SAINT LEO — In 36 years of teaching, Beverly Ledbetter never used a red pen to correct her students' papers. Sure, red stands out. But Ledbetter thought it would be deflating for a student to get a paper back that's bleeding negative commentary.
More often, she used a green pen to point out to students what they were doing right.
"Remember, you're here to help build self-esteem," Ledbetter told the 25 or so attendees of a Beginning Teacher Boot Camp at Saint Leo University.
Ledbetter might just be on to something. According to sociologists Richard Dukes and Heather Albanesi of the University of Colorado, all that red ink can bring an onslaught of negative emotions.
That's why the green pen is an essential item on Ledbetter's "things you might not think of" classroom supply list.
Other must-haves: safety pins and a sewing kit "because zippers break and buttons pop off," dental floss and mouthwash for those spice-laden lunches, Band-Aids for paper cuts and blisters, protein-laden snacks for kids who need an afternoon pick-me-up and a big bag of cough drops because there's a good chance you will lose your voice during the first week of school.
Pretty handy stuff to know, according to Amanda Hausman, who will be teaching her first year in the Veterinary Assistant Program at Hudson High.
"I need all the help I can get," Hausman said.
That's why Ledbetter started the boot camp three years ago.
The former social studies teacher at Pasco Middle and Pasco High was named teacher of the year during her tenures at both schools. Now she serves as an adjunct instructor and director of teacher boot camps at Saint Leo University. (She is also a Democratic candidate for the District 38 seat to replace Florida House Speaker Will Weatherford.)
So you might say she has plenty of experience to reflect on.
One tip: training your bladder to time breaks so as to not interrupt instructional time. Just as important — knowing the location of the faculty bathroom lest you wander into a smoke-filled student lavatory and end up getting sent to the principal's office as she did on her first day so many years ago — even though she wasn't a student and she didn't smoke.
Other helpful hints: preparing a syllabus and an introductory letter for parents explaining expectations for the coming year; working closely with a mentor teacher; getting to know helpful personnel on staff as well as the union representative; thoroughly reading your contract and getting advice from a financial planner; appropriate workplace attire, classroom etiquette and the use of social media; NOT outfitting your classroom out of your own pocket and keeping expectations in check when it comes to students' school supply list.
"In these economic times you need to think about what they are going to really need," Ledbetter said. "If you are asking them to purchase rulers and markers then make sure you use them.
While many of the attendees were newly hired or awaiting interviews, boot camp turned out to be a welcome refresher for Shannon Hollenbeck, a second-year teacher who will be teaching guitar at Rushe Middle School. She spent her first year teaching music and chorus in Arkansas and attended the boot camp to familiarize herself with the Pasco County School District's policies and procedures.
"I wish someone had told me all this my first year," she said. "I really could have used it."
Michele Miller can be reached at (727) 869-6251 or at mmiller @tampabay.com. Follow @mimichele525.