Who should I teach? K - 2, or 4 - 7?
June 14, 2010 11:10 PM   Subscribe

Elementary school teacher: Kindergarten - Grade 2, or Grade 4 - Grade 7?

My wife is starting her teaching degree in September and has to decide whether to apply for her practicum (observation and then work experience in a specific classroom) in the Primary (Kindergarten to Grade 2) or Intermediate (Grades 4 to 7) grades in elementary school.

She enjoys working with kids in both areas - she is great with primary children, but also finds the more advanced course work and language skills of older intermediate children allow her to broach social and global issues that she (personally) finds interesting. Whichever path she chooses at school, she will be certified to work in any grade - Kindergarten to Grade 7. Currently she is interested in teaching Grades 2 to 5 - so a grade range that straddles these 2 groups.

My questions are:

1) Even though she will be certified to teach kindergarten to grade 7, will choosing to focus on one group or the other make her less eligible in the eyes of hiring schools to teach the grades she didn't train with? If so, to what degree?

2) She has heard that doing her practicum with intermediates will result in a far more stressful year [balancing course work and intermediate practicum]. Is this true?

3) On a more practical note, because she will be a teacher on call for at least a year after her schooling is complete, and will be called to sub in for the whole range of grades, will she be underprepared if she chooses to work with the primary group?

Thanks for sharing any experiences/ advice!
posted by johnsmith415 to Education (7 answers total)
Ummm, what country are you in? It doesn't sound like you're in the US or UK, because you're using different terminology than I've experienced in those contexts. So please recognize that this is a decontextualised answer.

1) I have no idea, but it wouldn't make sense for it to do so. Everyone getting an elementary certification has to pick which group to work with for their practicum; in many cases, it's not the teaching candidate who picks, they just go where their university is able to place them. No one can seriously expect that a student teacher will know beforehand which age group s/he wants to teach. You don't know that until you've been teaching for some time.

2) Middle school can be a relatively stressful age to teach, especially starting out. The within class ability variation is huge. When I say middle school, I mean grades 6 and 7. On the other hand, it's immensely rewarding because the kids can do more, but still aren't jaded high school students too cool to admit they're excited about something.

That said, I would guess that the stress level your wife experiences would be much more dependent on how hard her coursework is for the practicum year, how good a cooperating teacher she is working with, and how well her university and teaching school are set up to support the practicum experience, than on which age level she is teaching.

3) No. The preparation for each group is a little bit different. Whichever group she deals with, if she has to sub for a different age group, some adjustments will be called for that she will have to play by ear. But the adjustment is no easier because you're moving down a grade level. I've had to jump around grade levels a fair bit, and the adjustment time really doesn't vary depending on whether I'm going from older to younger or younger to older students. If she were more comfortable with a particular age group, her experience might be different, but you say she's comfortable with the whole range.

Tell her good luck. The practicum year can be a lot of fun.
posted by bardophile at 11:37 PM on June 14, 2010

This is just my opinion, but I find the grades 4-7 a lot more fun, interesting, and better behaved. If she wants to have real conversations with students and really see their personalities develop, I suggest this group.
posted by canadia at 2:32 AM on June 15, 2010

Where I am at (in Chicago, Illinois) it is much harder to find teachers for the middle school grades. So she might have more luck finding a job teaching the older students.

On a more practical note, because she will be a teacher on call for at least a year after her schooling is complete, and will be called to sub in for the whole range of grades, will she be underprepared if she chooses to work with the primary group?

Well, possibly. I lean towards older students myself and I tend to think that teaching older students is more natural. I mean most of us at least remember school from that age. Primary school is a whole new ball game. What experience does she have with this age range already? If the answer is none then I would pick primary.
posted by aetg at 4:54 AM on June 15, 2010

In the US, at least, pay skews higher with higher grades. For that reason alone, I'd go for the practicum in 4-7.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 5:25 AM on June 15, 2010

I'm sensing that you're in Ontario, or at least Canada due to the language that you've used here.

Most teacher candidates have to do more than one placement - is this not the case here? If it is, she could cover her bases and do one placement in each level.

The fact that she is going to be doing sub work for a year will largely negate whatever choice she makes for her practicum - she will be getting experience with a wide range of grade levels as a substitute teacher.

The practicum is incredibly stressful no matter the level she chooses.

If she is in Ontario as I am assuming, the pay is the same no matter what grade you teach.
posted by davey_darling at 5:43 AM on June 15, 2010

In the Asker's previous AskMe questions, they say they are in Vancouver, Canada.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 6:15 AM on June 15, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for all the advice thus far!

To answer a few questions:

Yes, we are in Vancouver, Canada.

She will have 2 practicums but both will be in grades (that the school ultimately picks) in the grade range she chooses (ie: primary or intermediate). In fact, the course work modules are divided into 'primary' and 'intermediate' - so she does need to select.

Her experience: she has worked in a Grade 1 classroom (loved it, but not 100% sure she wants to teach it) and then in an after-school drop-in recreational program with kids in grades 1 - 6.

Thanks for any more feedback/ shared experiences!
posted by johnsmith415 at 7:28 AM on June 15, 2010

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