By: By: Kendall Hunt RPD with contributions from the editorial team
Working outside of a traditional classroom can be challenging. Here are four things to keep in mind as a multigrade educator.
Flexibility is a non-negotiable commodity.
The classroom will change from year to year, week to week, and day to day, according to Whiting and Luna, and the sooner educators accept this fluidity, the smoother things will go. Luna has learned through trial and error that her schedule must change each year to meet the special challenges and needs of her students. Even though she works with the same kids each year, they grow and so do their needs.
“Flexibility is a non-negotiable commodity,” Whiting agreed. “Multigrade is a living, breathing entity that requires the freedom to test limits until the right fit is achieved. There cannot be a static view of what appears to be normal or the right way of doing things. There must be room to create a new normal.”
Look through a different lens.
Luna emphasized that administrators, teachers, and parents must see the “big picture” and remember that multigrade classrooms cannot be evaluated the same way individual grades are. This doesn’t mean that the standards should be lowered (as we’ve noted, academic achievement and rigor are usually heightened in a multigrade setting) but rather comparison should be eliminated.
Although it’s important that outsiders remember not to judge multigrade educators through the same lens as a typical classroom teacher, it’s equally important that the educators themselves don’t fall into the trap of self-criticism.
Luna says that her multifaceted job description has taught her the importance of self-compassion. “You should have realistic expectations of yourself both as a professional and a person. We are our own worst critics,” she says. “I am one person … not a universe.”
Multigrade curriculum demands are WAY more challenging.
Depending on their classroom setup, Multigrade educators may be asked to master eight subject areas across four grade levels. On top of that, there are levels within levels, to account for remedial and accelerated students. This makes teachers' curriculum planning especially difficult, so give yourself some credit and don’t be afraid to ask for help!
Luna and Whiting recommend the Seventh-day Adventist (SDA) educational system’s training and mentorship program led by master multigrade educators. Many of the SDA multigrade resources can be found here, including textbook lists, how-to videos, standards, and organizational resources. The Atlantic Union Teacher Bulletin also offers curriculum material and classroom resources created by SDA multigrade educators.
Additionally, multigrade teachers and administrators should consider customized curricula, such as Pathways 2.0 or ByDesign Science. In the multigrade setting, traditional classroom curricula often fail to meet the needs of your students or your classroom setup. But a customized curriculum can be tracked and aligned to accommodate differentiated instruction.
We hope you have enjoyed our two-part series, “Life in a Multigrade Classroom”!