Carroll students learn what it's like to teach

April 11, 1994|By Anne Haddad | Anne Haddad,Sun Staff Writer

When he was in elementary school, Dave Orvis didn't know any other boys who wanted to be teachers.

But Dave wanted to be one so badly that he'd swipe used work sheets from the school trash so he could create lessons and play school at home, with his mother and brother volunteering as students.

"I've seen the kind of society we live in and how it's being messed up," said Dave, 13, a seventh-grader at Westminster West Middle School. "The kids who are out on the streets or [hanging out] at drugstores -- I want to help them find a career or find a better life."

But because no other boys wanted to be teachers, "I didn't tell anyone about it. I was embarrassed," said Dave, son of Karen and Richard Orvis of Westminster.

Now, he and 35 other seventh-graders from around Carroll County are sharing their dreams of being teachers, and getting training and practice through a program devised by West Middle language arts teacher Dick Thompson.

Mr. Thompson got the idea two years ago to start a 10-week evening course for seventh-graders who are thinking of careers in teaching.

They learn how to plan lessons, write work sheets and teach a class. Teachers visit to speak about their jobs. The class rotates at three different middle schools, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. for 10 consecutive Thursdays.

Students will complete the current course with a convocation Wednesday at West Middle School.

They said the course gives them an entirely different perspective -- that of the teacher.

"Like field trips," said West seventh-grader Jenny Larkin, who said she has a new appreciation for her teachers.

"Before, I thought it was just something you went on for fun. Now I think, 'They took all that time to do this for us,' " said Jenny, daughter of Steve and Debbie Larkin of Westminster.

Kim Schlipper, 12, another classmate who took the 10-week course, used to play school and teach her little sister, now 9.

"Or just nobody," she said. "I still teach, pretend."

Like all the students, Kim has favorite teachers who influenced her.

"They did a good job, and they were nice and they tried to work with you," said Kim. She is the daughter of Mary Sue and John Schlipper of Westminster. Mrs. Schlipper is a physical education teacher at three schools.

Before they finish the course Wednesday, all the students will have taught a class. Some were able to teach a whole day of classes.

This summer, most of the students also will spend 50 hours as teaching assistants in the elementary summer school program at Westminster Elementary School.

Mr. Thompson, who has spent his entire 21-year career at West Middle, has received the county's teacher of the year award and the Chamber of Commerce's outstanding teacher award.

"I felt like I wanted to give something back to the profession," Mr. Thompson said.

He wanted to encourage students interested in teaching, the way scientists, musicians or other professionals might encourage children in their fields.

"I think we have to start a lot earlier than high school," Mr. Thompson said. "If you ask teachers today when they decided they wanted to be teachers, I think the vast majority would tell PTC you, 'Early.' I wanted to be a teacher early on, in grade school."

Mr. Thompson doesn't like the way movies and television shows sometimes portray teachers.

"Frequently, they're portrayed as idiots," Mr. Thompson said.

The movie "Ferris Bueller's Day Off" is one that makes him bristle. The stereotype of a teacher as a sitting duck for student pranks leads to students such as Dave being embarrassed to acknowledge they want to teach, Mr. Thompson said.

Dave said he would only teach middle school. Never high school.

"Not in a million years," he said. "Elementary school, they're too young and they're a little immature. But high school, they're just crude. You should hear my brother's stories."

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