Sunday / July 21

Top 10 Reasons I Love Teaching an Intermediate Elementary Grade

I’ve spent all of my career teaching intermediate grades (seven years in 4th grade, one year in 3rd grade, and this is my sixth year in 5th grade).

Here’s why I’m obsessed with intermediate teaching!

  1. For the most part, the kids are great at following multistep directions.

I can ask them to do five things, they will remember those things, and then do them.

  1. They are witty and brilliant, and they are capable of witty and brilliant work.

I’m generally not teaching basics. I’m teaching subject matter that I love deeply. I get to teach the art of writing and the art of reading, not the mechanics.

  1. When they give me a compliment, I know it’s genuine.

And not just because I’m their teacher!

  1. We have in-depth discussions and debates of current events.

Most recently, the kids debated the government shutdown in a more measured and insightful way than most adults do. I have the honor of facilitating an interest in being involved citizens and activists.

  1. I have learned so much about my own patience.

Since the students are older and aren’t only trying to win my approval, I am learning how to be more flexible and how to interact with all different kinds of personalities. This has helped me to be both more assertive and more compassionate in my private life.

  1. As I approach the right age for a midlife crisis, I’m already current on what’s popular with “youths.”

This will save me a lot of time and internet research when I can no longer pluck my gray hairs.

  1. Potential roadblocks have already been identified.

By the time students get to fourth and fifth grade, especially fifth grade, parents are usually less in denial about concerns, IEPs/504s/BIPs are usually already in place, and medication is already being administered when it is needed.

  1. They may be older, but I still get to do classic elementary school things.

We have read-aloud every day. They still come to the carpet. They participate in class meetings and circles. They love stuffed animals, parties, and games of make-believe. They love puzzles and board games and home visits and inviting me to their games and recitals. Most of them love to give me hugs and draw me original pictures and love notes to hang behind my workspace in the room.

  1. I get to be an expert in my subject area.

In 4th and 5th grade, at least at my school, we are departmentalized, so I plan less and I get to know more kids. That also means that if I have a personality clash with a specific student, we get a break from each other.

  1. I get to be there as they cross that precipice into tweendom.

While this can be turbulent, it is also thrilling and humbling. I love watching my students problem solve. I love seeing how they negotiate their friendships and even their first crushes. They are exploring their identities and I get to bear witness to that. Sometimes, they trust me to help them through it.

  1. They are less likely to pee in their pants.


Written by

Cara Jeanne is a veteran teacher in Baltimore, Maryland. She teaches 5th grade Language Arts and Social Studies at the same elementary school she attended as a child. She is pursuing her phD in Instructional Leadership for Changing Populations at Notre Dame of Maryland University, where she also received her Masters degree and a certificate in Equity and Cultural Proficiency. Cara completed her undergraduate work at St. Mary’s College of Maryland where she studied Psychology and English. Cara was a finalist for Baltimore County Teacher of the Year and is honored to serve on the Equity Team and Faculty Council at her school.

Latest comments

  • I thoroughly enjoyed and appreciated your article since I will be teaching fourth grade this year after 10 years in third grade. With this article in my pocket I am so looking forward to the next year in fourth!!!! Thank you!

    • Sandra, I’m so glad my experience can help! I taught fourth grade for many years, and I think you will really love it. They are independent, but still interested in connecting with you. They are sweet but growing in their savvy. I just loved fourth grade! I’d love to hear from you after the school year starts to see how the adjustment is going. Will you be looping with your kids?

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