September 4, 2013

First day of school nerve-racking for teachers, too

The Press Herald follows a South Portland teacher on her first day with a classroom of her own.

By Leslie Bridgers
Staff Writer

SOUTH PORTLAND – Sarah Glenn did everything she could to ease her nerves.

click image to enlarge

Sarah Glenn calls on one of her students on Tuesday, September, 3, 2013 at South Portland's Memorial Middle School on her first day as a teacher.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

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Sarah Glenn meets with one of her eighth-grade science classes on Tuesday, September, 3, 2013 on her first day as a teacher.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer

Additional Photos Below

She went to bed early, had an outfit ready and packed her lunch the night before.

She got to Memorial Middle School an hour before classes started Tuesday, so she'd have time to connect her iPad to the projector and work out any problems that arose.

But before she got in the door of the Wescott Street school, her tote of binders – one of four bags of supplies she was carrying– broke in the parking lot and spilled onto the pavement.

She feared it was a sign of things to come that day – her first as a full-time teacher with a classroom of her own.

"I took it as a bad omen," she said with a smile.

Tuesday was the first day of school in many districts in southern Maine, but students weren't the only ones with the jitters. As students nervously entered new schools and advanced to new grade levels, some of their teachers were starting new careers. The Portland Press Herald followed Glenn around Tuesday to see the first day of school through the eyes of a first-time teacher.

Glenn, 24, finished her master's degree in education at the University of Southern Maine in May and, a month later, got the job offer in South Portland. Since then, she's been preparing herself for Tuesday.

She got a key in August to Room 308, on the third floor to the right of the stairs and possibly the hottest room in the 46-year-old building.

She put up posters on the pale yellow walls, including the periodic table and a picture of a jet taking off with "AWESOMENESS" written below.

On a corkboard by her desk hang pictures of Glenn with her friends and her husband and her Boston terrier, Bruno. A felt flower is wrapped around the faucet of the lab bench at the front of the room.


Glenn's real passion is science, which she studied as an undergraduate at the USM. She's teaching three eighth-grade classes on that subject and one on language arts. But first was homeroom.

"Let's get started," Glenn said, as her 23 students sat down at their desks, the boys on one side and the girls on the other.

"Who had a hard time getting up this morning?" she asked.

Hands went up, including Glenn's.

"That was probably the hardest part for me, for sure," she said.

Glenn took attendance and, a couple of times, had to ask the class to keep the chatter down. She handed out paperwork for parents, licking her forefinger before grabbing each sheet off the top of the pile and giving it to the students, who walked up to her desk one by one, their unscuffed sneakers squeaking on the tile floor.

After accompanying her home-room students to an eighth-grade assembly, Glenn had her first language arts class. And before the period ended, she knew all of their names, a track record she maintained throughout the day, during which three different Tylers walked through her door.

Each of her classes watched a presentation projected on a screen in front of the room. It included pictures of Glenn's pets -- Bruno and a cat named Margarita that Glenn told them she doesn't particularly like -- as well as a list of her expectations for their behavior during class: be prompt, positive, polite, prepared and productive.

"I hope this is the most I'll talk all year," she told them. "I don't like to stand up here and lecture."

She also doesn't like giving out tons of homework, Glenn told them, and won't assign a lot unless class time isn't productive.

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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Sarah Glenn, on lunch room duty on her first day, monitors students during the eighth grade lunch on Tuesday, Sept. 3, 2013.

John Ewing / Staff Photographer


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