by Harry and Rosemary
The Most Important
The most important
factor that must be established the first day
and first week of school is Consistency.
Consistency means that the classroom is organized
and predictable. There are no surprises and both the teacher
and the students know how the class is organized and run.
The students know what to do. They know the procedures.
The students, for instance, know the procedures for
coming to attention,
entering the classroom and getting to work,
asking for help,
walking down the hall, and
lining up for the buses.
In the instructional realm, they know the procedures for
heading a paper,
working in a group, and
distributing or exchanging materials.
The result is the teacher is not constantly ordering
or yelling at the students over what to do.
Power comes when you make life predictable
The First Days
of School, page 88
The Difference Between Discipline and Procedures
DISCIPLINE: Concerns how students BEHAVE.
When you have a teacher who does not have an organized classroom
management action plan, you have a teacher who has a disorganized
classroom. This, of course, results in discipline problems
and the teacher spends much wasted academic engaged time handling
Handling behavioral problems only results in temporary
PROCEDURES: Concerns how things are DONE.
A teacher who has a classroom management action plan will have
an organized and structured classroom where both the teacher and
students will know what to do.
To see what a Classroom Management Action Plan looks like and
read how it made a first year teacher instantly successful in
her first year, read “How A Good University Can Help You”
in our September 2001 column. (http://teachers.net/wong/SEP01)
The culmination of this Classroom Management Action Plan can
be seen on
Students who know what to do in the classroom produce
results and results produce learning and achievement.
This is because the students take responsibility and ownership
for the task that needs to be done, resulting is fewer behavior
problems and increased academic learning time.
Procedures result in behavior changes that are
Stated in a similar manner
Effective teachers MANAGE their classrooms with procedures
Ineffective teachers DISCIPLINE their classrooms with threats
A Morning Routine
The staff at a school in Las Vegas establishes and reinforces
a set of consistent procedures before school begins every morning.
This sets the tone for learning during the school day.
The principal of the K-6 school is Lee Douglas. They have
a morning routine, which is lead by a different class each week.
The class has been rehearsed by the teacher and a different student
leads each part of the routine or ceremony.
Morning Opening Ceremony
- Line Up. A teacher beats on a set of
drums and that is the signal to line up. The students
have a designated line and they hurry to line up quickly because
one primary and one elementary classroom with be selected to
receive the “Line of the Day” award. This
is nothing more than a stick with a sign at the top, but they
all want to earn it.
- Pledge of Allegiance and 30 seconds of Silent Meditation.
A student leads the pledge to the flag and then asks them for
30 seconds of silent meditation.
- School Song (Tuesday and Friday). Another
student asks the students to join in on the singing of the school
- Law of the Pack. The school mascot
is a wolf, so they refer to themselves as the wolf pack. A student
says, “Please repeat after me…”
A GRAGSON GREY WOLF IS:
Caring, Curious, Confident,
Shoes Initiative, Effort,
Perseverance, Has Integrity,
A Sense of Humor and is a Problem Solver.
- Pack Slogan. A student says, “On
the Count of Three: 1, 2, 3,” or “Ready, begin…”
WE WILL BE REMEMBERED BY THE TRACKS WE LEAVE BEHIND
- Pack Motto. Another student leads and
says, “On the Count of Three: 1, 2, 3,” or “Ready,
Good, Better, Best,
Never Let It Rest,
Till the Good is Better,
And the Better is Best!
- The Grey Wolf Pledge. A student says,
“On the Count of Three: 1, 2, 3,” or “Ready,
I believe in myself and my ability to do my best at all
I will act in such a way that I will be proud of myself,
and others will be proud of me too.
I will not waste this day,
because this day will not come again.
- Review of Weekly Life Skills. A teacher
reminds the students of the life skill being learned for the
- Dismissal. The principal, Lee Douglas,
presents the “Line of the Day” award to the primary
and elementary class that has demonstrated promptness, procedures,
The recitation of the words to the song, law, motto, and pledge
all reinforce the CULTURE of the school.
Thus, the students begin school each day
with a vision
and purpose for coming to school and with
a set of procedures to use to succeed in school.
You can see this because when the drum beats again, the classes
file off the playground, lead by the Line of the Day classes first.
As the students file down the hallways, there is no talking or
pushing, because the procedure is ZIP (your lips) and FLIP (fold
And when they enter their respective classrooms, there is a bellwork
assignment posted. The students start their school work
How Procedures Were Developed
How did this school in Las Vegas develop the procedures
for a morning ceremony?
Working as a learning community, they met for a series of staff
development meetings and studied a different chapter, and revisited
some, from The First Days of School
at each meeting.
These are the procedures they used:
- They met for 30 minutes every Friday.
- They studied a different chapter, and revisited some, from
The First Days of School each Friday.
