For the past nine summers, I have been fortunate enough to teach during our Extended School Year program. Extended School Year (ESY) is offered to special education students that need to continue to work on their IEP goals during the summer because they could digress. It is often offered to students that are in self-contained classroom settings during the school year, or for students that could continue to use services (Occupational Therapy, Speech and Language, and Physical Therapy). Out of the nine years, I have been teaching ESY, I have only taught what I was teaching during the school year once. Yes, ONLY ONE TIME. During ESY, I have taught in the following programs; Preschool Disabilities, Autistic Classroom, Learning and Language Disabilities, and Multiply Disabled.
These experiences have made me a BETTER teacher, no doubt. Why do I say this? I do because, you are challenged to a new degree. You learn more from others, such as assistants that are in these type of programs throughout the school year. You become experienced in working with varying abilities (notice I did not say disabilities!); different age levels; different obstacles.
In my twelve year career as a teacher, I have primarily taught inclusion at the upper elementary level. So when you are in an entire new setting, you tend to appreciate what you have throughout the school year and have respect for those that do it day in and day out. For example, I LOVED teaching the autistic classroom during the summer, but it is another thing to be a teacher in that classroom during a FULL day during the school year. You learn to respect the challenge that these teachers face daily.
A benefit I would add, is that it is a nice way to REFRESH yourself as a teacher. Let me explain.....When I experienced my most challenging year as a teacher in sixth grade, I seriously wanted to walk out on my job twice, no lie. I literally did cartwheels on the front lawn of building as the buses drove away on the last day of school. That summer I was given the job of teaching a Preschool Disabilities classroom for ESY. Can I just say, working with those kids was the breath of fresh air that I NEEDED. Working with those 3 and 4 year old during those four short weeks reaffirmed why I got into teaching in the first place.
Change is GOOD sometimes (at least during the summer months). Don't get me wrong, I cannot stand moving from different grades or even different classrooms from year to year because it IS A LOT OF WORK. But, sometimes teachers need change. This is the small dose of change that is good for me. Too often, I have seen teachers become complacent and set in their ways. In MY opinion, if you have been in the same grade level for 20 years, it's quite easy to say that teaching one grade over another is easier. But if you have had a change every so often, you tend to appreciate how hard others have to work too! I can tell you firsthand, that teaching preschoolers how to identify letters and count seems easy enough, but it IS NOT! Preschool teachers are teaching these students the fundamentals of subject areas, but they also how to teach students how to stand in a line, walk in the hallway, proper ways of going to the bathroom, how to raise their hand, how to take turns, how to be respectful, how to be a good friend; silly things that teachers in upper elementary can take for granted.
I will never say one grade is easier than another. Teaching ANY grade is challenging; but for different reasons. Unfortunately, it feels that if you teach a TESTED grade, you are under more pressure. So I can see where there is a divide; but just be open-minded and know that everyone's job may be a bit different; but they are all still difficult. I'm thankful that I have this reminder every summer!