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Shaundalyn Elliott's Diary
The First 180 Days

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Shaundalyn Elliott, a recent college graduate, always dreamed of being a corporate lawyer. Her deep feelings of responsibility to the minority students in her hometown led her instead to a teaching position at her alma mater, an urban middle school in Montgomery, Alabama. Each week during this school year -- Shaundalyn's first year in the classroom -- she will share with Education World readers her thoughts and feelings about her first 180 days!

Shaundalyn's Diary: Going Home

Week 1

During these last few weeks of summer, I have been dedicated to preparing my classroom for the students' arrival. The walls have been freshly painted, and every inch of the room is overflowing with helpful study aids. I have visited with as many veteran teachers as possible and received a wealth of materials to assist in my instruction. Every day before I leave, I try to sit down and evaluate my progress, and each day I find myself a step further ahead.

Last week, as I cleaned my new classroom from top to bottom, I stared directly into the room across the hall that used to be my eighth-grade algebra class. It is now the school's computer lab. As I stood there, I tried to recall the events that took place in that room while I was a student at Goodwyn. I remembered the teacher, the friends, and even the textbook. When I turned to enter my own classroom, I experienced an unforgettable awakening. I was actually standing in a classroom -- my classroom -- as the teacher, not the student. Overwhelmed with emotion, I stared at the desks that now seemed unbelievably small, and I came to terms with my current position. I am responsible for other people's children, both in and around my class. I set the tone for the day and for the year. I determine who is strong and who is weak in certain areas -- I realized that I am now a teacher!

As the new school year quickly approaches, I get more anxious. On the one hand, I am very excited about meeting the new faces and personalities, but on the other, I am almost terrified of them. I do feel more comfortable knowing that they are just as new and excited as I am. But though part of me wants to reach out to them and suffocate them with love, the rest of me is working to build up the firm but fair attitude that all teachers should have when teaching secondary students. I keep praying that it will all come together, and somehow I know it will. I may not have it all in order yet; I know I will by the first day of school. After all, I am just going back home!

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Shaundalyn Elliot
Education World®
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08/31/2000