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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: Responsibilities Mount!

Week 4

During the four years I spent at Alabama State University as an undergraduate student, I never dreamed that the degree I was working toward would lead to such a challenging career. As I approach the fourth week of this school year, I am becoming increasingly overwhelmed by my responsibilities as a teacher. From the paperwork to the evaluations and finally to the students, I have begun to contemplate my return to this profession next year.

Last week, I experienced the reality of being a teacher. I attended a meeting that explained my state's evaluation procedures, introduced the students to the textbook, and chaperoned them during a school pep rally. Although I enjoyed each of these, I began to notice how many responsibilities teachers really do have. Aside from issuing assignments, grading papers, and managing the classroom, we are held accountable for each student's academic and social progress. Even though these responsibilities can sometimes be quite rewarding, they can also become burdensome. Lately, it seems that the latter is more often true for me.

Last Friday, in the meeting about teacher evaluations, I struggled to focus on the speaker. While she quickly ran through the booklet that we could easily read for our own understanding, I began to question myself. Was I performing well enough for a first-year teacher? Would I successfully complete the requirements outlined for me in the Alabama Course of Study, SAT Compendium, and the Alabama High School Graduation Exam booklet? Were my objectives in compliance with those three vital elements? Although I know I am doing the best I can, I cannot suppress the feeling that I am leaving something out. I have to wonder whether these kinds of questions are normal for first-year teachers, and if they are, where we can look for answers.

Every day, I pray for strength to organize myself, teach my students, and open minds. These past few weeks have been crucial; and although I have been consulting with veteran teachers who tell me that my feelings are normal, I am very dissatisfied with my present state of mind. I want that same peace and confidence that I had during the first week of school. I want that assuredness that I am progressing as well as expected for a first-year teacher. Most of all, I want to continue opening minds and reaching those who allow me to do so -- most of all, I want to teach.

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Shaundalyn Elliot
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09/21/2000