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Rich Henderson's Diary
The First 180 Days

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Rich Henderson, a lawyer, always dreamed of being a teacher. Last year, he gave up his law career and returned to the classroom to earn his teaching certification. This year, his dream finally comes true in a fifth-grade classroom in suburban Woodbury, Connecticut. Each week during this school year -- Rich's first year in the classroom -- he will share with Education World readers his thoughts and feelings about his first 180 days!

Rich's Diary: Quiz Time

Week 3

Quiz time. Which of the following does not belong in this group?
(a) Picasso,
(b) Renoir,
(c) Monet,
(d) teachers,
(e) none of the above.
If you chose (d) teachers, you were wrong. The answer is (e) none of the above.

As I have learned during this past week, a teacher shares something very special with an artist: colors. I say colors, not in the superficial sense of a person's skin, but rather of a person's unique qualities and characteristics. Each person has a different color, a different personality -- none are ever the same, nor can they ever be the same. This past week, I have seen just how true this is. The week was filled with challenges: planning, scheduling, organizing, but most importantly, addressing the distinctive qualities of my students in ways that optimize their ability to learn. For me, this is a lesson that I have just begun to face. A lesson that has left me with far more questions than answers.

How do I teach? I know how to stand before my class and present a lesson -- that's the easy part. What I need to know is How do I teach to all of my students, each with his or her own learning style and ability level? How do I make sure that each student understands the lesson? How do I challenge both the students who want more work to do and those who have difficulty grasping the basic ideas? How do I address the needs of students with ADD and ADHD?

Those are just some of the questions I found myself asking during this past week. However, in talking with other teachers, it seems that my questions are common questions that many teachers, both new and experienced, ask themselves on a daily basis. From them, I have received some good ideas, which may help answer some of my questions. I hope so.

Twenty-three students. Twenty-three individuals. Twenty-three personalities. Each unique, different, special, and colorful. No two students are the same. Together, they are my class, my easel of 23 colors. Just as an artist studies the uniqueness of each color before applying it to a painting, a teacher must do the same. A teacher must understand each student's individuality. Once that is done, a teacher can begin to apply the students' colors to a "canvas of knowledge" in a manner that will not mute their vibrancy, but rather enhance it. That is what I must learn to do. I must challenge students in a manner that will allow them to reach their full potential. If I can do that, then perhaps they will each leave the fifth grade a bit wiser about the concepts, a little happier about school, and better for the experience.

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Rich Henderson
Education World®
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09/07/2000