It's been 23 years since Patuxent Valley Middle School principal David Oaks has been in the classroom as a teacher.
But today, the former math and science instructor will be teaching a class of Patuxent Valley eighth-graders about Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet."
Mr. Oaks' turn as a teacher is part of Patuxent Valley's "Trading Places" day, in which school staff members switch jobs with a colleague for one day.
The plan was developed by the school's Human Relations Committee.
"The whole idea is to get the staff talking to one another, understanding one another and to see what everybody does in the classroom," said Bonnie Ritchie, the committee's chairwoman.
"We wanted to develop staff communication and have people feel that they're part of a team."
Ms. Ritchie, a sixth-grade language arts teacher at the Savage school, will be switching with Michele Doyle, who works with students in the gifted-and-talented program on research projects.
School staff members drew names out of a hat a few weeks ago to learn with whom they would be changing places.
Mr. Oaks is filling in for Leslie Bailey, a first-year teacher of English and reading.
K? Mr. Oaks said that, although Shakespeare isn't exactly "his
thing," he's looking forward to being back in the classroom.
"I'm usually in the classroom to observe somebody else and critique what they're doing," Mr. Oaks said.
When Ms. Bailey found out she was going to be principal for a day she joked that her first act would be to give raises to the teachers.
She's said she isn't nervous about taking on the top school job, noting that Mr. Oaks will take over should an emergency arise.
"You spend all day in your classroom, but you don't necessarily know what the other people in the building are doing at the same time," Ms. Bailey said.
"At least you can get a taste of what other people are going through every day," she said.
All county schools have human relations committees and one of their goals this year is to establish ways to promote more communication between staff members, Ms. Ritchie said.
Patuxent Valley's committee decided that having a "trading places" day would be one way to accomplish this goal.
"We wanted to celebrate the diversity of the community and the staff, and let students know that as a staff we are talking and communicating with each other," Ms. Ritchie said. "Hopefully, students will see that and find that it's easy to do themselves."
Colleagues met with one another before the trading-places day to go over lesson plans so things don't become chaotic, Ms. Ritchie said.
After classes end today, school staff members will meet to swap stories and discuss how the day went. At the next faculty meeting, on Feb. 22, staff members will have an opportunity to reflect further on the day and view a slide show capturing the switches, with pictures taken by students on the yearbook staff.
"I think in every profession you don't realize what the other guy is going through because you're so busy doing your own work," Mr. Oaks said.
"We need to take time to empathize and communicate with our neighbor," he said.