Rookie survives first day on job Classroom jitters affect novice teacher at Gorman Crossing

August 25, 1998|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

The kids don't arrive for another hour, but Mary Hanna is pacing her classroom, going over the list of things that woke her up in the middle of the night, and, appropriate for an elementary school teacher, agonizing over her handwriting.

Hanna, 21, a brand-new teacher at the brand-new Gorman Crossing Elementary School in North Laurel, considers the phrase "Remember to Order Lunch," which is written in somewhat crooked cursive on her chalkboard.

"Oh, that looks terrible," she muttered to herself, rushing to rewrite it. "OK, that's much better."

On her first day as a science and language arts teacher in charge of 22 fifth-graders yesterday, Hanna started the day as excited and nervous as, well, a new student. Would she run out of things to do? Would the kids be bored?

School begins at 9: 05 a.m. Hanna has been here since 7.

The first day has "run through my head so many times now. There are so many things to go over," Hanna said. "I was never this nervous student teaching. Now, it's like, I'm the only [teacher] in the room. There is no easing into it."

She spent the last week trimming the walls with calendars, a "helping hands" board, a birthday caterpillar and other cheerful bulletin boards and paper decorations. Is it any wonder she was laminating them in her dreams?

A veteran teacher pokes her head into Hanna's room: "Are you ready? How pretty you look today."

Only a few more minutes.

"They're coming," Hanna said, stealing a glance at the clock. "This is the first time I've ever had butterflies."

"This is exciting," said teacher Nancy Cornelius, Hanna's fifth-grade team leader.

"This is very exciting," said Brian Parise, a fellow rookie teacher.

The hallway begins to fill with chatter. With a big smile and a bright, energized teacher's voice, Hanna officially welcomes her backpack-laden charges to class.

"All right, everybody is here this morning. That's great," Hanna said. "Good morning. My name is Miss Hanna. I'm so excited to have you all here. We're going to have so much fun."

Hanna's career path was clear early. She used to ask for extra copies of assignments so she could take them home and use them to teach her lined-up stuffed animals.

"I never had a doubt in my mind. I was really lucky," said Hanna, a 1994 graduate of Ellicott City's Centennial High School and a 1998 Towson University graduate. "I love kids. I knew I wanted to work with kids."

She also knew what kind of teacher she wanted to be -- one who knew her students and made learning exciting. She wanted to come back to Howard County.

"At this older level, kids really need to be involved," she said. "They're so excited. You need to just field that. They want to learn. Gosh, grab them while they're hot."

With her youthful face and spray of brown freckles, Hanna looks like the big sister of many of her students. During her student teaching at a middle school, one student, slightly perplexed, asked, "Are you one of us?"

"I definitely saw the benefits [of being youthful] at the middle school," Hanna said. "I still remember middle school very clearly. As long as you can remember what it's like to be a kid."

After morning activities and a review of the rules, Hanna unveils her "me bag," a paper sack filled with items that describe her. A miniature Dr. Seuss book (she loves to read and collects Dr. Seuss books), a stuffed yellow and blue fish (she loves fish and aquatic themes) and a sample wedding invitation.

"You want to get married?" a girl asked.

"This summer I will be getting married," Hanna explained. "I won't be Miss Hanna anymore."

The students are attentive and eager. So far, so good.

Sue Hampshire, a special education resource teacher, said Hanna and Parise have the composure and self-confidence of old hands.

"If I hadn't known they were new teachers, I wouldn't have taken them for new teachers," Hampshire said.

In the cafeteria, Hanna eats most of her lunch standing up, moving from table to table, chatting with students and helping oversee rows of fifth- graders. She guides a lost fourth-grader to recess before ushering her students outside.

"I think there's a lot more little things that I didn't think about," Hanna said, gathering a basket filled with empty lunch cases. "Things are taking longer. Just getting them into those routines is going to take longer than I thought."

After the children return red-cheeked from recess, Hanna reads aloud from the book "Be A Perfect Person In Just Three Days," closing the first chapter with a cliffhanger. The students line up quickly and quietly for a practice fire drill and work on a project, making up classroom rules using the names of candy bars: "Reach for the Milky Way in Reading" and "Keep Your Butterfingers to Yourself."

The day has sped by. At 2: 30, the students are treated to a schoolwide assembly. A group of teachers dance onstage, flanked by the school mascot -- an inflatable alligator.

Then it's back to the classroom and time for one more story, "The Fidget Family," before Hanna's first day draws to a close.

"I think I'm really relieved," Hanna said as the last student filed out. "I'm definitely not as nervous about tomorrow."

Pub Date: 8/25/98

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