The first 48 hours of the school year at Carpenters Elementary are all about building relationships, Principal Courtney Whitehead said.
“Until we get those relationships in place, everything else is more difficult,” she said Friday, the day after the CES Back to School Bash-n-Drop, where families could meet teachers, deliver supplies and enjoy food trucks.
On the first morning of classes, Monday, new teacher Addison Hatfield already was getting to know his second graders’ DNA, having them write about what they “dream” of becoming, what they “need” to do for that dream to come true and their “special” abilities.
“It’s a great way for kids to have a voice,” Whitehead said.
Carpenters teachers already had received from last year’s teachers a snapshot about each student, including their strengths, challenges and family information. “On Day 1 we know about our kids,” the principal said.
She also knew Hatfield well, since he student taught at CES last year. “He had a yearlong interview with me,” Whitehead said, noting that she observed his focus on families and ability to be flexible as she saw him teach.
When Hatfield asked first graders about their abilities last year — what they are so good at no one else can do — one replied, “I can open a Capri Sun by myself.”
To give his second graders an example of a dream, Hatfield told them he wanted to be a professional basketball player.
He actually knew by his sophomore year of high school that he wanted to be a teacher. His favorite part of basketball was coaching at camps with the little kids, he said.
He has two big brothers who are teachers, one at Alcoa and one at Karns elementary schools. His uncle, Mike Brewer, is special education coordinator for Blount County Schools.
Despite his earlier experiences as a student at Tennessee Technological University, it wasn’t until Hatfield was student teaching last year at CES that he realized how much stamina an elementary teacher needs every day.
“I took a lot of naps that first month,” he admitted.
By 9:30 a.m. on the first day of school, his second graders had helped develop the classroom rules, written about what they did during summer vacation, had a physical education class and finished the DNA assignment.
They even knew the “code word” that would tell them when to line up for pictures: city, a word they will recognize later when Hatfield brings it up in a formal lesson.