Energy in the halls. Excited greetings and reunions. Conversations full of summer vacations and catching up.
That’s how schools across the county looked August 23 when teachers returned for the start of the 2018-2019 school year.
This year, teachers had six days ahead of the students’ return to unpack and set up their classrooms. But that’s not all teachers do during those days.
At the beginning of each school year, teachers are met with an intense schedule of meetings, seminars and professional development opportunities.
Much information is packed into those six days: county and school strategic plans, school safety, equity planning, grade-level content, in-house training and much more, according to a team of teachers from Broadneck Elementary School.
“It is a lot of work on those teacher days, and we spend a lot of time making sure we have an idea of what students will need this year and if there is anything special that needs to be done,” said Jennie Merrill, a fifth-grade teacher at Severna Park Elementary. “We also spend a lot of time building a relationship with our grade-level team, as well as our school team.”
But the work doesn’t stop there. After a jam-packed day, teachers often stay after hours to set up their classrooms.
“We need to have the room ready to be inviting for students,” Merrill said.
This includes locker and name tags, seating arrangements, how supplies are organized, and making sure bulletin boards are up and ready. When arranging the room, teachers have to consider traffic flow, the placement of resources, and making sure there are appropriate spaces for both group work and individual needs.
“We treat our rooms as a home away from home, and we want the students to feel that comfortable,” said Nicole D’Ascoli, a fourth-grade teacher at Broadneck. “We aim to create the most comfortable, exciting learning environment.”
However, not all teachers are fortunate enough to have a consistent classroom. Many of the cultural arts teachers are assigned to multiple schools, making their back-to-school days and school year schedule even more hectic.
Dr. Dana Semos is a strings teacher at Arnold, Belvedere and Jones elementary schools. During back-to-school days, Semos said she tries to get to all three schools daily so she is up-to-date on schedule changes.
“If I find a school does not have a line for the copy machine, I usually stay at that school as long as I can because our program is heavy on the paperwork in the beginning,” Semos said.
Organization is key for Semos. She has to stay on top of three schools’ schedules, working with more than 30 classroom teachers to coordinate lesson times. She also has three classrooms to set up.
“The scheduling alone can take many hours to try and honor classroom teachers’ requests of when they prefer not to have students pulled for lessons,” Semos said.
As a music teacher, Semos uses the summer months to assign rental instruments to schools, clean up the instruments and check for any new repairs the instruments may need. She also chooses all of the music for both of the concerts during the summer so she has ample time to make copies and provide her advanced students with their music as soon as possible.
At the end of the long days of meetings and preparation, teachers are more excited for students to return.
“I look forward to coming back because it is a new beginning and I can't wait to see what gifts the students will bring to the table,” Merrill said. “It is never the same as the year before and it is exciting to think of all the fun we will explore together.”