An occasional series following first-year teacher Staci Nix as she navigates her new profession, teaching first-graders at World Language Academy.
The pitter-patter of little feet couldn’t be heard outside the first-grade classroom of World Language Academy teacher Staci Nix.
That’s because Nix’s 23 students were walking down the halls with “marshmallow toes.”
“When you walk, are you going to be stomping? There are other classes going on, and if they hear this going down the hall, are they going to be able to concentrate and listen to their teacher?” Nix asked her students. “If I dropped a marshmallow would it make a lot of noise? I want marshmallow toes. I want quiet feet no one can hear.”
Walking feet are one of the five rules Nix expects her class to follow at school, whether they’re in her English-language arts and math classroom or in another area of the building.
Monday was the first day as a teacher for Nix, who graduated from North Georgia College & State University in May with dual degrees in early childhood education and special education.
“Today I had to spend a lot of time on setting up the rules and going over procedures. I’m going to spend a lot of time at the end of the day doing that as well,” the first-year teacher said. “The first week is more about getting that schedule down pat and getting them used to a constant routine.”
The daily routine begins with students emptying their bookbags and working on a morning assignment. Right after that, the class learns calendar math, a Hall County education method that teaches shapes, patterns and numbers through a daily calendar. After calendar math it’s time for reading workshop, specials — a class that changes each day of the week — and math.
Nix shares her students with another team teacher who instructs students in Spanish, covering other subject areas. She showed the class her team’s reward system, points given and taken away for leaving a clean or messy table, and the individual sticker rewards. For those who break one of her five rules, there is a notebook to record all incidents.
Nix wants to hold students accountable for following the rules.
“We’re going to put which rule you broke and you guys are going to tell us why you got in trouble. And I’m going to write it down, what you say in your own words,” she said to the class.
The rules also have to be followed in the specials classes. Monday’s class was technology, a science-based extracurricular new to World Language.
“We did an experiment and it was liquid, gas and solid,” said 6-year-old Lexi Alexander. “We put baking soda in a bottle and then we got vinegar and put it in a balloon, and then put it on the bottle with the baking soda. And then we shook it and it blew up.”
Alexander said she’s looking forward to spending the year with Nix.
“She’s nice. She’s the new teacher and everyone wanted her,” Alexander said.
Nix was enthusiastic about how excited her students seemed Monday. She said her class was awesome and even those who were unsure about embarking on first grade got over their tears quickly.
Having done her student teaching last year in World Language’s third-grade classrooms, Nix said she sees some differences in how the younger students are approached.
“They like to know exactly where things go. Not that they like to know that, but they do better with that, with a constant routine. I think it’s more individualized to each child in first grade,” she said.
In addition to teaching reading, writing and arithmetic, Nix wants to show her first-graders how to respect themselves.
“Are you going to say ugly things about yourself? If you can’t figure a problem out, are you going to get mad at yourself and say, ‘I can’t learn this?’ We don’t do that. I know that all of you can do whatever you put your mind to,” she said.
“You can’t mess up; we don’t make mistakes. You just keep working.”