us for our test scores. I requested a transfer to a school closer to my home and was offered and accepted a 3rd position. I cannot wait to embark on my new teaching adventure! I wish my former principal well and hope his vision and plan works for the best.

  42. It’s amazing that this was written and I’d still happening. Teachers voices aren’t being heard.

    I am now in my second year of teaching. When I applied to the school they had positions open in almost all levels, and they asked what I preferred. I was comfortable with third and requested third grade, to which they seemed to approve of. I was offered a position, and turned down other offers from other schools to teach there.
    They then told me weeks later I would be teaching first. I was disappointed, but after a few weeks of teaching I fell in love with first.

    As the year came to an end they asked where I wanted to be. I requested to stay in first. The principal called me in and said due to my high test scores I would be moved to third grade.

    While I want to do everything I can to help my third graders succeed and pass the test, I can’t help but realize if my students do well I will be stuck in third grade the rest of my time at the school.

    Is this what the administration really wants from the teachers? Happy teachers means happy and successful students.

  43. Ugghhh…. Just got the notice that I’m changing grade levels again. 5 grade level changes in 5 years. Why me? I’m told it’s because I’m flexible and well rounded. I’m going to go crazy. I’m at a small school. Some teachers never change. They’re the ones perceived as being great teachers. I think. I’m a great teacher but have not had any consistency to prove it. I get moved because others are unable to do their job. It’s hardly fair!

  44. A grade change should be agreed upon. That is to say, no teacher should be moved without his or her consent. If a teacher is moved because of alleged incompetence, the move will not create competence: an incompetent teacher must be retrained or released.
    The alternative to consent is anathema to the concept of a team. Every principal hopes to be part of a team, but moving a person whose professional opinion of placement differs — without, at least, begrudged acceptance, is the most effective way of destroying the team. It’s at its worst in a school where the principal has a few sycophantic followers who get placed where they want, while those who maintain more professional distance get placed in whatever grades then become available. Imagine taking a 3rd grade teacher who is known for using instructional technology to increase student achievement; imagine this teacher being moved to kindergarten. As you may have guessed, this is what is happening in my school. We are all so demoralized, and in a small rural school such as ours, there is no alternative but to just hope our administration retires before we do.

  45. I found out that next year I was going to switch from fourth to second grade. I have taught k, 1st, 2nd, 4th, 5th, 7th and 8th grade. The switch isn’t the problem, so much as not having a part of the discussion. Just being told that the changes in grade level is what is best for the school, seems somewhat hollow, as I thought I was part of the school. Also I switched grades once, so an less experienced teacher would not have too. It is so NOT about moving grades; I just want to be heard. Not to mention, what do I do with the materials I need to leave behind and the materials I own. I have so much work to do now and so few school days left to do it. Frankly, I am losing sleep over the stress of the move.

  46. I have been at the same inner-city Brooklyn school for the past 13 years. During that time I have taught 4 different grades and changed to 6 different rooms. Only twice have the changes been voluntary. Even when I have the privilege of staying on a grade, all but three of these years have involved learning a new math or literacy curriculum, not to mention changes in social studies. I am sorry to report that my story is not unique in my school nor in other schools in the area based on accounts from teacher friends elsewhere in the city’s struggling schools. Of course, the first few months of the school year are spent fumbling through new curriculum, and trying to feel settled in a new room full of things the previous teacher didn’t take or throw out, leaving the new teacher-in- residence to do the work. Did I mention that we are tight on space (NYC), have rodents and bugs, and little to no closet space, so having a surplus of resources In the room is no easy feat. With the constant change in curriculums, materials from old curriculums pile up fast, but we are told to save them “just in case.” Case in point: the children really suffer as their teacher struggles to make the best of a difficult, exhausting, situation. I have stayed past 8 or 9 pm many times over the years, and was by no means the only teacher in the building. Most of us are hard-working and dedicated, despite how the media may portray us. So as another commentator mentioned, these are more reasons why children in disadvantaged urban areas get “the short end of the stick.” Administrators can continue to show such disregard for teacher satisfaction, but it certainly shows up in student performance and staff morale. This is the only reality of teaching I have ever known.

    1. Disregard for teacher satisfaction is spot on! If we are happy, our kids are happy, bottom line. When you force teachers into a position that can be avoided, your students will be the ones to ultimately suffer.

  47. I was forced to teach a higher grade level in Math, which I did no want to do. I was a founding member of my school and was very happy teaching at the level I was at. My Principal put me there because he said he needed a ‘strong’ teacher there. He kept hiring teachers who would not last at that grade level, for 2 years in a row he had 2 different teachers quit, yes quit, before Winter break.
    I felt I was being punished because I did my job well. I was separated from my co-worker who we had collaborated with so well for over 12 years,?always finding new ideas and revamping together.
    I became depressed and withdrawn; he could care less what my desire was. I was put into a position I never wanted, never applied for. He then blocked me from going to another school at the level I wanted to teach.
    This, to me, is one example of poor leadership. His job was on the line because of his ‘scores’ and people quitting, but I’m the one paying the price. It has been so difficult I can barely bring myself to go to work, the joy of teaching has been sucked out of me.

  48. I have taught 26 years and I am the teacher that is in my opinion, the “easy move” In that time, I have taught everything except first grade. I have probably been moved 8-10 times. Once, even in the middle of the year while I was away for surgery. This has happened now with my fourth principal. I was in love with my job and had just received a very exciting teaching award. While that was posted on the computer screens for the district I was asked to moved next year. Then, covid hit. I did not get to even come back to my kids after that decision was shared with me. I am grieving and looking for positions outside the district as well. I keep turning it on myself and thinking something is wrong with me and it has ruined my self-esteem. I am extremely creative but teaching doesn’t allow that anymore. The grade level I am being moved to is the one I’ve taught the most and that is not energizing to me. When I got moved I did send an email explaining my feelings to my new boss of one year. My new team has been less than welcoming asking, “Why were you moved?” I had already told them the reasons given were just blanket statements. I have asked for a recommendation from my supervisor for an outside of teaching job. There was no reply to my email. Really struggling here, any suggestions.

  49. Do you that… if you are a High School teacher, teaching 4th grade and the principal decide to make you teach reading in first grade it is because they think you are not doing well in 4th??

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