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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: Time

Week 5

There just isn't enough time in the day. I need more time added to each school day (to the weekends wouldn't be bad either). Two, maybe three more hours a day should do it. Why? Because it seems that no matter how early in the morning I get to school or how late I stay, there is always something else for me to do to prepare for my class. I need more time to teach, plan lessons, grade papers, talk to parents -- and oh, yeah, maybe relax a little.

Is it me or does the school day seem to fly by? It seems that each day goes by faster and has less time in it than the one before. I take attendance in the morning, and before I know it, my students are climbing onto their school buses to go home. And I am left with the question "Did I get everything done that I had planned?" The answer is usually no. I feel as though I am accomplishing some things, but not all that I believe I should be accomplishing.

In being a first year teacher, I have this fear of falling behind my fellow fifth-grade teachers in the curriculum that we are teaching. I don't want to rush through any of the subjects, but I also don't want to be too slow either. Finding the right pace is a challenge for me, and I am concerned that in the course of discovering my own teaching style and abilities that I may lag behind the other teachers. So far, I am keeping pace with my fifth-grade team. I hope that this continues.

It's 3:25 p.m. on a weekday. The bell has rung, and my students have left for the day. Yet for me and countless other teachers in my building it is only the beginning of several more hours of planning lessons, grading papers, talking to parents, and preparing for the following day of school. Anyone who thinks a teacher's job ends with the same school bell that sends the students home is terribly mistaken.

By its very nature, teaching requires me to prepare for each moment of a student's day. I can't improvise or make it up as I go along. I have to plan ahead, and that takes me several hours each day. Perhaps it is being new to the profession that requires me to spend a great deal of time in planning my lessons. I don't know. But what I do know is that I need to be prepared in order for my students to get the most out of each day -- and for me to be able to do the best I can each day. I just wish I had more time in the day to get it all done.

Maybe, as time goes by and my experience as a teacher grows, I will be able to streamline my preparation time. But for now, a few extra hours in the day would certainly help. Who do I talk to about getting them?

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Rich Henderson
Education World®
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09/21/2000