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The Last Eight Days

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.

As I write this, only eight days remain of this school year. Wait! There are so many more things I wish I had covered. Now that I've finally fallen into a rhythm -- and have a better hang of this teaching thing -- it suddenly all comes to an end.

I do have next fall to look forward to. A great middle school just 75 miles south of my hometown wants me to teach eighth grade English there next year. It makes me feel good to hear some of my seventh graders say they wish they could change schools so I could be their English teacher again next year. I also am excited for the opportunity to make a fresh start in a new place -- and my mom is happy to have me so close to home.

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Before I get to that new place, however, I have to survive eight more days with my fifth period class. They're still at it after all this time! One student in particular, who has been difficult to work with all year, has completely hung up the towel. He's disruptive, apathetic, and relentless in antagonizing his classmates. I had to send him down to the counselor one day, but it brought only temporary relief. He was back at it the very next day!

I think I've figured out what could be causing his bad behavior, but I would need the full cooperation of my entire fifth period class to make the last eight days more bearable for all of us. Apparently, this student was pretty hard on his classmates last year, and they haven't forgiven him for it. They react to every little noise he makes with "Shut up!" and "Knock if off!"

That sets him off, and pretty soon a shouting match is going on in Ms. Johnson's classroom. I'm tired of writing detentions and calling home after regaining control of my classroom, but I don't know what else to do. We have had class meetings at which I've tried explaining to the class that they need to quit responding so negatively to him, and I've tried explaining to him that he needs to quit egging on his classmates. His typical response to that is "Why? I hate those kids!"

I don't like knowing this student is unhappy in my classroom, and I find it completely unacceptable that my students feel the need to belittle one another or engage in shouting matches. Part of being a middle school teacher is helping students feel safe in the classroom.

I do have four amiable classes; it would be possible for me to ride out these last eight days satisfied with that. I want to end the year with five happy, respectful classrooms though, not just four. So how can I save myself from being at my wit's end until school ends?

Click here for biographical information and previous entries.

Article by Kimberly Johnson
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