Underwood, a first-time teacher, was a little nervous, too. Shortly after 7 a.m., as she readied for her first student to arrive, Underwood offered a confession.
“I hope that I do everything right, just like I’m supposed to,” Underwood said. “I’m scared, just like the kids.”
Monday, while Underwood and her students completed their first day of school together, students of Calhoun County’s public schools bid adieu to their summer break, and started the 2012-13 school year. And, as always, the first day marks a transition for students, especially those students, like Underwood’s, who are also acclimating to new school campuses.
Students new to middle and high schools, though familiar with school procedures, were also faced with the challenge of learning how to find their classes and their cafeterias. Unlike the younger students, however, they did so while learning how to rotate classes and remember their new locker combinations, some of them for the first time.
Sixth-grade students at Anniston Middle School completed their first day at their new school. Shortly before noon, they stood quietly in single-file lines dressed in khaki pants and white shirts, as teachers directed their every move.
“There is a lot of order in our hallways,” Principal Lynwood Hawkins said.
It’ll take about a semester for the students to become accustomed to the environment and loosen up, said Kimberly Parris, a sixth-grade math teacher at Anniston Middle. Students at one of her morning classes sat still, and almost silent, as she reviewed the procedures they will be expected to follow for the next nine months.
“That’s usually the biggest challenge, is adjusting to class,” Parris said.
Sixth-graders undergo a significant transition over the course of their first year at the middle school, Parris said.
“They seem young to us,” Parris said. “Then after Christmas, that’s when we start seeing the changes.”
A couple of nervous moms stood in the back of her room Monday, overseeing their children’s transition to the new school.
“I think I’m more nervous than they are,” said Chasity Johnson, whose twins are sixth graders at Anniston Middle this year. “I think they’re ready for it.”
In Oxford, students at the Freshman Academy underwent a first-day, new school transition, too.
“You can always tell a ninth grader because they’re sprinting to class,” Assistant Principal Joey Gallahar said.
Students are introduced to a school campus that spans four blocks and includes seven buildings.
It’s a social adjustment, too, in part because they’re now high schoolers.
Sherri Allen, a ninth-grade English teacher at the academy, said she sometimes sees the nervousness on her students’ faces. They come into her class, she said, searching the room for the students they knew in middle school.
Students also pay particularly close attention to which friends they share a lunch period with, she said.
“The first thing they do is scan to see who is there,” Unerwood said. “They have to feel like they have a place there.”
It’s not much different for Underwood’s kindergarteners who, after 90 minutes of meet-and-greet with their teacher, began their first day with story time.
“Okay, class, now we’re going to move on to something a little bit different,” Underwood told her students. “So, two claps and then we’re going to start cleaning up. You ready?”
Underwood got the kids’ attention with two claps, then dismissed them from their tiny tables, the blue table, the orange table and then the green. Then, at once, the kindergartners sat “criss-cross apple sauce” on a rug in front of Underwood, who was seated in a chair before them. She’d strategically selected a book from a nearby shelf – its title: “First Day Jitters.”
“I was very nervous today, too,” Underwood said, as each of her children’s eyes began to settle on her just before she started reading the book.
Staff writer Laura Johnson: 256-235-3544. On Twitter @LJohnson_star.