- Each Friday the teachers brought in something that worked
to share, thus, new teachers saw lots of models from the veteran
- They agreed on and implemented one new procedure every two
- They Structured Everything. There is school-wide
They agreed on and implemented one new procedure every two weeks.
They determined a need to have school-wide consistency.
Lee Douglas says, “When school began this year, we hit
the floor running. It flows.
I’ve been in education for 30 years and I have never seen
anything like this. Our school, which is in a high at-risk
community, flows so well!”
She further says, “Everything in the lives of our students
is chaotic. School is the only part of their life that is
A sixth grade boy said, “I like coming to class because
everyone knows what to DO, so no one yells at you and you can
get on with learning.”
Note the operative verb, “DO.” As so many students
will say, “How can I do what I am supposed to do
when no one tells me what they expect me to do?”
You can always differentiate the teachers who are doing well
from those who are not. The ones who are not doing well
are always talking about the poor discipline
and behavior of their students.
Whereas, the effective teachers are talking about what their
students are DOING, achieving, and accomplishing.
Thus, in some classrooms the teachers are preoccupied with student
behavior and in other classrooms the teachers are preoccupied
with student learning.
The problem in many classrooms is not
It is the lack of procedures and routines.
With a Classroom Management Action Plan (www.ClassroomManagement.com)
, you can have a straightforward, well-established way to
- improve your teaching effectiveness and
- the student’s level of learning.
Create a Critical Mass
There’s more to the story of Lee Douglas and her
teachers. Las Vegas, or really the Clark County
schools, is the fifth largest school district in America (surpassed
by New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, and Miami-Dade County).
They open a new school every month and hire 2000 new teachers
The district will often move an effective principal to open a
new school. This happened to Lee Douglas, but the move was
easy for her.
She took a critical mass (a small group) of effective
teachers with her and between them they set the culture for the
new school starting on the first day of school.
It’s much easier to establish a culture if there is a preexisting
culture that can be transferred, especially with a group of teachers
who already know and practice the culture.
The new teachers who made up the rest of the staff saw the value
of having consistency, especially with a set of successful procedures
that had worked elsewhere. Why reinvent the wheel?
So, what do you do if you do not have an administrator
like Lee Douglas or a principal who hasn’t even invented
Get together as a grade level or academic subject level
and start your own culture.
Build your own critical mass. Make this
a win-win situation and help the principal to see the efficacy
of school-wide procedures. And it will be a win-win situation
if there are enough teachers who are using an organized classroom
management action plan.
A Professional Learning Community
There is a simple, powerful concept that supports and validates
the practice used at Lee Douglas’ school. It is the
concept of working together as a team or a family. The catch-phrase
in education is a Professional Learning community.
Professional Learning Communities work together "on
a continuing basis. A high performing school has
never been found where people work in isolation.
There is absolutely no research to show
that student learning
improves when teachers work in isolation.
Where people work in isolation, there is no culture. Since
culture refers to what people believe and what they do, where
there is no culture there are no beliefs and no common set of
practices that guides a school.
- An ineffective school has a culture that is easily
discernable. Here, the teachers work in isolation,
cover materials, and share nothing.
- An effective, high performing school has a culture.
The teachers talk about teaching practice; they work
together in designing curriculum and instruction; and they help
each other to improve practice.
Start by gathering a group of teachers who will meet regularly
identify essential student learning,
develop and implement new lessons,
assess their results,
adjust their lessons based on their results,
set explicit, achievement goals and
continue this practice on a continuing basis.
In a professional learning community, the staff is continually
learning from research as it modifies its organization, programs,
and practices to meet the needs of all students. There is
continual reflection, feedback, and problem solving.
In a professional learning community, the staff participates
in a series of practices that organizes and promotes mutually
respectful relationships between and among its staff and students.
The Best New School Year
We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again.
Teachers belong to one of the few professional that allows you
to start all over again each year. When school begins again,
you will have a new group of students who have never seen you
before. You can do anything you want to them and YOURSELF.
You can just do what you’ve always done before.
The surest path to stagnation is to do
nothing or just get by.
The First Days of School, page 285
Or, before school begins again:
- Make a commitment to start on a ten percent risk plan.
The First Days of School, page 304.
- Start a learning plan for yourself. Don’t
be afraid to learn. Knowledge is weightless, a treasure
you can always carry easily. The First
Days of School, page 293 or all of Unit E.
- Listen to Never Cease to Learn, the CD that is found
at the back of
The First Days of School, 3rd edition.
It is much easier to develop good habits, than it is to break
bad habits. If you dare to teach, you must never cease to
As you start another school year, please recognize that
Some teachers come and go.
Others come, stay for a while
and leave foot prints on their student’s hearts.
They do not do this with some gimmick
or fancy program.
They do this by providing strong academic content,
which has been developed with a team, and
managing their classrooms with procedures
so that teaching and learning can take place
in an organized classroom.
You can leave lots of foot prints.
Best wishes for a great new school year!
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