Anxious teachers face calm before the storm of students

Instructors busy preparing classrooms for first day

August 25, 1999|By Erika D. Peterman | Erika D. Peterman,SUN STAFF

The Clarksville Elementary School halls are empty and quiet on this summer afternoon, except for the occasional tap of a shoe against the shiny tile.

On Monday, that will change as more than 400 pupils emerge from school buses and minivans, filling Clarksville's classrooms and embarking on the academic year, a scene that will be repeated across the Baltimore region.

For teachers, that means a final sprint of preparation -- decorating bulletin boards, swapping ideas with other teachers and doing mental run-throughs of the first day. These last hours before the first bell rings are the calm before the storm.

"I guess it is a very anxious time," says Ryan Schaaf, a new third-grade teacher at Clarksville.

Schaaf is among the thousands of Maryland teachers preparing for that first bell.

Public schools open Monday in Baltimore and in Howard, Carroll, Anne Arundel and Baltimore counties. Harford County schools open Sept. 2.

Before the big day, teachers are taking advantage of the dwindling quiet time to get their classrooms in order.

As Eric Clapton's "Change the World" wafts from a small portable stereo in her Clarksville classroom, first-year teacher Meghan Hearn arranges colorful laminated decorations that will become teaching tools such as a "word wall" for the first-graders she will teach.

"Everything I put up is like, `Are they going to like this?' " says Hearn. "My son is going to be here later on this afternoon to give me the once-over."

Hearn spent nine years in retail management before deciding to get a master's degree in education and become a teacher.

"The hours are horrible," she says of retailing. "You're never done there. With education and learning, you're never done either, but you've touched somebody."

Down the hall, Schaaf is readying a cramped, shared space that he will use before his class moves into a portable classroom. He has a new teacher's anxieties: "You're going to be overwhelmed at first," he says. "There are a lot of people here for you, a lot of aid."

Pub Date: 8/25/99

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