by Harry and Rosemary
The Power of
When her mother died,
she asked to be taken back to the high school from which she graduated.
Chelonnda Seroyer had been warned in education
classes not to share too much of her personal life with her students,
but she felt obligated to do so. She told her 11th and 12th
graders that her mother died when she was 17 years old and that
she has been on her own ever since then. In fact, for two
months after her mother’s passing she searched for a place
to call “home” and college never seemed like an option
to her at that time.
However, she dreamed that one day she would be a teacher because
of a special English teacher that she met in the 10th grade.
It was at the Greater Atlanta Adventist Academy, where she was
given the priceless gift of a wonderful teacher! Her name
was Leola Wade and she, like most teachers, will never know the
impact she had on Chelonnda’s life.
So much so that Chelonnda graduated Magna Cum Laude from the
University of Alabama in Huntsville with a bachelor’s degree
in English/Language Arts and a teaching certificate in Secondary
School Gave Her Consistency
Ms. Wade wasn’t Chelonnda’s favorite teacher because
she introduced her to Shakespeare and taught her how to write
a term paper. She was Chelonnda’s favorite teacher
because she encountered Mrs. Wade during the most difficult time
of her life. She was a 17-year-old senior with a dying mother
and a 6-year-old sister at home. She spent most of her nights
sleeping in an uncomfortable hospital room chair near her mother
and was so sleepy most days that she could hardly keep her eyes
However, Ms. Wade let Chelonnda know everyday that she was happy
to have Chelonnda in her classroom. This highly
effective teacher provided Chelonnda with mind tingling assignments
that kept her engaged, made her feel like she was important, and
always expected the best from her.
Ms. Wade never pitied or made exceptions for Chelonnda.
Ms. Wade’s high expectations pushed Chelonnda to
do her very best.
Why did Chelonnda feel special and “safe” while she
was in this class? Although she didn’t realize it
at the time, Chelonnda thrived in this environment because the
classroom was full of predictable procedures. There were
no surprises. Chelonnda knew exactly what was expected of
her and she did it.
This predictable environment was essential to her success
in school. It was an environment that she longed for because
everything else in her life was so unpredictable.
Her personal life was filled with uncertainty for herself, her
sister, and her mother.
Take Me to School
Four months after graduating from high school, Chelonnda’s
mother lost her battle with cancer. It was the worst day
of Chelonnda’s life. She had no one to turn to and
had no idea what would happen next.
Where does a 17 year old go after she hears that her mother
has just passed away? Her mother’s friend asked,
“Chelonnda, where would you like to go?” And
she said, “Please take me to school.”
For years, she could not understand why she requested that her
mother’s friend take her directly back to her high school
after they left the hospital. It was not until several years
later, on June 25, 2004, as she listened to Harry Wong talk about
the importance of consistency and procedures in the classroom,
that it came to her.
She wanted to go back to her high school because it was
the only place that offered her the consistency that she so desperately
longed for. That was the one place where things
were always in order and predictable. She knew what
was expected of her, and she did it.
Chelonnda said she had a “light bulb moment” as she
was sitting in the Grand Prairie, Texas, high school auditorium
listening to Harry speak.
A Book That Gave Her Consistency
Chelonnda’s student teaching experience was very
scary for her. A friend introduced Chelonnda to
our book, The First Days of School,
and said, “The best advice that I can give you is to READ
Because Chelonnda was extremely nervous about beginning her student
teaching, she ran out and immediately purchased the book that
claimed that it could tell her how to make her first day
of school go off without a hitch. Could this be
true? Well, she had nothing to lose and everything to gain,
so she decided to give it a try.
During her student teaching she took notes during the day from
her field experiences and she took notes at night from what had
quickly become her “classroom instruction manual,”
A.K.A. The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective
Luckily, she was paired with a great role model. She spent
the first half with an amazing teacher, Sandy Few, at Butler High
School in Huntsville, Alabama. It was in Mrs. Few’s
classroom that Chelonnda realized once again the importance of
Mrs. Few was a loving teacher who never had any discipline problems
because everyone in the class knew what was expected from them.
They knew that there were consequences for not doing their homework
and they also knew that there were procedures in place that would
facilitate their learning and take the “mystery” out
of assignments and tests.
Preparing For Her First Days of Teaching
It was time to put the book to the test. Offered a job
at Bob Jones High School in Madison, Alabama, she was trusting
and believing in her “classroom instruction manual”
to deliver on its promises. The questions were swarming.
Is this really going to work? Could it really be this simple,
as it was for Kazim Cicek described last December? (http://teachers.net/wong/NOV04/)
All she wanted was to leave the school after her first day
feeling confident that she had made the right career choice!
So, she spent about a month in her classroom preparing for her
students. The first thing that she did was align
her lesson plans with the state and school district curriculum.
She made sure that she was familiar with their objectives and
she planned her lessons accordingly.
Next, she looked at her class rosters and decided on a layout
for her room that would be conducive to her teaching style.
Once the desks were in place, she chose a method of assigning
seats that would be easy to follow and comfortable for her students.
Then, she created a PowerPoint presentation that explained
everything she wanted her students to know about their classroom.
She explained the procedures for everything she could think of!
She had PowerPoint slides on how to hand in papers, the make-up
work policy, how to enter the classroom, how to exit the classroom,
what to do when they needed to leave the classroom during class,
She quickly realized that as she was typing her procedures, something
amazing was happening. She was becoming a little less nervous
about her first day! Why? Because she knew exactly
what she expected from her students, and now she had a clear and
concise way of communicating that to them! Things
were starting to work even BEFORE the first day of school!
