I can share a little about my experience.
I just graduated with a degree in Special and General Education K-6, and am about to start my first year of teaching (last year I was an assistant, but almost like a co-teacher, so I guess maybe my second year). When I first set out to become a teacher I was actually going to be pursuing Deaf Education for the younger grades (think K-2). As my college career developed, I actually ended up being pulled in many different directions, and got away from that original directive of Deaf Ed.
My first education job was in a preschool/playgroup type setting (even though at the time I was studying elemen. ed.). I loved being with the kids, but I think I liked it because I was like ‘mommy’ (and I can’t wait to have kids) more than actually liking my teacher-student relationship with the kids.
After that I ended up student teaching in a program for students with disabilities and I knew after a few weeks that that track wasn’t necessarily the best for me (most students in the class had autism). I finished my time there and then decided to just look for something else.
My job last year was working with 4th and 5th grade in a school within a school for dyslexia. (I was utilizing my special ed. background, but in a very different way.) It was so amazing, I absolutely loved worked with the oldest elementary grades because the kids are so wonderful, great personalities, really can develop a relationship, but they are still fearful enough of consequences, etc. that they are mostly respectful and in line (at least during classroom time, I don’t know how they conduct themselves on their down time). I spent some time with 1-3 while I was there, and it just didn’t strike the same chord with me.
The truth is, I actually find that I don’t dislike teaching any elementary grades, but I do find that because I am not ‘rainbows and sunshine’ ordinarily, I have a better time with 4th or 5th and I am able to form the student-teacher relationship that I find enriching. I love that I can still have fun with them on a kid-level, but there is a tone of seriousness that isn’t there in K-3.
As far as higher than elementary school, my mom teaches junior high and loves it. Many people can’t understand, but my mom just has a certain type of personality, she’s able to have a great relationship with her students because of it – like they get her jokes and things like that – and she really loves it. My mom and I are similar, but being so young, 22, I just don’t think I could teacher higher than elementary right now. There are still some days that I think I have more in common with my 5th graders than my older co-workers, and for sure that would be the case if I taught kids in junior high. As far as high school, that was never even an option for me or on my radar. I prefer the type of interaction that being an elementary school teacher gives me, as opposed to being boxed into a subject.. Just nothing about high school was ever for me (including the age of the students).
This year I’ll be teaching 4th grade. I left the school for dyslexia after I received a verbal contract from my current school, only to be offered the job later. For personal reasons I decided to leave. I know that I would be somewhat happy if I had stayed, but I’m ready for a new challenge, as well. Even now, I still have no idea where I’ll end up, if I’ll stay in general or move over to special, what I’ll (hopefully) get my master’s in and maybe specialize in. It is very hard to say how you’ll feel after only spending a couple weeks at something. The first few weeks of being on any job are always the hardest and then it gets easier and you’re really able to tell how you feel. I still have no idea how I’ll even feel in general ed. 4th grade this year, as really, my experience thus far has been in special ed.
I just wanted to share my perspective, since I feel that I’ve really been a lot of different places on the education wheel throughout my short time studying it, and just to reassure you that if you do go to elementary it doesn’t necessarily mean you have to be ‘rainbows and sunshine’ all the time. 🙂