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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: Lessons About Lesson Planning

Week 6

Was there a full moon this week? If there was, that would explain an awful lot about what happened during the past several days. Nothing seemed to go right. Lessons flopped right before my eyes; students were losing their papers; my instruction time was reduced. What happened?

I had planned my lessons for the week -- really. I remember sitting at my kitchen table planning for each moment of each day. The lessons were organized and ready to go. They looked good on paper. But some of the lessons sank faster than the Titanic -- and I didn't even realize there was an iceberg in the area. But I had inadvertently caused its formation.

First, I had made an incorrect assumption: I had assumed that after we went over homework assignments, all my students actually put those papers where I told them to put them -- into their three-ring binders, available to refer to and study from.

Based on the notion that my students had the homework papers in their binders, I had planned some of my lessons for the week. That was my second incorrect assumption. (Can you now see the iceberg coming?) Without those papers for reference, some of my students were as lost as their papers.

I should have been on the lookout for this problem, but I missed it. I shouldn't have assumed anything. Lesson learned.

I know that being flexible is crucial for a teacher. As I plan my lessons, I build in flexibility to compensate for lessons that flop (see above) or for the occasional guest speaker or assembly. That is standard practice. However, this week I had to have more than the standard degree of flexibility. My class schedule was so contorted that it would have hurt Gumby, that little animated character who bends and changes shape to accomplish any task at hand!

For two days, my schedule changed completely. That left my class with much shorter periods of instruction. I had to change many lessons or rescheduled them for another day. That became a little frustrating. I felt as though I should have more teaching time. However, I realized that my students were still learning and that each of those interruptions benefited them in some way. It was still frustrating, but I adjusted to each situation. Gumby couldn't have done any better!

It was one of those weeks. Nothing seemed to go right. At least that's how I felt initially. But upon reflection, I realized two things: First, unexplainable mysteries abound in my students' desks; those pieces of furniture seem to swallow papers! Second, to accomplish all that is necessary in a school day, you sometimes have to be as flexible as that little green guy is. Who said teaching would ever be boring?

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Rich Henderson
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