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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: Lines of Communication

Week 8

In all types of jobs, communication is vital. Whether it is with associates, clients, customers, or parents, communication is the foundation for the type of relationships we form. Making contact with others on a regular basis in writing, by telephone, or in person creates a line of communication that is open for the passing of both information and feedback. Sometimes that feedback is positive and at other times it is not. This week, I received my first less-than-positive feedback from a parent.

For me, establishing and maintaining open lines of communication with my students' parents has been a priority from the beginning of the school year. During the first two weeks of school, I made an effort to introduce myself to each of my students' parents. I wanted to begin the year on a positive note in the hope of avoiding an initial contact in which students' poor grades or behavior would be discussed. It was worth the effort. I have, in fact, had to discuss those issues with parents in the past few weeks and this week, I was being criticized.

A parent who I had met and spoken to on prior occasions was upset with me over two recent tests her child had taken. The grading procedure and the dissemination of instructions were the focus of her concerns. As we met to discuss the issues, I realized her concerns were understandable and her input was invaluable to me. This meeting provided me with an opportunity to improve my classroom communication and instructional skills. I found that within her complaints were lessons for me to learn from. Our meeting not only proved to be beneficial to both of us but also allowed us to walk away with smiles on our faces. I believe that some of the success of this meeting can be attributed to the earlier establishment and maintenance of the line of communication in which both positive and constructive criticism can be disseminated.

I don't know it all. I am the first to admit that -- especially when it comes to teaching. I know that I have a lot to learn about this profession and only another 30 years or so to do it in. Each day continues to bring new experiences and lessons not only for my students but for me as well. Some experiences and lessons are better than others, but each is still an opportunity to learn.

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Rich Henderson
Education World®
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10/19/2000