an identity change

In December of 2000, I walked into a ninth grade English classroom to meet some of the students I would have the privilege of student teaching after Christmas break.

Since that moment I have been a high school teacher.

Oh, I have taught lots of subjects: English 9, Honors English 10, English 11, Honors English 11, English 12, Mass Media, Drama, Speech, Humanities, Applied Writing, Study Skills, Spanish 1, and Spanish 2.

I have been in two different high school buildings in the same district and even traveled to teach 9th graders when they were moved to the junior high.

I went through the combining of the two high schools.

I was an adviser for Student Council, headed the 11th grade state testing, was senior class adviser, and ran the Students of the Month program.

I have chaperoned proms and homecomings and swirl dances. I have been to countless sports games, band and choir concerts, and theater productions.

I’ve spoken at award ceremonies and been given awards by students.

I’ve been to 13 graduations, helped with the ceremony in at least half of those, and gone to numerous graduation open houses.

I’ve hugged and cried with students as they succeed or fail.

I am a high school teacher.

Actually, I was a high school teacher.

For thirteen years.



As of last week, I am now a middle school teacher.

I got the email/call from my principal and from central office that an ELA position (and three other high school positions, actually)  had to be eliminated at the high school due to budget cuts, but because of retirements and resignations, there were not going to be any job losses, but people would have to be shuffled around.  I was chosen to be one of those people.

This summer I will pack up my classroom that I have only been in for two years (because of the high schools combining, I moved to the high school building two years ago) and move to the junior high.

This fall I will be an 8th grade ELA teacher (unless the schedule changes, which it might. I could be teaching anything from 7-9 ELA or Spanish. But the chances are zero that I will stay at the high school).

I went through a lot of emotions last week. The strongest were rage and sadness.  I was also confused.  I don’t think I reacted as well as I could have and I said a lot of things without thinking them through.  As with many things, I reacted strongly and quickly. It didn’t help that I was already staring down at the hole that is depression. This pushed me into the hole.

But after a week of talking things through with Cortney and one of my most trusted professional friends, I have come to the conclusion that I am not mad that I am going to teach 8th grade ELA. I am not unhappy about working at the Junior High.  Our district is amazing. Working in any of our buildings means a chance to influence and help kids.

No, I am grieving a change in my identity.

After 13 years, I am no longer a high school teacher. That is what is hardest about all this.

It’s not moving buildings or teaching a different class.  I’ve done those things before with no problem.

It’s not working with new staff or a new department. I’ve done that too.

Being a high school teacher was who I was. It was part of my identity. In the blink of an eye, my identity has been changed.  And because of that I am grieving.

I know everything will work out and that my  new position will be fine. I look forward to the people I get to work with in my “new” department, and the administration at the Junior High is awesome. It will be fine.

But it’s still hard, ya know?

I loved my seniors this past year. They rekindled my love of teaching. Perhaps that is exactly what I needed before this new adventure.  I thought that the great year meant that I was finally in the place I needed to be. But maybe it was preparing me for the place I needed to be.

seniors14It will be fine…great even.

In time.


For all who donated books, fear not! They will come with me while I build my library at the Junior High. Some may be stored due to being too adult for 13 year olds, but I am still planning to do Reading Workshop with my 8th graders. In fact, I added some more age-appropriate titles to my Class Library Wish List if you are still thinking of donating.  Thank you all for your support. You are my village.


About Katie

Just a small town girl...wait no. That is a Journey song. Katie Sluiter is a small town girl, but she is far from living in a lonely world. She is a middle school English teacher, writer, mother, and wife. Life has thrown her a fair share of challenges, but her belief is that writing through them makes her stronger.


  1. I love that you are embracing the change now, as hard as it must be for you. You are a terrific teacher, and any student of any age will be so blessed to have you.

  2. I love middle school and especially eighth grade. I would be the opposite of you. I am a middle school teacher even if I am not teaching middle school right now. They are crazy and lovable. If you want any lesson plans or anything, just let me know. I have tons.

  3. I’m glad you are reconciling your feelings about the move. I know that you will be great no matter where you are, but I also want you to be happy and fulfilled.

