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Rich Henderson's Diary
The First 180 Days


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: Anticipation

Week 1

How did I spend my summer vacation? Planning, organizing, copying, laminating, and constantly running to the local teacher store for some much needed, but always forgotten, classroom supplies. Whoever thought that preparing for the opening of school took so much time and effort? I certainly didn't! It was one of those things in life that appeared much easier to do from the sidelines. But now that I am "in the game," the reality of (and greater appreciation for) a teacher's role continues to unfold. For the past several weeks, two tasks have been especially challenging for me: planning for the first day of school and decorating those bulletin boards.

As I have been preparing for my class, one of my greatest concerns has been answering the question "What do I do with 23 students on the first day of school?" Since my first day is an early dismissal, do I plan for a full day of fun "welcome back to school" activities, or do I begin to discuss math and science? Maybe a combination of both? Believe it or not, planning for this first day has been unnerving, so I asked for advice from someone who has planned, and survived, 26 first days of school -- my mentor. With her help and advice, I am planning a day that will incorporate both back-to-school activities and some initial concepts in math and science. Thanks, Debbie!

The next source of my pre-first day trepidation has been those bulletin boards. Who invented them and why are they so big? Wouldn't a poster-sized bulletin board do the trick? With this smaller size, I wouldn't have to use those huge, unruly, temperamental rolls of colored bulletin board paper -- which always seem to wrinkle no matter how careful I am. And, as though one bulletin board weren't enough, I am responsible for two of them (they always seem to travel in pairs). So just after I finished my first "Welcome Back to School" work of art, I still had to produce a second artistic gem that rivaled the first one. Talk about pressure. I did it, though, and I am quite proud of my non-artistic self. But I can't sit on my laurels because I know that bulletin boards are moody creatures that need to be changed on a regular basis. So knowing my artistic and creative limitations, I have decided to buy one of those big, thick "everything you wanted to know about bulletin boards but were afraid to ask" books. I think it will soon be of use as the novelty of my two bulletin board masterpieces wears off and the crowds clamor for more. We'll see.

As the last few days of summer vacation wind down, I can now say that I am prepared for the first day of school. It took a great deal of time, effort, and hard work, but these past several weeks have stressed an invaluable lesson -- the necessity to always plan and prepare for each aspect of my teaching. By doing so, I am giving my students my very best -- and they deserve nothing less. So as the new school year begins, I truly believe that I am more excited about this school year than perhaps my students are.

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Rich Henderson
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