New Teachers Get Support in Preparing for First Day of School

Sarah Dougherty speaks to new teachers during a Demonstration Class held at Perkins Elementary School.

Were it not for the setting of the art room at Perkins Elementary a visitor might have guessed that the small group Sarah Dougherty was speaking to was made up of aspiring models because her remarks were sprinkled with advice about modeling.

But the note-takers scattered around the table aren’t preparing to walk the runway. No, the task they’re facing is far more important and subject to scrutiny than that. They’re all new teachers, just days away from taking command of their own classrooms and Dougherty, the district’s Visual Arts Coordinator and a veteran teacher at both the elementary and secondary levels, was at their service to offer pointers and field questions based on that proverbial best teacher of all – experience. On this day her pupils were colleagues.

“As you anticipate your first day of school,” Dougherty counseled, “just try to imagine what it will feel like for your kids. If you’ve got kindergartners, they’ll be like a roomful of puppies and you’ll have to show them how to do everything.”

Similar sessions were scattered all around the district on Wednesday in the second installment of what’s going to be an annual part of new teacher orientation and training. New DMPS teachers are also assigned mentors in their buildings and there is an orientation expo held for their benefit that’s a clearinghouse for things they’ll all have in common as district employees. But the small group demonstration classroom sessions are designed around subject areas and loosely structured to allow ample opportunity for give and take between the vets and the rookies.

Everybody’s been trained and certified in their subject area. But what about the nuts and bolts of seating arrangements and learning names and rules of the room? What about building logistics and tricks learned in the actual practice of the trade and professional secrets? The teachers-to-be had as many questions as they’ll be expected to answer starting next week.

“If you set-up your room efficiently you’ll save enough time during the year to deliver lots more content,” Dougherty tells the new hires. “And your extra duties (cafeteria, recess, buses, etc.) can be a good time to help you put names with faces.” The name thing is a particular challenge for the specials teachers like the ones Dougherty was assigned. They’re all art, music and P.E. teachers who have contact with every kid in school, but not daily. And some of them are assigned to multiple buildings.

All of Dougherty’s suggestions came fortified with examples from her own years in the classroom. There really is no substitute.

“Tell them about you. It will help you get to know them if they feel like they know you,” she advised. “Do you have a dog? They’ll want to know all about your dog!”

Peggy Krentz is the district’s Teacher Development Coordinator and she says last year’s participants in the inaugural demo classroom activity reported that it was extremely valuable to them on the verge of their first days at the helm of a class.

“We’re making it better every year,” Krentz promised.

Of course – that’s what teachers do.

Photos from a Teacher Demonstration Classroom

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