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Teachers, Kids, Tragedy, and Trauma


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.

What a week this has been!

I'm writing this on Sunday after the tragedies in New York City and Washington, D.C. Weekends are always important to teachers ... a chance to catch up in responding to students' work, to plan ahead, to reflect and re-energize. This week especially, everyone was very ready for the break.

Last week, Kim wrote about her personal transition from student to teacher. This week, she came face to face with even more responsibilities of her new status. Teachers everywhere had to take special care of their students to help them through the trauma of the week's events and at the same time help them continue to learn what they need to learn. I was proud of how Kim managed to do that.

The events of the past week certainly didn't make being a teacher any easier! We know that kids look to adults to see how to handle problems; we need to be good role models. Children need to see adults addressing their fears in calm and constructive ways -- and then finding healthful ways to relieve the stress outside the classroom.

I hope Kim got some re-energizing time this weekend: time to relax, have some fun and, maybe, for a while, be the kid she was not all that long ago. I hope she's able to return tomorrow morning rested and ready to get back to work. The events of the past week are a good reminder of the enormity and importance of the task we face -- of helping shape those who will very soon become adults in our society.

Last week, Kim also experienced her first meeting with a parent who didn't completely understand some events that had happened in the classroom. The meeting nudged everyone to remember that we need to form partnerships to provide the best possible support for each child.

We do influence the lives of our students. The work we do is not simple, clear, or always successful. It is often hard work, but it is important work and it is good work. It is well worth our efforts.

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Article by Laurie Stenehjem
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