'Stern but lovable'
© St. Petersburg Times
published October 20, 2002
CITRUS PARK -- She's only a few years older than the kids in her classes, but Adrianne Hall knows there is a world of difference between her world history students and herself. She's up there working.
"Anyone that goes into the teaching profession thinking it's easy? Well, it's not," says Hall, a first-year teacher at Sickles High School. "It's not an easy job at all. Especially if you want to be good at what you do. You have such an impact on kids."
Hall, a 22-year-old University of South Florida graduate, interned at Sickles last year, so she's no stranger to the classroom. But this year, for the first time, she's on her own.
"As a first-year teacher, we're starting from scratch, so it's very exciting," Hall says a week before classes start. "I'm anxious and I'm not afraid to say I'm a little bit scared. My expectations are high."
Off to a good start
Dressed in sharp gray slacks, a starched white blouse and black heeled shoes, Hall works the room like a pro on the first day. She has written "Welcome!!" on the blackboard as she takes the students through some housekeeping duties.
Hall is a "floater," a teacher without a set classroom. She spends her day in three different classrooms all over the Sickles campus -- 239, 904, 906. "If you ever need to find me, I'm in one of those places," she says.
She uses other teachers' classrooms when they have planning periods. This way schools can use more teachers than they have rooms.
Hall has 36 students in her midmorning class and after a few minutes, they settle into chitchat as they finish their paperwork.
"I need it to be as quiet as possible," Hall admonishes. "I need to call the roll one more time. Please correct me if I make a mistake on your name or want to be called something different."
"Brian Foster?" Hall says, waiting for a response.
"Here," Foster says. "Can you call me Tom?"
"Is that your middle name?" Hall asks.
"No, it's just a name I like," he replies.
'Don't smile' and other advice
Two weeks into the school year, Hall is finding her way. She spends the first two periods of the day getting ready for the days ahead, planning in the social studies office.
"When she was one of our interns, we just fell in love with her," says social studies department head Cindy Robinson. "She's stern but lovable. The kids adapt to her real well. She's consistent and fair."
Hall appreciates the kind words but doesn't let them go to her head. "I'm doing about 10 things at one time," Hall says. "I got up at 4:45 this morning to get here at 6, which gave me an extra hour. As a first-year teacher we have to start from scratch."
On top of her teaching duties, Hall also coaches the junior varsity cheerleading team, which keeps her busy.
One thing Hall learned as she was going through new teacher orientation was an old saw passed down through the years: "Don't smile until Thanksgiving." Somehow, that's supposed to let the students know you're serious. Hall considers it, along with the hundreds of other pieces of advice.
"You have to be who you are," she says.
Growing sense of confidence
Hall spends second period every day in the student services department, where she does data entry. Sitting in front of a computer, she keys in the office referral slips of students who have gotten into trouble. That "permanent record" the principal always warned you about? Hall is making new entries into it. Although it might seem like more scut work for rookie teachers, Hall says every teacher is assigned some task not related to his classes.
"My classes are going good," Hall says, six weeks into the year. "Actually, the time has flown. I can't believe how fast the time has gone by."
Hall says she has been able to establish a reliable routine. She's getting things done and can still breathe at the end of the day. And she has found her smile.
"I smile every day," Hall says, two months before Thanksgiving. "Oh, yeah, I smile every day. I always tell my kids there's a time to have fun and a time to be serious. I tell them they can be free, but within my boundaries.
"You have to smile every day. If you don't, the kids will think you don't enjoy what you're doing, that you value what you're doing, that you're actually into it."
With the smile has come a growing sense of confidence. It came about three or four weeks into the school year, when Hall reached her own make-or-break point.
"It took me getting to a point where I felt so overwhelmed," she says. "I said, "Take a breath, get a hold of yourself.' I realized I didn't have to do everything. I didn't have to be always perfect."
-- Logan D. Mabe can be reached at 269-5304 or at email@example.com.
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