WESTMINSTER — Like other new and beginning teachers who entered Carroll classroomslast week, Becky Davis was nervous.
Her anxiety and that of othernew teachers, perhaps, was never more evident than at a luncheon with school staff and board members held three days before the first dayof classes.
"Sure, I'm nervous about the first day," said Davis, a Westminster High School graduate who is now a kindergarten teacher at Winfield Elementary.
The luncheon came during the final day of a week-long program aimed at alleviating those anxieties and preparing new teachers for class.
"If you do not feel overwhelmed or intimidated by what is expected of you, you are in a minority," Superintendent R. Edward Shilling told a group of about 100 new teachers.
Research, school officials said, shows the strain and tension felt by beginning teachers is a type of "culture shock" and goes far beyond ordinary fatigue associated with starting a new job.
To help teachers make the transition into the classroom, Carroll, like other school districts across the state, initiated a beginning-teacher program four years ago.Carroll was one of several school districts selected by the State Department of Education for pilot programs.
The state provided school district staff with training and technical support, said Gaye Brown, chief of the staff development branch of the State Department of Education.
The response to Carroll's beginning-teacher program from new hires and prospective employees during recruiting trips to colleges and universities in the Mid-Atlantic region is overwhelmingly positive.
"It's been really beneficial," said Wendy McNeave, also a Westminster High School graduate and now a first-grade teacher at William Winchester. "It's been worthwhile."
The program is held the week before the return of the entire staff. Teachers are introduced to the system, principals and supervisors, tour school communities and attend in-service programs on curriculum, behavior management and system resources.
The program also teaches some very basic things, suchas where to find a box of chalk in the school resource area or wherethe nearest bank is located to cash a check, said Gary E. Dunkleberger, director of staff and curriculum development.
"If (teachers) can come in and do the things they need to do right from the start, itbenefits kids," Dunkleberger said. "I think people leave (the program) feeling that as a school system we care about them."
The program, though, doesn't end with the beginning of school. In October, for example, new teachers will observe experienced teachers in classroomsto pick up tips on instruction and behavior management.