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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: I Get Paid Too?

Week 6

This week I received a rich reward that put everything about teaching into perspective -- my first paycheck. Needless to say, I was quite pleased when I received it; however, the reason for my pleasure may shock you.

It is widely known that teachers are some of the most underpaid, overworked people in the world. Aside from normal teaching duties, we are often bombarded with a wealth of paperwork to complete as well. As a first-year teacher, I am no exception to this rule.

Over the last four weeks, I have been a mother, sister, doctor, counselor, and friend to more than 110 12- and 13-year-olds. In addition, I have completed numerous attendance forms, maintained a roll book, taught lengthy lessons, served bus duty, graded papers, planned lessons, completed class profile sheets in preparation for the upcoming S.A.T.s, and scheduled my first evaluation observation.

Although all this was quite overwhelming at first, I have now mellowed and begun to plan my time and activities more effectively. All of a sudden, teaching has become a personal ministry in addition to a profession. So when I received my first paycheck, I wasn't as concerned with the amount as I expected because I had already been compensated so richly by my students.

For example, this week I received a gift from a student I had counseled last week. (She was the student who was troubled by her grandmother's illness.) She gave me a drawing of a tree with a little swing attached that said, "You're a great teacher! God loves you!" When she gave it to me, she hurriedly stuffed it in my hands and ran down the hall. After I read it, I smiled and looked down the hall in the direction she had run. To my surprise, I saw her and one of my other students peeking around a corner waiting to see my expression. Even though she has tried not to show it, she cannot hide the joy that I have noticed in her face this week.

Things like that have been happening more than ever lately, and I am so pleased that that they are. I remember how I felt the first week of school. The constant frustration and concern I felt then has totally left me now, and I am learning to take things one day at a time. I am starting to understand that teachers cannot and will not reach every child, but the real reward comes from those we do reach. Although there are still a few students who love to aggravate me, I am learning to cope better with the aggravation. Instead of blowing up, lashing out at the whole class, and then beating up on myself, I address the student personally and keep my cool. I have achieved phenomenal results because of this change in my behavior.

I am excited about next week, when the students will write and present original short stories. Some have already expressed concerns about this; strangely, they are the ones who are the biggest troublemakers. It amazes me that the most talkative children shut down once you give them the opportunity to speak in front of the class. Nonetheless, I am very excited about entering this new phase, which will allow me to see what is going on in those young minds! Scary, huh?

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Shaundalyn Elliot
Education World®
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10/05/2000