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Another Red Underwear Day!


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.

Maybe every teacher needs special underwear.

I remember a professor in one of my undergraduate classes telling us about her matching set of red underwear. Keep in mind that this was the early '70s. People referred to intimate apparel as "foundation garments," and any "foundation" that wasn't white was considered pretty risque in my small town.

That professor certainly got our attention when she told us she owned bright red underwear. In fact, I've never forgotten the story. She told us that she wore the underwear whenever she needed a little confidence boost -- when she had a tough test to take or a difficult meeting to face or a challenging project to complete. Knowing she had on her special underwear, she felt she could accomplish anything.

My son had Superman underwear when he was little that served the same purpose. When he put on that underwear and the cape I had made, by golly, he was Superman!

Kim wrote last week about a situation in which an angry mom had complained to Kevin, our associate principal, about her son's not getting a copy of an assignment from Kim. Kevin told me about the phone call and asked whether Kim and I could meet with him during sixth period, so I grabbed Kim and we had lunch together in my office.

As her short lunch period came quickly to an end, Kim was understandably still a bit unnerved; she wondered aloud how she could get through the next period class. We talked about digging deep, holding her head high, walking into that room, and doing what she knew how to do. We spoke about how those kids needed her to teach English and that's what she would do.

On the way to the office 50 minutes later, Kim told me that things had gone fine. She had been able to focus on what her students needed from her and she had done what she needed to do. She had handled it as though she was wearing red underwear!

By the time we met with Kevin, he had calmed the mom by providing more information about what had really happened, and we were able to come up with a plan to address the boy's difficulty over his late work.

I think this was a growth experience for Kim; as professionals, we sometimes need to "suck it up, put on a smile, and do what needs to be done" -- even when we really don't feel like it. In the end, we usually feel good about ourselves when we can do that.

If red underwear helps, that's OK too!

Click here for biographical information and previous entries.

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Article by Laurie Stenehjem
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