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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: Am I Doing Enough?

Week 18

"Jack of all trades, master of none." Who hasn't heard that statement? The saying adequately describes how ineffective someone may be, or feel he or she may be, as the person sets out to accomplish a multitude of tasks. The person's desire to complete each of these tasks in an exceptional manner provides the impetus to take on the tasks. However, due to the sheer assortment of responsibilities, completing each in an exceptional manner is an unreasonable objective. Yet, that is what I have been trying to do.

I teach a group of students who possess a broad spectrum of abilities and challenges. With that in mind, I try to meet each of their needs in the best possible manner. The question that I have been continuously asking myself lately is this: Am I doing enough?

New teachers are supposed to learn, not master. I know that. Yet, in my first year, I want to accomplish skills that take many years to understand, let alone master. I want each of my students to be challenged according to his or her individual abilities. I want to give each the opportunity to grow intellectually without becoming overwhelmed by the work, or, perhaps, by a challenge that the student may face in his or her ability to learn.

I try to provide both the support and stimulation that my students need in order to expand their knowledge and thinking skills. Sometimes, however, I am left wondering if I am doing enough. How do I help both the students who need assistance with basic multiplication facts and those who demonstrate a desire and an ability to learn more advance concepts? What about those students who are somewhere in between? Can a teacher adequately instruct and guide each student no matter where he or she falls along that spectrum? That is what I am trying to do, but it's not easy.

I provide individualized instruction and support for those students who are at the ends of the spectrum. I try to address each student's unique qualities by helping the student memorize basic multiplication facts or solve logic problems. At the same time, I provide the rest of the students in my class with instruction geared toward their abilities. It is not an easy task, and I am left wondering if it is enough. How do other teachers do it? How do they teach to a broad range of students in their classes? Is it a challenge that eases with time and experience? Perhaps, both time and experience will provide me with the insight that I need to adequately address these issues. But for now, I feel that I have taken on many trades but have mastered none.

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Rich Henderson
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