School might not be in session yet, but that doesn’t mean the halls of the local learning institutions are empty. Teachers awaiting the new school year were setting up their rooms and preparing lesson plans Thursday as they begin to shift into gear.
“It shows they’re dedicated to the students,” said Trish Klock, a social studies teacher at Helena High. “They want their classrooms ready when the students come in.
“We definitely don’t have summers off; that’s a joke.”
A group of faculty and staff had collected in Helena High’s lounge, sharing stories and eating lunch, much like they would during a normal school day. School begins Tuesday for first- through sixth-graders and ninth-graders at Helena and Capital High. PAL students will also begin Tuesday, while the rest of the students start the following day.
Klock was among the faculty who had taken a break to chat, but said she’s spent the past two days at work, hanging and updating bulletin boards, putting together files for new students and checking out class lists.
She has placed everything in its spot, including the soft lounge chair tucked under the blackboard at the front of the room.
“I’m definitely OCD organized,” she said. “It’s very important for me because then I feel like I’m not running around like a chicken with my head cut off.”
Entering her fifth year of teaching — fourth at the high school — the part-time cheer coach said she’s learned how to be more efficient with her time. She knows when to give herself more time teaching one assignment versus another. She’s also learning how to deal with the growing amount of students and budget crunches every school deals with today.
“I think class size is a big concern, especially since Helena High is at its max,” she said. “We can’t fit any more.”
Certain subjects will be stretching their resources, sharing textbooks or passwords for online lessons. It’s something every teacher is learning to deal with.
“Teachers are getting more creative with the lessons,” she said.
They’re also known for spending their own money to help with their goals.
Clay Burkett is nearing 20 years at Helena High, which makes it easier when he needs to drop a couple of hundred dollars per year on supplies.
“I make more money than I used to,” he said.
For now, that will go into sprucing up his classroom, which he had hoped to have painted by Thursday. When he walked in and saw the bits of bare wall where chips of white paint had fallen off, he knew he would have to wait a little longer to hang up some of his favorite posters.
“We’ll send another email to the person in charge,” he said, shrugging his shoulders. “There’s nothing I can do now.”
He wants to be able to hang his collection of Beatles CD covers, which have been framed in glass. He has a number of other items, photos of his family, outdoors posters or sports memorabilia — items that express his interests and can help the kids relate to him.
“You want a good workspace, not just for you but for the students,” he said.
After all, teachers aren’t just there to teach. Sometimes, they’re the first person a student will go to when in trouble or dealing with problems at home.
“I think I’ve had every scenario thrown at me as possible,” Klock said.
She’s learned that with some students the comfy chair in the room acts as bit of positive reinforcement. Do well in your work and do your studying from a comfortable seat instead of the plastic and steel students are given. Sometimes, it will help an antsy student to sit still.
The students’ learning is the most important thing, after all.
“Contrary to what some people think, you actually want kids to do well and succeed,” Burkett said as he sifted through the materials.
He pulled out the photo of his family, including a daughter who will be attending the school, and another favorite item — a magnet with John Wayne’s mug on it.
It’s Burkett’s version of a motivational poster and has the quote often credited to The Duke as saying: “A man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.”
Teachers know that all too well.
Jeff Windmueller: 447-4005 or email@example.com