Back-to-school: Teacher experiences

New entries added 8/23!

The State asked teachers around the Midlands to submit blog-style entries to this site about their experiences during the first week of school.

Carolina Springs Elementary: First Day

Submitted by Kristen Magee, a technology integration specialist at the school. Lexington 1 students returned to class Wednesday:

This school rocks! was the word in the cafeteria as students came through the lines for lunch on this first day at Carolina Springs Elementary School.We get to serve our own food. Its like a miniature Ryans! exclaimed another.The cafeteria was only one of the many highlights in the first day of our new school. Here’s a taste of our day.

6:50 The first school bus arrives. Eager and anxious students and parents arrive and gather in the cafeteria. Some eat breakfast. Others socialize and find friends. Everywhere are bookbags full of notebooks, tissues, glue sticks, pencils, and hand sanitizer ready for a great school year.

7:30 Students go to their homerooms and are greeted by their smiling, dedicated teachers who have worked extremely hard amongst the construction and other various workers to get their rooms prepared for this day. There are some familiar faces as some students and teachers knew each other from our feeder schools. We see some tearful mothers kissing their kindergarten children goodbye and although there is some first day of school confusion, there are lots of smiles and happy folks passing through the halls anticipating the first day in our beautiful new school.8:10 Morning announcements by our principal, Dr. Darrell Barringer, can be heard in most rooms as they are still working on a few of the rooms that were added to the ends of the wings during construction to accommodate our growing population of over 700 students.

8:10-11 a.m. Classes get down to business. Students go on tours of the school, get to know their classmates, read stories and go to their related arts classes. A second-grader summed it up when commenting on his day said, We learned all of the rules, but we also had fun!

1:11 p.m. Lunch. When a fifthgrader was coming down the lunch line taking one of just about everything that was offered, I asked her if she was excited about lunch. Ive been waiting for lunch all day! Similar comments were heard throughout the lunchroom. In response to the new fashioned plastic milk containers, I heard, Whoa! This is cool milk!Dr. B offered the students a choice of meat monkey meat, crocodile or duck. Fortunately, most of them stuck with the teriyaki beef or popcorn chicken on the menu. During lunch, we had our first lost tooth in the school by a first-grader, Cassidy. However, unfortunately it stayed lost, which was upsetting until Cassidy learned that she had lost the first tooth ever in the school.

12:25 p.m. Classes continue until dismissal.

2:25 Dismissal. As is always true on the first day of school, there was some confusion trying to get over 700 511 year olds to get to their bus, car, daycare van, or afterschool care. Is it the purple hall that we go down for daycare riders? Which bus is Susie kindergartner getting on? Shes taken off her bus number sticker!

But in less than an hour, all students had gone. Teachers met briefly to talk about the day. Overall, parents were pleasant and patient. Teachers were flexible which has been our word of the school. Everyone was excited. Although there were some minor glitches, the first day at Carolina Springs Elementary School went very well.

A kindergarten girl said it all when she was waiting to go home. She smiled and said, I thought school was going to be hard. But it wasnt. It was fun.

Carolina Springs Middle School: First Day

Submitted by literacy coach Mary Gaskins on Wednesday, the first day of classes for Lexington 1 students:


Just 11 days ago, Carolina Springs Middle School teachers began moving into classrooms and preparing for students. Already, weve established ourselves as a positive, supportive community. Staff members have been amazingly patient, positive, cooperative and flexible as the kinks of opening a new school work themselves out. We all feel so fortunate to work in such a beautiful facility.


The butterflies in my stomach increased with every bus stop I passed on the way to school. Seeing the kids anxiously await their first day of school caused me to become a little nervous. Kids arent the only ones who get firstday jitters.

When I arrived at school, I noticed teachers in their classrooms, taking care of lastminute details. Administrators were stationed throughout the campus in preparation for students arrival. Firstday shoes were obvious on many of the women. I was left wondering if those heels and pointy toes would last through lunch.


