by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
August 1, 2008
is doing all the work is doing all the learning,” says
Holland Myers, a high-school teacher from California. “Unfortunately
it took me ten years and a feeling of almost total desperation before
I figured that out,” he says.
years ago, Holland was at the end of his rope. He was feeling completely
demoralized by the thought of dealing with yet another semester of uninterested,
unmotivated, and unruly students.
his first ten years, he taught a required one-semester computer literacy
course to ninth-grade students.
Center High, the typing course and my computer literacy course swap students
each semester,” Holland told us. “As the new semester
approached, reports from the typing teachers were filled with warnings.
One teacher told me that this was the worst group of students
he had seen in 23 years of teaching. At the time, I was
only 38 years old and I already couldn’t tolerate the thought of
teaching another 20 years or so until retirement. My students had
no interest in learning and I felt I was serving as little more than a
babysitter. I had no idea how I would face this next semester of
luck would have it, at semester’s end, I attended an in-service
training led by Dr. Harry Wong. I was tremendously impressed by
the concepts and suggestions he made. Desperate to change my classroom
environment, I went straight home and ordered The First Days
had only one week to prepare for my new semester. Using the book
as a foundation, I set up the model for a different approach to teaching.
I wanted my students to understand from the minute they entered my classroom
that this was a place where learning would occur.”
First Day of School
Holland began by creating procedures for his classroom.
He communicated them via computer generated posters he made and hung on
banner that read “Welcome to Success!” was also hung along
with samples of student work.
created a packet to give each student at the beginning of class on the
first day. Each packet included a personalized cover letter
welcoming the student to the class and copies of all the posters.
the students entered my class, they were asked to immediately begin their
first assignment,” says Holland. “Instructions were
posted on the board. Now, I use a monitor.
they worked, I approached each student individually and handed him or
her the classroom packet I had prepared. As I did so, I made a simple
comment to each one. ‘Catherine, it’s good to have you
in class,’ or ‘Eric, I’m glad you’re here today.’
The students looked at me strangely as if I was speaking in a foreign
language, but I continued anyway.
the students finished their assignment, I explained about the class and
its priorities. I told them, ‘This is the most exciting class
you will ever take! We are not going to learn about computers, we
are going to learn about success! This is the most
exciting class you will ever take because you will be successful here,
and being successful here means that you can be successful anywhere.
And do you know why? It’s because we are going to practice
the things that successful people do.’
pointed to a poster on the wall and said, ‘If you do these five
things, you will be successful and magic will happen every time.’
need to practice courtesy, discipline, responsibility, team effort, and
cooperation ON something,” Holland told his class, “so we
will practice them on learning about computers. Learning about computers
is very easy with these five things. It is very difficult without
Holland reviewed all of his classroom procedures with his students.
Together they practiced them, over and over. (See
The First Days of School, page 175.)
“I praised my class every time, even when we had to repeat a procedure
to get it right. I would find something good to say before we talked
about how to improve next time.”
my class, the students know to immediately give me their attention when
I ring a bell. A poster on the wall outlines the procedure.
to the Teacher
weeks before, I might have said, ‘May I have your attention, please,’
repeating it over and over, more loudly each time until finally I would
be yelling, ‘Why can’t you do this right? How difficult
can this be? All you have to do is stop typing and shut up!’
because they have learned our classroom procedures, my students give me
their immediate attention. Instead of yelling, I find myself saying,
‘You stopped typing exactly when I asked. That was excellent!
Thank you very much!’
a funny thing happened. My students were smiling. They had
successfully completed a procedure. Several of them came up to me
Myers, I think I’m going to enjoy this class.’”
He Handled Cheating
two weeks later, Holland was sidelined with a nasty flu bug and was out
for four days. His students had completed a lot of work in his absence,
but out of the 120 students in his four classes, he noticed that at least
10 had printed out other students’ work and put their own names
tells us, “I couldn’t decide how to be positive about this
flagrant cheating. I knew if I came back yelling, I would be less
than effective in communicating with my students. I decided to teach
a different lesson.
