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A Lesson in Teacher Training

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.

Usually it is the new teacher thanking the mentor teacher for all he or she has done. It was so interesting to read last week's entry and see all the benefits Laurie feels she gets out of being a mentor.

At the beginning of this school year, I often felt I wouldn't know what I'd ever do without a mentor teacher. I spent a lot of time in Laurie's office, discussing ideas or working out problems, laughing or crying. I thought I would need a mentor for the rest of my career. Now, after almost a year of working with Laurie, I know I will be OK without her wherever I teach next year.

The best mentors cultivate confidence in new teachers. Laurie has given her resident teachers enough confidence to apply for jobs all over the country. Although we will miss her, she has helped us find our way to our teacher selves.

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Do you have comments, questions, or advice for Laurie and Kim? Would you like to talk about your own experiences with mentoring? Share your thoughts on The First 180 Days: A Teacher and Her Mentor.

This application process has been bittersweet for me. As I look forward to moving on to a permanent teaching position, I am sad to leave Valley Middle School. I have received so much support from the administration and staff that I am a little apprehensive about leaving this environment. What if I am hired next year by a school that is not supportive of its teachers?

What would I have done this year without the support of Valley's educators? I would not have had Laurie helping me through the bad times and cheering me on through the good. Nor would I have had a technology partner guiding my students and me through an iMovie project. Without the help of the special education teachers this year, my students with special needs would have been lost in the confusion of 504s and IEPs. Without the associate principal, my seventh period class would have driven me crazy; without the principal's help, my struggle with a difficult student probably would not have been resolved. Without the open-door policy of the teachers around me, I am not sure my "rookie" questions would have been answered so quickly.

In order for teachers, especially those of us new to this profession, to survive each day with our sanity intact, we need a strong support system. Laurie and the administration and staff at Valley Middle School have been the support system I needed to make it through my first year. Now, if I can just make it through this application process...

Click here for biographical information and previous entries.

Article by Kimberly Johnson
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