The first student arrived in the car rider circle at 6:45 a.m. He was greeted by the school principal then sent to the commons area, where he was soon joined by some of his school mates.

The students trickled in until 7:30 a.m., when the mad rush began. Principal Alan Zwart, our School Resource Officer and several teachers practiced their keep moving wave to control the traffic flow in the car rider circle. Music blared from cars in which students were dropped off by their older siblings.

Last minute questions and words of wisdom could be heard coming from most cars Do you have your schedule?, Have a great day, Smile.

Our principal was ready to answer questions and equipped with copies of forms that he anticipated parents would ask for during the drop off. I heard him say, Welcome to the first day of school to a number of students. Most responded with a nervous smile. Everything was going smoothly when the first bus appeared in the car rider circle. Then, a second bus. Of course, these are the types of glitches that work themselves out after the first few days of school.


Typically, the seventh and eighth graders know their way around a school, and its the sixthgraders who are new to a campus But this time, all of the students were in the same boat. Theyre all trying to become acclimated to the new campus. Perhaps this is why students were more than willing to let adults assist them as they navigated their way around the school.


Seventhgraders were the first to eat from the new kitchen in the new cafeteria (unless you count the wonderful breakfast that the support staff cooked for the teachers yesterday morning).

The students have been trained well. Upon arriving in the cafeteria, they quickly assembled into a long line. We immediately realized that they weren’t aware that they could choose from four different lines, according to their lunch preferences. It didn’t take long for the teachers and administrators to put their heads together and communicate the cafeteria systems to students. Once all students were seated, Mr. Zwart shared lunch and recess expectations with students. We became a little more organized with each lunch. All grades had one thing in common the pizza line was the most popular.

The only thing we ran out of at lunch was time. Each lunch was extended by a couple of minutes to allow students plenty of time to eat. We anticipated this and hope to get a little faster each day as staff and students become accustomed to the new facility and routines.


As I walked the halls, teachers in every classroom were explaining rules, routines and expectations to students. Some of them were taking advantage of the wonderful technology with which this new facility came equipped. We all know that the time we invest on establishing our expectations in the beginning will offer us quality instructional time later.

Get-to-know you activities seemed to be a firstday must. Ms. Bright, the drama teacher, had her students out of their seats in no time to play the Name Game. She explained the importance of being able to focus when on a theater stage. They practiced focusing by making eye contact with another student, saying his/her name and then tossing a ball in his/her direction. After students were a little familiar with the names of their classmates, the ball tossing became much faster.

In Ms. Howells class, the students played name aerobics. These are just two of the many community building activities that I observed today.


At the end of the day, students were dismissed by grade level to eliminate heavy traffic in the hallways. This allowed students the opportunity to easily navigate their way out of the building. Teachers were abundant in the hallways, car rider area and bus loop to ensure a smooth school dismissal and that is exactly what it was.

To prepare for an even better day tomorrow, the staff met briefly after school to discuss what we learned along the way today.

We were prepared to deal with any new school glitches, but honestly, we didnt have many to speak of. The first day in our beautiful new building was much like the first day in any middle school. Were off to a great start!

“The First Day of School — For Everyone”

Submitted by Benita Allene Esteen, a Language Arts teacher at Richland 2’s new Longleaf Middle:

Fifteen years ago, I could never have imagined that I would still be experiencing the first day of school.

I, however, have been blessed (or some may see it as a curse) to experience the first day of school over and over and over and over again.

My own personal circumstances have taken these first day of school jitters to a whole other level.

Not only is it truly the first day of school for me as a new Richland District 2 teacher, but it is my first day back to graduate school for the fall semester.

Words can’t explain the level of anxiety and excitement that I am feeling right now.

I will try my best to give you a quick glimpse into the world of “The First Day of School — for Everyone.”

7 a.m.: I anxiously arrive at the school, ready to meet my students. Although I have gotten very little sleep last night, I feel energized and ready.

7:20 a.m.: Students begin entering the building. They look at me strangely as I greet them with enthusiasm and excitement while welcoming them to Longleaf Middle School. Perhaps some of my enthusiasm will rub off on my students as they appear to drag into the classroom one by one.

