Teachers head to school early to prepare
By Monique Harrison
Although her students won't return to the classroom until Monday, Baldwyn Elementary teacher Peggy Gardner has been working 10-hour days for the last week.
"There is a lot of work to be done," the first-grade teacher said. "We spend a lot of time during the day in workshops and then we have some time set aside to work in our classrooms. But that time really isn't enough. You come early and you stay late to get it all done. It's understood that that's what you do the week before school starts."
Teachers across Northeast Mississippi have been attending annual workshops and staff meetings designed to prepare them for the start of a new school year.
In Lee County Schools, teachers were in training Thursday, with registration held Friday. Teachers will resume training on Monday and classes will begin Tuesday.
"This is a time when teachers are given the information they need to start the year," said Lee County Schools Secondary Curriculum Coordinator Wanda Dzikielewski. "Teachers look at the new curriculum - at state changes and what they will be teaching this fall. They are looking at the new books and talking about the changes. It's a busy time."
Lee County also sponsored a variety of workshops, including one designed to help teachers identify the symptoms of student drug or alcohol abuse.
Tupelo Public Schools teachers returned to school on Wednesday, with students starting class Aug. 14.
Most elementary teachers spent at least a portion of their training time in workshops designed to help them use the district's new reading program.
The program relies heavily on readers and workbooks. Handwriting and spelling are also emphasized.
"There is a lot of material here that teachers must be familiar with when school starts," said Tupelo Public Schools Director of Curriculum David Meadows. "The training they are receiving here is extensive."
Several districts also held workshops designed to help teachers emphasize writing skills across the curriculum, instead of solely in English classes.
The workshops typically begin by discussing what some experts see as the necessity of requiring students to write in all of their classes.
Teachers are then given examples of ways they can push students to write in classes ranging from social studies to math.
"Our teachers are talking a lot about writing and how to get students to be more comfortable about their writing," said Nettleton Public Schools Superintendent Larry Williams.
Several districts are also requiring teachers to participate in technology workshops.
In Nettleton, for example, teachers will have access to a new computer system that allows them to punch their grades and attendance reports into a computer that is networked into the administrative office.
"They are doing about two and a half days of training on the computers so they will be ready to use them when school starts," Williams said.
When they aren't hammering out curriculum changes designed to improve test scores, teachers are participating in meetings with administrators or members of their department.
"Teachers are talking about their goals and about the year ahead with each other and with administrators," Dzikielewski said. "It's a way to prepare for what everyone hopes is a successful year."