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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: Teacher Workshop Day + Substitute Lesson Plan = Worry!

Week 12

Ah, those teacher workshops. A day of fun in the sun without a care in the world. Sounds good doesn't it? It sure does, but where do I sign up for a workshop like that? This week, I attended my first workshop, which required me to be away from the classroom for the entire day. Hard work and worry were my companions.

The hard work came in preparing a detailed substitute lesson plan. I felt that this lesson plan had to be nearly perfect. I didn't want anything to be forgotten or left to chance. If it did, then chaos was certain to follow and anarchy would rule in my classroom. Well, maybe not chaos or anarchy, but certainly confusion, and I didn't want that to happen.

When the regular teacher is away, it is a difficult situation for both the substitute teacher and the students. The substitute teacher must step into an unfamiliar classroom and teach within the confines of pre-established rules, procedures, and routines. That's hard to do. On the other hand, the students must quickly adapt and become accustomed to the substitute teacher's personality and management style in the classroom.

After spending a year as a graduate intern, I know what it is like to substitute-teach. Sometimes, both sides adapt readily and easily. Other times, it is more challenging. In either circumstance, it is not easy for the students or the substitute teacher. I hoped that a detailed lesson plan would help avoid any unnecessary problems. Yet, I still worried.

Throughout the workshop, I kept looking at my watch, thinking about what should be going on in my classroom. Are they doing their work or are they using this time to talk about dirt bike racing or the latest 'N Sync song? Are they on their best behavior, or will I return to my classroom to find a note from the substitute teacher indicating that he or she would rather have a root canal than return to my class? Yes, I was worried.

Coincidentally, as I was thinking about my class, I overheard someone mentioning that she was worrying about her class as well. It seems worrying is a common feeling that doesn't change, even for more experienced teachers.

Did I worry for nothing? Did my detailed lesson plan help? I will find out in the morning when I get to school. But needless to say that the next time I attend a workshop, I wouldn't mind doing all of this worrying from a workshop in the Bahamas. Do you think that could be arranged?

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Rich Henderson
Education World®
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11/16/2000