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Nine weeks in, new teachers settling down

POSTED: October 15, 2013 12:41 a.m.
Jennifer Sami/

Midway Elementary School teacher Megan Barton works with students in her classroom.

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It may seem as if the 2013-14 school year just began, but Forsyth County teachers are finishing up their nine-week progress reports.

For most of the system’s educators, it’s business as usual. For about 35 of their colleagues, however, it’s their first time entering the grades into the system.

It’s been a good mix of work and excitement for Kendall Robinson and Megan Barton, two first-time teachers introduced by the Forsyth County News in August.

With the majority of the school year ahead, both young women continue to be pleased with their career choice. They also love their students and feel they’re making a difference.

The FCN caught up with them last week.

 

Kendall Robinson

 

At 23, Robinson doesn’t look much older than some of the students she teaches math at South Forsyth High. But from day one, the new teacher has taken command of her classroom, managing to present the lesson while making sure students aren’t sleeping, playing on their phones or talking.

“I try to let them correct any behavior that’s not ideal before I call home,” Robinson said.

But there are a few parents who may be getting calls about repeat problems in the coming weeks.

It’s a delicate balancing act, largely with teaching the new Common Core standards, for which Robinson can’t draw on successful lessons from veteran teachers.

“With the curriculum, there’s not a whole lot ready to go ... we’ve had to create everything ourselves,” she said.

The math department works together to create similar lesson plans, meeting every Monday and before quizzes and tests. As a new teacher, Robinson said she mostly listens.

“If I feel strongly about something, I will speak up,” she said. “But generally I don’t say much because they’ve taught a lot of this before, so they know what’s going to work and what won’t.”

In addition to the meetings, early mornings and staying after school for students, Robinson said “it’s a miracle” if she leaves before 5 p.m. She then spends an hour or two working from home.

“I like to feel confident in what I’m doing,” she said.

And with the new standards, Robinson wants to ensure she’s ahead of her students, especially with certain problems she hasn’t solved since she was a student herself.

“There are a few things here and there that just because I haven’t seen them in so long, it’s almost brand new, to an extent,” she said.

Despite her daily open-door policy, Robinson hasn’t had as many students ask for help as she anticipated. Before a test, it may be about 10, but the rest of the weeks are not that busy.

It’s the same struggle during class, when students won’t ask questions. There also are lesson plans that don’t go as well as envisioned.

Her efforts may seem futile at times, but they’re not lost on her students.

Mindy DeMars said she wasn’t sure how Robinson would be as her teacher, but after the first day, she started “teaching us in better ways so now we’re able to understand quicker.”

“She’ll stay after school to help us all the time if we need help and you can just count on her to be there,” DeMars said.

 

Megan Barton

 

Megan Barton is happy to be teaching during the Internet age. If she’s been stuck on a lesson plan, she turns to dozens of resources for teachers to find hands-on learning activities.

Carolyn Salata, a student in Barton’s fourth-grade class at Midway Elementary, has noticed that effort.

“She likes making up games when we do math and reading, and she won’t always just give us worksheets,” Salata said.

Added classmate Charlie Pittman: “[Barton’s] very nice and awesome at teaching. She’s always having us do fun activities and all that stuff in class so we can learn and have fun.”

Barton said she likes to plan centers so the students are “always doing something different.”

“I try not to plan just a day of worksheets,” she said. “I think they definitely learn better when they’re involved, when they’re doing something.”

Like many teachers, Barton stays in school until about 5:30 p.m. and often takes work home with her.

“It does take a lot longer to plan than I originally thought,” she said, adding that her husband, Adam, has been supportive of her work from home. “He’s been cooking.”

In the classroom, Barton said her biggest challenge has been staying organized. It’s an ongoing process, with constant paperwork to print, grades to enter, books and projects.

But after nine-week testing, she’s learned her students have done well on their cumulative math and grammar skills — validation that her planning has yielded positive results.

It took a few weeks to settle into the technology. Entering grades, and information onto the shared platform took some work, Barton said. It’s one thing she hadn’t learned in school, however she picked up on it quickly.

She also spent a few weeks learning her students’ behaviors and what makes each one learn best. And while she did her student teaching in fifth grade, she said she’s fallen in love with fourth-graders.

“They’re old enough that they have a sense of humor and are fun, but they’re young enough that they don’t have that attitude quite yet,” she said. “Just last week I had a kid that asked me if I was going to move up to fifth grade [with them next year]. And it’s only October, so that was nice.”

Barton said she’s always wanted to be a teacher, but now that she’s had the experience, she enjoys it even more so.

“They really do become kind of your kids. I become protective over them and want to see them succeed,” she said.

 

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