Oak Mountain Intermediate School helps students make transition

NORTH SHELBY – The first day of the school year on Thursday, Aug. 8, presented another opportunity for Oak Mountain Intermediate School to implement its tried and true method of easing students into their new surroundings.

Principal Pat LeQuier said fourth graders, especially, can have anxiety about going back to school as they transition from Inverness Elementary School and Oak Mountain Elementary School.

“Everybody’s worried about not knowing anybody,” LeQuier said.

So, school teachers and administrators spend the first days of the school year focused on “culture building.”

“Academics are important, but you have got to build relationships first,” LeQuier said.

Cassie Campbell, who began as a fourth grade teacher at the school eight years ago, the same year LeQuier became principal after serving 12 years as assistant principal, said children feel a sense of safety when they have a routine.

“They want to know they’re going to do the right thing,” Campbell said.

First was Campbell introducing herself to her 22 students.

“Kids want to know a couple of things on the first day: Who are you and are you going to like me,” she said and added that she enjoys teaching fourth grade because the students are eager to please and make strides toward gaining independence during the school year.

Then Campbell, along with other teachers, go over with students tasks ranging from the location of the classroom trash can, and when is an appropriate time to utilize it, to the more complex lunchroom process.

The school’s about 660 students are given a tour of the facility to familiarize them with the front office, library and restrooms. They also cover topics like how to walk on the right side of the hallways and use inside voices while doing so.

New this year is a system that incorporates two cups at each lunch table. During the first 5 minutes or so, the red cup is stacked on top, signaling to students that it is a quiet time to be focused on eating. Once the cups are reversed and the green is top, students can converse quietly, but the cups serve as a visual reminder that should they get too loud, the teacher could reverse them again.

The first day of school can be challenging for new teachers, too. Those with shorter tenures at OMIS are paired with more experienced counterparts.

Campbell said she has found the strategy beneficial.

“It’s always good to have someone help you carry your load, whatever that is,” she said. “They can listen to you, help you keep up with plans, and they also bring new ideas and new conversations.”