Being a split level teacher is not without its complications. One of these involves my inability to be in multiple places at the same time. As such, when my 4th graders go on a field trip, I am left to entrust them to another bilingual teacher while I'm teaching my remaining 5th graders. It's hard enough to create unity among the ranks without splitting the class up and drawing attention to an "us vs. them" situation.
In order to aid myself in reminding the students of their bond (regardless of time and space) I devised a plan early on that was attached to my students' system of rewards. First, I should probably state that my students do not get scheduled weekly rewards or free time (like in many of my colleagues' classes) because I don't want them to feel like they deserve something without putting in the work to get it. Instead, I have a behavior management system where one student that I choose (and they don't know about) represents the whole class. Because of this, the students are constantly accountable for their own actions as well as the actions for their peers. After working together for as long as it takes, they earn a classroom celebration (or lose points and don't get to celebrate as the case may be.)
Now, when my students have to be split up, they understand that the 4th graders who leave will be responsible for representing the 5th graders (monitored by the other bilingual teacher) and that the 5th graders are responsible for representing their 4th grade counterparts. This has (as is one of my primary goals)created quite a sense of community.
The problem is when it comes to knowing how well you've prepared your students to handle life when you're not there to guide them. It is such a gamble to send them out in the world trusting that their sense of allegiance to the greater good is worth their continual positive behavior. Today, when my students returned from their trip, they were grinning from ear to ear. This, of course, just made me nervous. When I went to talk to the teacher who took them on their trip, he told me that everything went perfectly fine and that my students did a great job. It's wonderful to know that, as a group, we must be doing something right!