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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: So Little Time; So Much to Do!

Week 18

This busy week ended just as quickly as it began.

On Monday, I attended a play at the Montgomery Civic Center with my first-period class. The performance dealt with a number of issues, including drug usage, gang violence, and teenage suicide. Most of the actors were students from Montgomery area high schools; a few were college students.

Overall, the play was impressive, but I was concerned with my students' ability to identify with the play. Midway through the performance, though, I noticed that some of them were crying during the sad scenes. It pleased me -- not that they were crying, of course, but that they were responding to the performances!

After the play was over, we headed back to the school bus. As we walked, many students crowded around to thank me for allowing them to make the trip. I promised that we would take another trip this year.

As the rest of the week progressed, I became more focused on my upcoming Professional Development Plan (PDP) than on my students. Although I continued working with them, I felt guilty for not giving each of them one-on-one attention every day.

Added to the stress was the realization that I had accidentally overlooked the essay portion of the literature book. Because I was scheduled to exchange our literature books for the other seventh grade English teacher's grammar books, that meant I would have to cram the unit into a two-week time frame. Not wanting to rush through the unit so fast, I decided to speak with the other teacher about my dilemma. Just as I hoped, she understood; we decided to put off exchanging the books for another week.

By Wednesday, I was fully engrossed in the essays -- and so were my students. They thoroughly enjoyed James Thurber's "The Night the Bed Fell."

By the time Friday rolled around, however, I began to feel overwhelmed again. I had managed to incorporate grammar and S.A.T. review skills into an already crowded literature-based class. The students seemed to be just as tired from the week as I was, so I decided to give them a break. I rewarded them by allowing them to watch To Sir With Love, a movie starring Sidney Poitier as a first-year teacher in England. The students enjoyed it so much that they were surprised to hear the bell ring at the end of the period.

As they (finally!) exited, I reminded them of my absence next Tuesday and bid them farewell. Tuesday, I will be attending a workshop at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival. Next week, I'll tell you all about it!

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Shaundalyn Elliot
Education World®
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01/18/2001