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Names, rules focus of first day at school


ONE OF THE mysteries of the opening of school is how quickly good teachers know their kids' names. Some of them do it even before the first day. It's one of those teacher talents like having rear vision.

Now Lorraine Harmon, a second-grade teacher at Jessup Elementary School in Anne Arundel County, reveals the secret. During the summer, she studied Jessup's 1999-2000 yearbook, memorizing the photos of her 20 charges this fall.

Nineteen showed up for her class yesterday at Jessup, which opened a few days later than the rest of Arundel schools because of a renovation project. Harmon knew them all, including a pair of twins and another twin separated this year from her sister. There are 11 boys and eight girls, one of whom firmly rejected a kiss thrown her way by a classmate during cafeteria orientation.

Here's stuff I didn't know -- or had forgotten -- about the rules of second grade:

Stand in a straight line and face the school after you've left in a fire drill. Jessup held one yesterday, like a life boat drill on the first evening of an ocean cruise.

Five at a time on the playground monkey bars. If you're the sixth, you have to wait patiently for a vacancy. Don't play in the bushes during recess. There's danger of bugs and poison ivy.

Two at a time to the lavatory.

Then there's the Kleenex quotient. Harmon says there's no telling how much tissue her kids will sniffle through during the year. Each child is required to bring a box to school, and the teacher collects them, creating a mountain of tissue that is consumed as needed.

Tissue consumption depends on the number of colds, says Harmon. "If we have a bunch of colds, I could go through all of that in a week," Harmon says. "If we don't, it could last a long time."

Mayor shares lessons found in picture book

Mayor Martin O'Malley read a book titled "Hard to be Six" yesterday at City Springs Elementary School in East Baltimore. In the picture book, a 6-year-old boy wants to do things his 10-year-old sister can. His grandmother gives him perspective by teaching him the words on his grandfather's gravestone: "Don't rush life," "Make life count," "Pass on love."

"I learned a lot," O'Malley said.

Student teachers reflect social, economic choices

About 200 seniors fanned out yesterday from Towson University for their first day as student teachers in eight Maryland school districts, most of them in Baltimore and the surrounding counties.

I sat in on an orientation session last week at Towson. The students, many of whom will enter the profession after graduation in December, were advised to be "proactive," rather than "reactive," and to go forth secure in the knowledge that every great teacher was once a student.

Many have already had some real classroom experience in an undergraduate "field placement," a sort of pre-internship internship.

The self-selection practiced by these young students on the brink of careers is dramatic. Of the 150 or so destined for jobs in elementary schools, there are but a sprinkling of men. Of the 50 to 60 headed for high schools, perhaps 40 percent are men. Few African-Americans are in this fall's crop of student teachers at Towson.

The primary reason is economic. Numerous higher-paying careers are open to women and minorities. Teaching, particularly at the elementary level, remains a "nurturing" profession mostly reserved for women. Nearly 80 percent of Maryland's 50,000 teachers are women, and three-quarters are white.

Where men have entered teaching, they've done it mostly in high school. Social studies and physical education tend to attract males, while English remains a woman's domain. And There are many more men, proportionately, in school administration.

Education center reports increase in charter schools

The Center for Education Reform reports that 519,000 students are in charter schools this fall, a 19 percent increase over the 1999-2000 academic year.

More than 2,000 charters -- public schools that are independently operated -- exist in 34 states and the District of Columbia. California, Arizona, Michigan and Texas have the bulk of charter school enrollment, according to the Washington-based center, an advocate of school choice.

Maryland has no charter schools, although a few "new schools" in Baltimore follow the charter school model.

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