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Who Cares About Education?

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.

I probably shouldn't write this week's journal in my current frame of mind. We haven't had a weekday off since school resumed on January 3, and as a resident teacher in a graduate program, I spend my weekends working on university work, correcting papers, and planning lessons. I think I'm at the breaking point. I can't afford to allow myself a free day. My students and their behavior aren't helping my mood, either. The entire team, in fact, has expressed concern that students aren't turning in their homework. We've also handed out a high number of detentions in the last couple of weeks.

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It seems that nothing I plan pleases my students. The school's technology partner and I teamed up to create a wonderful opportunity for my seventh graders; they're going to create their own commercials using digital cameras and computers. Because our most recent focus has been on punctuation, students will work in groups to create advertisements selling punctuation marks. Wouldn't you think that would beat book work and worksheets? This week, however, when I told them about the activity, my students moaned and complained about all the work they will have to do. Is their response due to the fact that they too need a break from school -- or are they really not excited about being able to create and edit videos using available technology?

I think a big part of the students' apathy comes from their parents. During last week's parent-teacher-student conferences, only half the parents showed up for their scheduled conferences. The other half didn't even bother to call to say they weren't coming! When parents don't take the necessary steps to show their children that their education is important, why should the kids care about school?

I really admire those parents who do make the effort to call us during team meeting time for an update on their children's progress, who stop in to pick up make-up work, who work with their children on homework each night. I think parental involvement in children's lives and education makes all the difference between a child who "can do" and a child who won't do. Of course, there are those few exceptions, kids who succeed in spite of a lack of family support. I do wish, however, that all children could be fortunate enough to know their families are behind them. I wish all teachers could count on that parental support as well.

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Article by Kimberly Johnson
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