As a lifelong (well, 17 year) veteran of the secondary school environment, it has been a new experience to be housed within an elementary for part of each school day. I have done plenty of modeling and coaching of lessons at that level, but it was always a get-in-and-get-out proposition. At first, I wasn't very comfortable in those buildings. Being "stuck" in a room with 25 small beings day after day sounded like it belonged somewhere in Dante's vision of Hell. Elementary teachers didn't talk about the same things as secondary teachers and it was difficult to connect. What I've learned over the last five years or so is that (a) most elementary teachers have more instructional expertise than secondary and that (b) their professional conversations tend to be far more interesting. I'm still not sold on the "all the same kids all day, every day" concept, but other than that, elementary schools have got it goin' on.
One result of all of these recent experiences is a discovery that greatly surprises me: First Grade is A Happy Place for me. When I visit a first grade classroom, there is just something that completely lifts my teacher soul. This is not to say that these rooms are full of 6-year old angels. They most definitely are not---but the difference is that the kids aren't acting out with the goal of pushing the teacher's buttons. They are just kids in the process of learning what school is all about. Sometimes, they can't help allowing their imaginations to envision pencils as swords and have a small battle with their neighbour across the desks. Some have undesirable behaviors because situations at home are not the best. There are all manner of reasons, but you never get the sense that the kids are misbehaving because they're jerks. First grade is about celebrating the small accomplishments---like reading a book or finishing a test. It's a place where learning is visibly scattered on the floor, across desks, and over walls. When I need a little pick-me-up in my day, a few minutes in first grade is all I need to get me going again---a secret garden to step inside for a bit.
But don't tell the other secondary teachers or they'll all want one. :)