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A New Year's Message to My Students Kimberly Johnson, a recent graduate of the University of North Dakota, is a first-year English teacher at Valley Middle School in Grand Forks, North Dakota. Kimberly and and her mentor, Laurie Stenehjem, share their journal entries with Education World readers in alternating weeks.

To my students:

I wrote this message to you during our holiday break. I hope it will inspire some very special New Year's resolutions.

I know I don't always show it, but I really am happy to have this year with you. Yes, I've experienced frustration, anger, and sadness, and I've suffered a few setbacks, but I've learned that life isn't complete without those feelings and experiences.

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I believe each person on Earth is needed by someone. Teachers need students because we have a strong desire to contribute something to the world. My desire is to share with you the contentment and joy that can come from reading and writing. I feel such a deep sense of commitment to the English language! Can't you feel it? It's the reason I ask you to learn the eight parts of speech, the reason I become upset when one of you asks, "Why do we have to learn this?"

I need you because I have a desire to teach; what are teachers without students?

I know you need me too. You need me to show you the difference between a noun and pronoun. You need me to teach you how to spell. You need me to help you learn. Minds stagnate when they have nothing to learn, and they become ignorant.

Remember Ignorance, the Spirit of Christmas Present's child? If we deny the existence of Ignorance, he grows and multiplies. We learned on September 11 what ignorance can do. Do you want to be the kind of person who harbors Ignorance and allows him to grow? I don't want you to be, not when you can be so many other kinds of people instead.

You can be kind, thoughtful, purposeful, curious, resolute, determined, charitable ... and more! You can be the type of student who fails to turn in homework and whines about having to come to school, or you can be the type of student who realizes the value of learning. Not everyone can be a straight-A student, but no one has to fail a class.

I remember my third-grade teacher explaining that she yelled at us because she cared about us. I don't want to yell, but I hope you know that I really do care about all of you -- yes, even those of you who spend more time in detention than on homework!

I'm afraid I might have failed during these first few months to show you how much I care. My resolution for the months to come, therefore, is to do a better job of showing you how much I respect and need you all. Won't you make it your resolution to acknowledge my feelings by caring for yourselves and others? You can do that by trying hard to complete all your assignments; by helping one another; and by working to eliminate words and actions, such as name-calling, taunting, hitting, and complaining, that convey disrespect for others.

Every teacher shares pieces of himself or herself with you. I hope that this year you take all the pieces your teachers give you and fit them together with your own experiences. I hope all those pieces help us grow wiser, kinder, and more thoughtful in the coming year.

Ms. Johnson

Click here for biographical information and previous entries.

Article by Kimberly Johnson
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