8:45 a.m.: Surprisingly enough, things are going smoothly. Well, except for not being able to find my index cards to create lunch cards, everything has run like clock work. I spent so much time planning and preparing for my students that it bothers me that I cannot find those blasted index cards. I am embarrassed to admit I had to borrow index cards from a student. I must remember to replace his cards and bring him a thank you gift.

10 a.m.: Administrators and the principal have been in and out of the classroom. Even after five years of teaching, seeing them in my room still makes me a little nervous. It’s like being called to the principal’s office. I try not to think about it as I continue to bore my students to death talking about the rules. The students did seem to appreciate the welcome letter I presented them with. I can’t wait to read their letters they’ve written back to me. Using this strategy is a great way to really understand my students and appreciate them.

11:04 a.m.: It’s lunch time! By this time the students and I are ready for a break. We have had back-to-back classes and are all experiencing an overload. Usually lunch time is the time where, if something is going to go wrong, it will. Nothing does go wrong, the kids enjoy their lunch, and we return back to class.

1 p.m.: The students are dismissed to their enrichment classes. Now, as much as I love seeing my students every day, I love them just as much (if not more) watching them leave everyday. Working with kids is like an emotional rollercoaster. You are on this high while with them, but toward the end you feel yourself crashing.

2:20 p.m.: I made it! Hooray! “The First Day of School — For Everyone” is officially over. I survived, my students survived, and they actually seemed to enjoy being in my classroom. Despite my insecurities, frazzled nerves and butterfly-filled stomach, I could not have asked for a better day. I know that today is a great indication of the tone that has been set here at Longleaf Middle School. This first day of school for everyone is a day to remember as I continue this journey and look forward to the next “First Day of School for Everyone — Again.”

Esteen teaches eighth-grade Language Arts. She has been an educator for five years.

Dreher High: First Day

Submitted by principal Jeanne Stiglbauer

The 2007-08 school year opening went smoothly, even though the building is brand new and most of the students had never been inside before.

Our hats are off to all of the hard work of the staff members working through less than ideal conditions for the past week and weekend.

The transition of the teachers to the new building has taken place without a minute of lost instructional time. I was so proud of my teachers and students this morning for their positive attitudes and cooperation.

Through the efforts of staff and students, the tradition of excellence in academics was modeled throughout the school day.We have some logistical challenges with traffic flow inside and outside that will be studied and handled with time. With anything new, there is always a period of adjustment.

I would like to express my appreciation to district officials, the Board of Commissioners, and the community, which we serve for the continued support. We are so grateful and are awestruck by the beauty of our new building and facilities.

Dent Middle School: First Day

Submitted by principal Randall Gary, dean of academics Robin Hardy and Kelly Brown of the AVID program:

6:15 a.m.: Teachers are treated to coffee and doughnuts.

6:30 a.m.: First of the 34th Infantry Regiment Soldiers from Fort Jackson are briefed on procedures for assisting with morning duty traffic.

6:48 a.m.: First carpool students arrive.

6:49 a.m.: First buses arrive on campus.

7 a.m.: WLTX arrives to highlight the first day of school.

7:35 a.m.: Instructional day begins. Teachers welcome students and review expectations and procedures.

8:30 a.m.: Superintendent, Dr. Steve Hefner and Richland 2 School Board members Susan Brill and Stephanie Burgess, visit classrooms and tour the facility.

9:15 a.m.: WLTX interviews Kelly Brown, Teacher of the Week.

10:01-12:55 p.m.: Seven lunch periods!

1:45 p.m.: Fort Jackson soldiers arrive to assist with dismissal.

2 p.m.: Carpool line begins to form and Fort Jackson soldiers take position.

2:25 p.m.: Bus riders are dismissed!

2:30 p.m.: Car riders and walkers are dismissed!

2:50 p.m.: Faculty meeting is held in cafeteria.

3:30 p.m.: Carpool duty is over!

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