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Change Happens

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.

Go figure. I finally feel really comfortable with my current position, and I have to leave it in less than two months. I haven't had anywhere near as many discipline problems lately as I had in the first few months of school. I believe my students finally respect me as an adult figure in their lives. I feel more comfortable in my "teacher skin" and more confident in my role of adolescent advocate.

I am both excited and sad as this school year comes to a close. This may be the summer I move away from my hometown and start a new life without my family and friends close by! Although I am having a difficult time picturing myself living anywhere but Grand Forks, North Dakota, it is exciting to think of starting again in a new place. The Resident Teacher Program has given me the confidence to know I will be OK wherever I teach next year. As long as I can watch Atlanta Braves baseball on cable TV and have my little dog with me, I should be fine no matter where I live!

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It would be nice, though, to watch my seventh graders grow. I would love to stick around next year and see how their appearances change from seventh grade to eighth grade. I want to be around to make sure they're successful in their new classes. I guess what I am trying to say is that I've grown very attached to these kids, and I don't want to let go of them!

Despite the behavior challenges and all the missing assignments and the struggle to earn their respect, these middle schoolers have grown on me. I can't pinpoint a certain day when I walked into the classroom and said "Today is the day I will love all my students and they will accept me as their teacher." It was a gradual change -- a phenomenon that happened over time.

Mutual respect doesn't sit in the classroom and invade the bodies of the people who enter the room; it needs to be earned. I finally accepted my students just as they are. As Laurie would say, "They're middle schoolers!" They are children in the midst of big changes in their lives. I, too, have endured life-altering situations this year. And my students have accepted me as a perfectionist who cares about education and academic success.

Now that we've finally reached this point, is it possible to take them with me next year?

Click here for biographical information and previous entries.

Article by Kimberly Johnson
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