I returned to class, I told the students that I had discovered that some
of them had cheated on their assignments. ‘Cheating and lying
are things that successful people don’t do,’ I told them.
‘It is only a path to failure. But one of life’s lessons
is that sometimes, successful people who make a mistake can salvage success
out of failure through honesty, if they are honest soon enough.
If your boss catches you in a lie or being dishonest, then it is too late.
if you can tell your boss about your mistake before it is discovered,
then your honesty and dedication will be remembered, not the mistake.
if you want to salvage success out of failure in my class, and if you
have made a mistake, please tell me that you would like to take back some
pages of your work before I grade it at the end of the day.’
students turned themselves in. And not a single one repeated that
Taught Them Success
the next ten weeks, I continued to teach my students our classroom elements
of success. I explained to my students that courtesy is
based on an attitude and that certain words are used to convey it.
The attitude is to be nice to each other. The words are Please,
Thank You, You’re Welcome,
Excuse Me, and I’m Sorry.
I posted these five phrases on a poster titled Words to Success
which hung on the wall. (See The First Days of School,
day, a student with a history of being rude came up as I was talking to
another teacher. I saw a pained look on this face, followed by a
puzzled look. Finally, he glanced at the wall and breathed a sigh
of relief. ‘EXCUSE ME, Mr. Myers,’ he began. He
had learned that he couldn’t just interrupt our conversation, but
he couldn’t remember what to say. The poster on the wall gave
him his clue.”
Holland began teaching his students the components of success, an average
of about 35 percent had received a C- or lower in his class.
In an effort to increase the number of successful students and to convey
the importance of team effort, Holland borrowed an example from the business
world. Just as employees are often rewarded for reaching a corporate
goal, his students would also be rewarded for reaching a class goal.
Together the class set the goal that every single student would have a
C or better by the end of the quarter. Anything lower than
a C would not be good enough. If they met that goal, they
would be treated to a party by Holland.
students were taught to work together to help each other.
Holland observed firsthand that the students doing the most work, did
the most learning. When students tutored other students, they themselves
learned more as well. And when questions could not be answered by
other students, Holland would work one-on-one with the students who needed
the end of the quarter, all four of Holland’s computer literacy
classes had met their goals. Not one student received a grade
lower than a C. All four classes celebrated with a party.
Holland said, “All this from some of ‘the worst students’
my peer teachers had seen in 23 years!
other teachers wondered how I did it. I told them, ‘I didn’t
do it. When the in-service was over, I came up to thank Harry for
helping me “do it.”
Well-Oiled Machine in the Worst of Times
Myers is a proactive teacher. The old adage, “into
each life, some rain must fall,” certainly rang true for Holland
several years after he had become an effective teacher. He says,
“One year, I had personal issues at home with an ill family member
that consumed a lot of my attention. Quite honestly, there were
many times that year that I felt unable to focus on my students.
Interestingly there was another teacher that same year with similar family
big difference: my classes knew exactly what was expected of them.
They understood the value of teamwork and cooperative learning.
They respected the procedures of our classroom and showed courtesy for
each other and for me. Even without my full attention, my classes
continued to run like a well-oiled machine. And the students were
colleague did not have classroom procedures in place. Unable to
focus on his class, he resorted to taking them to the library every day
with no specific goals or task. His students simply did not learn
are human. They and members of their families can get sick.
Or they might have to deal with other things outside of school that can
have a negative impact on them. But when teachers are proactive
in implementing a classroom management plan, student learning can take
place—even in the absence of the teacher—because the students
know what to do.
Teachers Are Proactive
know that effective teachers are proactive. They use classroom
management techniques to prevent problems from occurring. And
under adversity the students all know what to do, which is what they must
learn to do as a successful adult. Proactive teachers have
classrooms that almost run themselves—just like a well-oiled machine.
