September 29, 1991|By Greg Tasker | Greg Tasker,Staff writer

GAMBER — When you break the rules at Mechanicsville Elementary School, second-grader Timmy Dorsey says, you go to the principal's office.

That's just what Principal Robert Bonner suspected that elementary pupils like Timmy might think of him. Students who size him up as someone who hands out papers or makes announcements weren't particularly surprising, either.

Well, maybe a little.

The 45-year-old Bonner did spend a day on roller skates last year after the students read for more than a million minutes in a school-wide reading program.

The stunt may have increased his visibility, but it didn't dispel myths about school principals.

Bonner, though, may take care of that this academic year as he steps into each of the school's 28 classrooms to teach a lesson.

A former teacher who has been principal at Mechanicsville for eight years, Bonner went before the chalkboard in Jennifer Reisig's classroom Wednesday to teach simple addition and subtraction.

"It's pretty weird having him as a teacher," Timmy says."We've never had theprincipal teach before."

Bonner said teaching will increase his visibility among the school's 530 students, whom he hopes will see himas someone more than just a principal.

"I think it will have a positive effect," he said.

The idea of having Bonner teach a lesson in each classroom came from a school improvement committee of the principal, teachers and parents.

"Principals are often seen by kids as someone to go see when you get in trouble," says Amy Webb, elementary guidance counselor. "We would like them to see the principal as someone who can help them learn."

When the lessons are completed, Webb believes students will see the principal as someone they know and like. The trepidation some may have when they are sent to Bonner's office should then subside, she said.

For his math lesson, Bonner --who has taught each elementary grade level in either Baltimore or Carroll schools -- followed guidelines set forth by Reisig, who left the classroom during his instruction.

"She let me know what they're doing and where they are in the program," Bonner said. "I used it to outline how I wanted to teach."

His lesson was filled with enthusiasm and positive reinforcement.

"What do we think about when we think of this problem," Bonner asked the students, while pointing to a math equation. "Let me tell you what I think about. I think about thethe largest number I have and how many I need to add on to get the answer."

When a student gave the correct response to an addition problem, Bonner asked the youth to explain his answer.

"You started with how many?" Bonner asked.

"Three," the boy replied.

"How many did you add," the principal asked.

"Two," the boy said.

"Great. What a way to stick up for your answer and follow through with what you thought," Bonner said.

Afterward, the principal divided students into groups -- some played math board games, while others pushed buttons on calculators. Bonner focused his attention on helping others with addition and subtraction.

The math lesson went well, but Bonner conceded that teaching art and music may be more difficult since those subject areas are outside his realm.

"I cannot play a musical instrument," he said. "I might have to relate something like music appreciation or have the teacher plan something a novice could teach."