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Kim and Laurie's Excellent Adventure

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Laurie Stenehjem, a graduate of North Dakota State University and a teacher with more than 25 years experience, is a mentor in the Grand Forks Middle School Resident Teacher Program. Laurie and first-year teacher Kimberly Johnson share their journal entries with Education World readers in alternating weeks.

It inspires me to watch Kim continue to grow as a teacher. I love the way she approaches each day with the desire to become better. Some days, as she has so willingly shared in her journal, aren't so easy to face! I need to do a better job of letting Kim know how proud I am of her. Even though she knows in her heart that she's a good teacher -- and getting better all the time -- she still needs to hear it from the rest of us often.

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I heard this past week that 70 percent of what teachers know about teaching they learned on the job. I don't know where that statistic comes from, but it fits with my experience with my resident teachers. A significant part of their learning must occur in that first year.

I was really pleased to see Kim's most-recent journal entry because I could see that she's moving toward looking at her instruction through the eyes of the students. She is no longer looking at the eight parts of speech as a neat, logical way of organizing instruction. Instead, she's wondering whether it is an interesting topic for a seventh grader to devote 50 minutes a day to learning. It's pretty likely that most 12- and 13-year-olds don't think it is.

Now, Kim is learning to answer the question "What is really important?" She's focusing on the idea that the goal for her students is to speak and write English correctly. She's realizing that, in order for all her students to speak and write well, she needs to look at the areas in which they are having difficulty and focus her instruction on those areas. That way of looking at grammar instruction is different from the way we were taught, but it does seem to be the way successful teachers work now.

Remember back in September when we compared Kim's teaching experience with learning to ride a bike? Gail, the university mentor for the University of North Dakota Resident Teacher program; Kim; and I are doing a mid-year look at Kim's progress so far, using the components of professional practice and the rubric developed by Charlotte Danielson in Enhancing Professional Practice: A Framework for Teaching. We're having a very valuable discussion about where Kim is in her efforts to become the best teacher she can be.

I hope our conversations allow Kim to take a look behind her and celebrate her accomplishments up to this point. I also want to give her some direction on how to continue moving forward. I want to encourage her to keep pedaling, prepare her for what's around the corner so she feels confident she can get through it, remind her to enjoy the scenery along the way, and offer her glimpses of the wonderful journey that lies ahead.


Click here for biographical information and previous entries.

Article by Laurie Stenehjem
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Copyright © 2002 Education World

2/21/2002