2004), Beth Sommers (May
2007), Elmo Sanchez (August
2007), Kazim Cicek (November
2004) and many more are examples of proactive teachers with smooth-running
classrooms who have been highlighted in this column through the years.
summarizes his characteristics of a well-managed classroom:
are deeply involved in their work.
know what is expected of them and are generally successful.
There is relatively little wasted time, confusion or disruption.
The climate of a classroom is work-oriented, but relaxed and pleasant.
classroom management plan has remained highly effective for the past twenty
years. It is what has made him an effective teacher with successful
years ago, he made a personal commitment:
years is too long to baby-sit. I knew I either had to give
up and start coming to school just to baby-sit and hate it the whole time,
or I had to find a new way to teach.”
he still keeps on ticking! Holland hasn’t rested
on his laurels, so to speak. Just as he expects his students to
learn, he demands the same of himself. He understands that effective
cease to learn. He says, “I remember what Harry said at
our school in-service 20 years ago:
you learn or do just 10 percent more every year, you will be in the
top 20 percent of the teaching profession in four or five years.
it became a personal goal of mine to learn something new every year.
Every year, I studied for a new credential, took a new class, or followed
coursework that interested me.”
the years, Holland has become certified to teach K-12 life sciences, physical
science, mathematics, and computer concepts and applications. He
also holds a lifetime community college credential in computers and related
applications. Just recently Holland passed the School Leaders Licensure
Assessment test, which enables him to apply for an administrative credential.
like to think of myself as a master teacher with 30 years of experience.
I know some of my peers who have had one year of experience, 30 times.
The difference between us is not aptitude; they may be smarter or even
more natural teachers than I. The difference is that every year
I try to give 10 percent more than I did the previous year.”
tells us, “I’m certainly not ready for retirement, but I have
turned over the department chairmanship to another teacher so I can help
with her transition while I am still here. I haven’t yet decided
what’s next on my list.
you can be sure, I’m ready to try something new . . . to learn something
Top Four Things All Teachers Should Know
on his career, Holland shares with you the four most important tips for
Whoever is doing all the work is doing all the learning.
When you walk into a room, what do you see? Is the teacher doing
all the work, lecturing, demonstrating, rushing back and forth?
If so, the person doing the most work is the teacher. It may be
that by doing more work, the students make more mistakes, but ultimately
they will also learn more.
There is no learning in an out-of-control classroom.
Stop teaching and start practicing classroom procedures. It is time
you will more than make up for later.
You can start the year over any time you like.
Just because the calendar says “March” and you have done everything
wrong up until then, doesn’t mean you can’t start all over
right there and then. Implementing classroom procedures will result
in a much more effective—and enjoyable—April and May.
A good classroom management system will succeed most of the time for 80%
of your students, all of the time for 15% of your students, and none of
the time for 5% of your students.
assume that you are doing something wrong because there are one or two
students you cannot reach. Writing referrals, handing out suspensions,
calling home, and contacting other resources are all part of the process.
The goal is to help those students into an educational environment where
they can be successful.
computers and its related technology that outdates itself with the next
latest, greatest device in the blink of an eye, classroom management is
timeless. You’ll never find the concept of classroom management
in the e-waste pile of fads and programs that promised student and teacher
your classroom management plan at the start of this new school year.
Use technology to assist you. PowerPoint presentations are easy
to create to visually present your procedures to the class. Click
see an example. Get everyone on the same homepage when the school
Holland believes and practices, it is our firm belief that every student
has the potential for success and all we have to do as teachers is to
create the structure for learning to take place.
doesn’t mean the formula will work for everyone as Holland states
in #4 in his list of all things teachers should know. But, that
is our job as teachers, to constantly rework, tweak, modify, and change
our classroom and our instruction to unlock the potential in all students.
did not produce student success. He created the opportunity for
his students to succeed. When the students’ succeeded, they continued
to grow and learn in the hands of an effective teacher, Holland Myers.
hope this article about an effective teacher will help you to reboot your
classroom for student success this new school year!
a printable version of this article click
The techniques of effective teachers are replicable. Written ten times a year, Harry and Rosemary Wong's columns feature effective teachers and administrators and their techniques for enhancing student learning. An archive of past articles can be found at the end of every column, with a abstract of all articles at the end of the most recent June column.