  4. You’ll have a blast. Teaching writing will be fun and so will the literature – adolescents are an interesting species and they are a lot of fun. Enjoy.

  5. Identity changes are so hard. I think that is one of the reasons motherhood has a nine month identity change period, and still it hits us hard when it happens. I am glad you’re recognizing how you are feeling so you can grieve and I hope this new adventure surprises you in how great it is! xo

  6. We often forget that when a big change happens, we grieve what we have lost. That grief doesn’t mean that we lose anything. I’m glad that you are able to see this, and that you have taken the time you needed to process it. I am also glad that you were able to express yourself in such a clear way here. As a parent of a junior high student, I’d be over the moon to know that you might be teaching him. The junior highers are lucky to have you!

    PS I’m also glad that your new book collection will be used no matter what.

  7. The look inside is the hardest but the most helpful isn’t it?
    So many times we have all the feelings, all the symptoms but no diagnosis for why we feel the way we do. You’ve done the most important work in recognizing why you feel the way you do and now you can move on.

    you’re going to make an enormous difference in the lives of any student or class you’re standing in front of. You don’t need me to tell you that but I am telling you that.

    Katie, it’s always hard to give up the person you thought you were, the persona that fit you and was familiar and I’m so proud of you for allowing yourself to feel the emotions, grieve that loss and give yourself some time to adjust.

    Wishing you only good stuff. xo

  8. I hope the transition is a good one. Have you read Cold Sassy Tree by Olive Ann Burns? It might be a nice addition to your list.

  9. That is such a change, especially after so many years. But I think you will end up loving it. Eighth grade was one of my favorites to teach. The kids there are in this beautiful in-between stage where they’re trying so hard to be grown up but they still cling to some of their little-kid ways(not unlike some h.s. seniors, but it’s more pronounced in middle school).

  10. Kelsey Posma says

    Praying for you as you make this change. Proud of you for embracing it // don’t lose your identity in Christ and the transition will go smoother than you could ever imagine. God has a grand plan for you friend. I cannot wait to see what it is!!! 🙂 much love to you. And I’m always here if you need to talk.

  11. I so feel your struggle. I was transferred to a different middle school only one year and a month into my teaching career. I was devastated. No one at my new, now current, school understood why I was so upset. Your post explains what I was going through so perfectly! I went through the struggle and am better for it! If it were to happen again, I would be in the exact same place…again. Good luck in the fall…you will knock their socks off!

  12. It must be difficult to deal with change but I know you will adjust and figure it all out. Good luck with your new students. I had to switch from 4/5 year old (preschoolers) to Grade One at one stage and in the end I preferred the older kids. I think they both have their pros and cons. The younger ones needed more help. But they are more responsive, you’ll see!

  13. New journeys are always scary because they mean letting go of old ones. Your love for your students is evident in your writing and I know you will do a great job with any age. Kids are kids. You got this, girl.

  14. Lots of luck! You’ll be awesome no matter where or what grade you teach!!!

  15. I think you will be an amazing teacher no matter where you are, but I can see how this can be frustrating and maddening. If I’ve seen anything from my local teacher friends, it’s that – at least in our city and surrounding areas – teachers are moving around like crazy. So have hope that you will make it back to high school. xoxo

  16. I’ve never commented on your blog, but read it regularly and love it! I had to comment on this one though. I am going into my 10th year of teaching, as I was about to start my 4th year in 3rd grade (literally the Friday before inservive started), my principal unexpectedly moved me to first grade. I was shocked, confused, and heartbroken! But God is good! This was exactly where I was meant to be. I have made two best friends teaching first grade (they are on my team) and I do not know what I would do without them in my life! All things happen for a reason, and I look forward to finding out what yours is 🙂

  17. I think your attitude is wonderful. You are a teacher who fell in love with the station she was serving, and it was a big change to be told that you were moving to another station! I’m so proud of you for being WANTED in your district to help new students, and that you are going to touch more lives, EARLIER in their young lives. They need you. You rock.

  18. ((((((())) You’ve got this.