About Katie Sluiter

Katie Sluiter is currently an 8th English teacher in West Michigan. She has taught middle school, high school, and community college and has her Masters Degree and is currently working on her doctoral degree in Teaching English. Her writing has been featured on Writers Who Care, The Nerdy Book Club, and Dr. Bickmore's YA Wednesday. She is a member of the National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE), the Michigan Council of Teachers of English (MCTE) and ALAN (the Assembly on Literature of Adolescents of the NCTE). She is a National Writing Project participant, has presented at both state and national conferences, and has been published in the Language Arts Journal of Michigan multiple times.

“A house divided shall not stand,” and neither will a public school. I am really seeing this issue clearly for the first time this year. At my elementary school, we have begun much more integration of grade levels.  Two teachers teach math to three different grade levels, one teacher teaches reading to two grade levels, and I myself have a different grade level for an hour of the day (although not structured lessons, much of the time is intervention).

While I have always felt that our “end of the school” has always been supportive of each other, I feel it, even more, this year. I usually teach fifth grade so by the time the children reach me, EVERYONE knows them and offers suggestions of grouping, discipline, teaching strategies, and dealing with parent strategies. This year, many of us are teaching each other’s students, and so the discipline and teaching strategies have to be shared beyond just grade levels.

Also new for me as a fifth-grade teacher is we are eating lunch with Kindergarten (in hopes that my fifth graders will show the Kindergarteners how to behave, line up, etc in the lunchroom). So, for the first time, I am eating with Kindergarten teachers and listening to their joys and woes. I have found it so interesting because I’m relatively new to the school, so I am still learning the families. But the teachers I work with have watched these children since they were 5. They have a ton of insight! It has also been great because I have been able to offer some “big kid” assistance at times of chaos.

Several of my students help the younger ones with sight words, packing up, just reading to them so they will stay focused. In another school in which I taught, my principal always said things like “we are a team” or “we are all in this together,” but we never had an opportunity to meet across grade levels and just talk. So, I never really believed him, I always felt like it was every grade against another.

I can’t speak for all the teachers in my school, but I have really benefited from these small changes so that in the upper elementary grades we really are “all in this together” and I have had a chance to get to know the younger students as well as collaborate with the younger grade teachers. I guess, what I am trying to say is we really are all in this together and the more we can help each other, not just our grade level or our classroom neighbors, but in the entire school…..we will be happier, and if we are happier, maybe our kids will receive the quality education they deserve and we keep trying to give them!

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