For over 20 years, helping teachers become effective has been the passion of the Wongs. Writing for teachers.net is just one of the many ways they reach out to educators with their ideas on how effective teachers improve student learning.
About Harry & Rosemary Wong...
Harry and Rosemary Wong are teachers. Harry is a native of San Francisco and taught middle school and high school science. Rosemary is a native of New Orleans and taught K-8, including working as the school media coordinator and student activity director.
Harry Wong has been awarded the Horace Mann Outstanding Educator Award, the National Teachers Hall of Fame Lifetime Achievement Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal. He was selected as one of the most admired people in education by the readers of Instructor magazine. Rosemary was chosen as one of California's first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award. She was also honored as a Distinguished Alumnus from her alma maters, Southeastern Louisiana University and Louisiana State University.
Harry and Rosemary have been awarded the Upton Sinclair Award and were nominated for the Brock International Prize in Education.
Harry Wong is the most sought after speaker in education today. He has been called "Mr. Practicality" for his common sense, user-friendly, no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success. Over a million teachers worldwide have heard his message. Today, Rosemary speaks along with Harry. In spite of their heavily booked schedule, Harry and Rosemary have agreed to write this monthly column so that more people can hear their message.
How They Develop Effective Teachers...
Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to developing effective teachers, one teacher at a time.
To do this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO.
Their new audio CD set, How to Be an Effective and Successful Teacher, was recorded live before 800 teachers in St. Louis. Listen as they walk you through classrooms that hum with learning and share how you can replicate the same success in your classroom. In 2 hours and 40 minutes, Harry and Rosemary can transform you into a very effective and successful teacher at no cost!
This presentation has transformed the lives and teaching success of hundreds of thousands of teachers.Learn how to
Begin the school year with a plan
Start class immediately
Have a well-organized and structured classroom
Reduce discipline problems
Have students who are engaged and working
Teach procedures and responsibility
Maximize classroom instructional time
Use lesson objectives so students know what they are to learn
Use rubrics to assess for student learning
Deal with at-risk students
Improve student learning and achievement
The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 3.6 million copies have been sold. It is used in 116 countries, 2,027 colleges, and most every new teacher induction program. The new, fourth edition includes:
An additional chapter on procedures
A new chapter on assessment with rubrics.
A new chapter on Professional Learning Teams
A new chapter for administrators on implementation
Additional information in Going Beyond Folders
A new DVD, Using THE FIRST DAYS OF SCHOOL, presented by Chelonnda Seroyer
The Wongs have also produced the DVD series, The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for the best educational video of the past twenty years and awarded the 1st place Gold Award in the International Film and Video Festival.
They also have a successful eLearning course, Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong. The course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience. The outcome of the course is a 2 inch binder with a personalized Classroom Management Action Plan.
This Action Plan is similar to the organized and structured plan used by all effective teachers. Details for the classroom management course can be seen at www.ClassroomManagement.com.
You can hear Harry Wong LIVE on a set of CDs, called
How to Improve Student Achievement, recorded at one
of his many presentations. He invites you to steal from him the secrets of effective teaching for all grade levels.
Never Cease to Learn has the power to transform your
attitude and your life. In this DVD, Harry shares his journey on the road to success and tells listeners how to become the educators they were meant to be.
When the book, video series, CD, DVD, and eLearning course are used together, they form the most effective professional development training tool for producing effective teachers. Staff developers and administrators who would like to know how to implement the aforementioned book, video series, and CD are encouraged to consult the book, New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers. Information about these products can be found by visiting the publisher's website at www.EffectiveTeaching.com or www.HarryWong.com.
Helping you produce effective teachers is our passion.