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Debra Johnson-Dahrouge, Composition, Neptune High This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


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English was always easy for me, but that changed the first day I walked into Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge's class. I'd heard rumors from former students: they said she was strict and intimidating, that her class was impossible to pass, and that I was insane for even wanting to take it. Consequently I was extremely nervous.

On that first day of school, Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge stood in the front of her classroom, smiling, while she waited for the class to settle down. Her long, curly, red hair and clear blue eyes made her seem very full of life. You could tell she had so much knowledge that it just wanted to pour out and spill all over the floor.

“This is Advanced Placement Language and Composition,” she said. “I am not exaggerating when I say that this class will be difficult, but if you trust me, I'll guide you. Everything you do in this class matters.”

Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge had my attention, and she did not lose it the entire period. She explained that her grading system was different from what we were used to, and told us to forget about the grades that we used to get, because we probably would not see those soon. She said that our writing would improve as we understood the new “tools” she would give us.

“Writing is an art,” she said. “You can't just put words on a piece of paper and slap your name on top of it. What you put your name on is out there to be judged.”

I had never thought about it that way. Every time I rushed to finish an essay and wrote my name on top, it was still my writing; my words, out there for everyone to read. I realized that if I wanted to be a good writer, I needed to remember that writing really is an art, and that it may take a long time to perfect.

Even though I thought that I was doing fine in her class, Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge intimidated me; I was afraid of what she would say if I asked a question. My writing reflected my poor participation, and when I got my essay back, my grade was terrible. I needed help, but I refused to admit it. I was very frustrated with Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge. I despised going to class, and I hated that I was getting bad grades because I was second-guessing myself. I wondered why she didn't tell me how poorly I was doing. That was when I realized it wasn't her job to come to me. It was mine to go to her.

I had a new purpose: I needed to find out what I could do to improve my grade and how to use the “tools” in my writing. I still couldn't talk to Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge in person, so I e-mailed. In this way, she and I worked together to improve my writing. She walked me through every step to understand how to write an essay, and together, we saw improvement in my work. I even discovered that asking for help could actually work. The more I talked to her, and the more she tutored me, the more I recognized that she really is a great teacher. I know now that if I had never gone to her for help, I never would have realized that behind everything she was saying, there was a teacher who actually cared about me.

Now I'm able to ask Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge for help, both online and in person. My writing is improving and I am absorbing everything she says in class. At the beginning of the year, she told us that she needed to knock us down so we could climb back up stronger. She waved my low grades in my face, and I woke up. Then we worked to change everything. She's promised to help me with whatever I need, and by the end of the year she will have taught me exactly what I'll need for college. Not only is Mrs. Johnson-Dahrouge one of the best English teachers I have ever had, she is the only one that has ever cared about where I will be in the future.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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This article has 29 comments. Post your own now!

Ocean Grove Brat said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 3:15 am
Bravo to the author for courage and determination and applause for teacher-job well done! Morgan, like me, you use the word 'so' for emphasis, perhaps too much. A well written testament of a student's journey in learning, including some bumps in the road.
 
pre k teach said...
Jan. 15, 2009 at 12:04 am
I enjoyed the essay and thought that it was well written. I'm so glad that there still are teachers out there that care about their students and want them to succeed.
 
sondance said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 11:41 pm
Great job encouraging as a teacher and a student!
 
bh123 said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 9:33 pm
I thought that this was a very well written article and I am so happy that author had such a positive role model!
 
newteach said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 3:49 pm
I loved the article both from the prospective of what the student wrote and how it affected her; and as a model of what can be created in the teacher-student relationship.
 
Susan140 said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 3:28 pm
The essay was well written. I do question the use of the teachers name so frequently, instead of the use of pronouns.
 
bhaney62 said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 3:06 pm
This is a great teacher .. we need more like her
 
Shimmy492 said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 11:45 am
thanks! she really is a good teacher, but you have to be willing to be knocked down and built back up again..
 
x2limes5969 said...
Jan. 14, 2009 at 2:31 am
I really loved it!!! I'm requestiing her as a teacher!!! Sje sounds awesome!!!! =]
 
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