The First Day Comes
The first day of school finally came. Her lesson plans
were ready. The desks were in order. The PowerPoint was
ready to go.
Standing at the door dressed in a suit, she was ready to greet
her students. They filed in one by one as she secretly wondered
what was going to happen next.
Wait, she noticed something! Another “good omen”
even before the first day had officially begun.
She had not even entered the classroom yet. The tardy bell
had not rung. However, the students had started working
on the assigned bellwork. Yes! She was now
confident that this was going to be a good day.
After the tardy bell rang, she introduced herself to the class,
told them a little about her life, and let them know that she
had high expectations for them. She started her PowerPoint
and the rest is history!
In December, we shared Kazim Cicek’s procedures and the
PowerPoint slides he uses with his classes. This month,
we are happy to share the classroom organization and procedures
of Chelonnda Seroyer and her PowerPoint slides. (To view
her presentation click
here. Control the slides with buttons near the bottom
of your screen. Please be patient for slow loading images
used in the slides.)
She will also use many of these slides this month in a presentation
for the NASA (National Aeronautical and Space Administration)
conference in Washington, DC. She has been invited to tell
her story as encouragement for some 1000 college students who
are considering teaching as a profession.
What an experience for this audience of potential teachers
to listen to a teacher who became successful in her first year-and-a-half
Chelonnda’s Successful First Year
Chelonnda’s first year of teaching was remarkable.
She had a lot of fun with her students and she learned something
new everyday. She learned that if you expect students
to do well, they will rise to the occasion.
She also learned that there were a lot of students who actually
enjoyed having a predictable environment and they felt “safe”
because they knew exactly what to expect every day. They
liked consistency—in a world that can be inconsistent.
Chelonnda also had a very productive first year outside of the
classroom. She was a senior sponsor, Homecoming Parade assistant,
a member of the Building Based Student Support Team (an in school
committee that has been mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act).
For her efforts she received the Bob Jones High School
“First Year Patriot Award,” which is given to the
first year teacher who is recognized for outstanding accomplishments
and achievements in academics, athletics, or co-curricular pursuits.
Chelonnda Provides Consistency
Her students respected the fact that she was well prepared each
day and they responded by working hard to learn the procedures.
Chelonnda provided for her students the same consistency that
her high school teacher, Mrs. Wade, had established for Chelonnda
and her classmates. It was now Chelonnda’s time to
provide that same consistency.
She was able to connect with her students by showing that she
genuinely cared about them. She told them why procedures
were necessary in the classroom and then spent an entire two weeks
discussing and practicing them. She explained to them that
there are procedures in “real life” that we all have
to follow. Her students are 17 and 18 year olds so they
talked a lot about work procedures at their part-time jobs.
They appreciated the discussion and had no problem following the
One procedure that was especially helpful is one that she “stole”
from a middle school teacher, Karla Henson, in her school district.
The impressive procedure consists of issuing a “Student
Anytime any student does not have the assignment, they
are to fill out a “Student Responsibility Card.”
They explain why they do not have the assignment, sign and date
it, and give it back. There is no penalty other than loss
of credit on the assignment. However, it causes the student
to take responsibility for not having the assignment. It
also provides the teacher with written documentation that the
student chose not to do their homework. This has proven
to be an invaluable procedure.
Chelonnda’s Second Year
At the start of Chelonnda’s second year, she had the opportunity
to hear Harry Wong—live—in person! Her principal
asked her to prepare a report for her faculty based on her experience.
She was also asked to serve on the Alabama Reading Initiative
Team, as well as assist one of her administrators by facilitating
a “First Days of School” monthly “get together”
for the first year teachers at her school. They use The
First Days of School as a foundation to discuss
and share procedures that work in their classrooms.
“All I can say is thank you Dr. Wong!” You
have given me the confidence that I need to fully enjoy my career.
I am in an absolutely outstanding school system that supports
its new teachers and thoroughly appreciates my hard work.
I could not ask for a more fulfilling career. My administrators
are supportive, my co-workers are phenomenal, and the students
are absolutely amazing!”
Her Dreams for the Future
Chelonnda would like to begin working on her National
Board Certification within the next year or two.
In addition to teaching, she would love to participate in some
type of new teacher induction program, because
she has expectations that others can succeed just as she succeeded.
She is so passionate about the power of an effective
classroom that she would truly enjoy sharing her experiences with
other new teachers. She has been on both sides
of the fence and she feels that she can offer a unique perspective
on the classroom.
Although she has not been teaching for very long, she is very
well acquainted with the benefits of an effective classroom.
She is the product of an effective teacher who provided
a classroom with consistent procedures and had high expectations
In turn, she is herself, an effective teacher who provides a
classroom with consistent procedures and offers high expectations
to her students!
Making Dreams Come True
Little does Chelonnda realize that her dreams are coming true.
By allowing us to share her story with others, she is influencing
and giving hope to teachers who face seemingly insurmountable
The influence of Mrs. Wade on her life is a gift every
teacher is able to give to students. Chelonnda
is passing it on to her students. Continue the chain and
be that influence and pillar of consistency for your students.
You will never know the power of your actions, but you can rest
each night knowing that you provided for your students the foundation
needed to face the world with calm and consistency.
Procedures are simple, but their impact is enormous.
Let us hear from you and the power of procedures in your classroom.
Share with us your story, and in turn we may share it with others.
Remember, it’s the simple things in life that make all the
difference in the world. Make a difference—today.
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