New Teachers Get Helping Hand As School Year Starts

Long Road From Sales Ends In Classroom

September 08, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

SILVER RUN — It is the third day of school, and the morning routine in Kerry Markert's fifth-grade class at Charles Carroll Elementary School is set.

Today's schedule, which includes physical education and health, isprinted neatly on a chalkboard in the front of the classroom. Like on other days, a warm-up writing exercise and two sentences, grammatically incorrect and without punctuation, also have been written on theboard.

But before Markert, one of more than 100 new teachers in the Carroll school system, begins class discussion about the exercises, she introduces Nick Mitchell, a boy who just moved here from Baltimore.

"I hope you'll make Nick feel real welcome," Markert, dressed in matching black slacks and blouse, tells the class. "Make sure some of you eat lunch with him and play with him. I'm sure you'll all do that."

Nick smiles as the voice of Principal Robert Bruce, also new to the school, bellows over the intercom system to announce the day's birthdays, which include one of Markert's other pupils, Bruce Jinkins, who has turned 10.

His classmates clap after the Westminster youth's name is mentioned.

Markert smiles.

After singing "The Star-Spangled Banner," with music and voice piped in over the intercom system, and reciting the Pledge of Allegiance, directed at a small flag near the door, pupils and teacher are ready to begin the day's lessons -- at last.

"If a teacher really wanted to find out what you thought and felt, how could she best go about getting to know you?" Markert asks the pupils, whose desks she has clustered in groups of six around the room.

Hands rise.

"Go to their house and have dinner," offers Mike Kim, a 10-year-old from Westminster.

"Write a letter,"suggests another child.

It may be only three days into the schoolyear but Markert already has some understanding of the mix of pupilsbefore her. There are 26 children in her class, including six who are receiving special education services.

On the first day of school, she did an interest survey, asking her pupils to finish sentences like, "I wish people wouldn't . . ." or "I wish my mother . . ." on notebook paper.

"It gave me some real insight into the kids," Markert says. "Some said stuff like, 'I wish my dad was home more' or 'I wish people wouldn't underestimate me' or 'I wish my parents still lived together.' "

She pauses, then adds, "How do you reach everybody without 25 different approaches?"

One boy, she says, already has shown low self-esteem.

Another boy has a talking problem. "I don't think he can help it," she says. "I'm going to have to work with him on an individual basis."

Talking is a concern in the classroom. Asthe noise level escalates each day, the teacher's voice grows more stern.

"Classroom management is a real concern," she says. "They seem to be a real talkative group. I don't want to quash them, but I can't have all this talking. It's just too much."

By noon the third day, she has handed out several check marks for inappropriate behavior, such as talking or playing with rulers.

She is practicing groupparticipation in classroom management. Each group of desks has decided upon a number of checks it is allowed to receive each week before a trip to the treasure chest is canceled.

The treasure chest is filled with inexpensive items like baseball cards and stickers. Pupils are allowed to choose one item each Friday, provided their group has not matched the quota of checks.

"It's positive reinforcement," she says.

Markert, 37, has wanted to be a teacher for about as long as she can remember.

When she graduated from Georgia State University in Atlanta in the 1970s, there were few teaching jobs available. Her undergraduate degree in English literature didn't do much for hercareer, and she wound up in a series of sales jobs until she returned to school in 1987 to get her teaching certificate.

She earned the certificate at the University of Colorado in Denver, but after moving to Maryland last year, she learned she needed more credits. She spent last year obtaining those credits at Frederick Community College while substitute teaching in the Frederick County school system.

"I've been looking forward to this for a long time," she says about being a full-time classroom teacher. "This is where I'm supposed to be.I'm so thrilled to be here. I'm truly excited about teaching."

Teaching, she says, allows her to be independent and creative. She has a set of guidelines to follow about what fifth-graders should learn, such as integrated language arts, math, spelling and science, but shedetermines how she will implement learning in the classroom.

"It's a chance to express creativity," she says. "You get to work with people and do something worthwhile. Other jobs I've had didn't give me that satisfaction. Teaching will."

The transition from saleswoman to classroom teacher was eased by the year she spent as a substitute teacher and by the Carroll school system's beginning teacher program.

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