by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
May 1, 2008
even more amazing are his students. Click here
to see and hear a wonderful class perform for yourself!
know that no school-age child is too young to learn and follow procedures.
When you establish procedures and routines early in the school year, you
free up the rest of the year for teaching and learning in the content
Bernie Alidor, structure is what enabled him to finally take control of
his life. It is also what makes him a highly effective
teacher. Bernie is a kindergarten teacher at Spencer Bibbs Academy
in Pensacola, Florida. Most of his students come from lower socio-economic
households and receive free breakfast and lunch at the school. Many
are from single-parent homes and face difficult learning challenges and
instability in their lives at home. Yet, each one of Bernie’s
kindergarten students leaves his class at the end of the year with a “can-do”
attitude. They understand the value of hard work, organization,
and setting goals.
a child, becoming a teacher was the furthest thing from Bernie’s
mind. Raised by his mother with very little money after his father
died, Bernie suffered from ADHD as Bernie says, “before it was even
an acronym.” Bernie had seemingly limitless energy levels
but was directionless. His teachers had no clue how to handle him.
He was labeled with just about every negative name possible—bad,
defiant, disobedient, immature, dumb.
tells us he was passed from grade to grade “because no teacher wanted
me in his or her class for more than a year.” With little
money and a poor high school transcript, Bernie knew college wasn’t
an option. Still he knew he wanted a better life for himself, so
he chose to enlist in the Navy.
for Bernie, the Navy provided a structured environment in which he could
thrive. “In the Navy, you practice procedures over
and over until you can do them in your sleep,” says Bernie.
It is the Navy’s way of ensuring consistent results. For Bernie,
the consistency allowed him to excel at something for the first time in
ten years in the Navy, Bernie’s good record paved the way to a new
opportunity. He was asked to attend Navy instructor school in Pensacola,
Florida. Over the ensuing years, Bernie became qualified to teach
everything from deep-water survival to drug awareness and CPR. He
was a good teacher and he loved it. Now he knew what he wanted to
do following his final Navy tour. He would become a schoolteacher.
wasn’t easy; school had never been Bernie’s favorite place.
And now he was married with three young children. Still, he refused
to give up. While working full-time to help support his family,
Bernie completed college with a degree in elementary education in just
last year of college, one of my favorite professors recommended that we
all read The First Days of School. I have to admit,
given my ADHD and already heavy workload, I might not have read the book
had I not liked this professor so well. But right away I knew this
was a great book and a “must read” for every new teacher.
I feel I learned more from this book about what makes a good teacher
than from some of my required college classes.”
in a Structured Environment
realized that he was able to succeed largely as a result of working within
a structured environment in the Navy. If structure worked
for him – challenged as he was by his ADHD – he knew it would
be effective within his classroom.
he began teaching eight years ago, Bernie has continued to use The
First Days of School (FDS) as a resource in organizing his
room. He says, “I am a firm believer in this ‘Key Idea’
from the unit on classroom management (FDS, page 3)”:
you do on the first days of school will determine your success
or failure for the rest of the school year.
is why I spend extra time and effort getting my room ready long before
I even know the names of my students. I want the first day of school
for my kindergarteners to be a very special day for them.
before my new students arrive I arrange the room so that it will feel
safe, inviting, and comfortable. Several years ago, I painted
everything in the room in bright colors and every summer I touch up where
needed. I collect teddy bears and place them in our classroom library.
They make great “comforters” for the students should anxiety
strike during those first few weeks. Everything is put in its place,
from learning manipulatives to books.”
Bernie learns his students’ names, he assigns each child a desk
labeled with his or name on it. The decorated classroom door is
covered with huge, brightly colored stars and on each star is a student’s
name. In the middle of the door are the words,
am a super star student
day one I want each student to know he or she is special to me,”
says Bernie. “On the first day of school, I start—as
I do most days—waiting eagerly by the door. The difference
is that on that first day, I greet each student on my knees! The
students are delighted to have me down at their level. Each student
is greeted with a big smile and in many cases a hug, and then I personally
walk him or her to the desk that has been specially prepared for them.”
all of the students have arrived on that first day, Bernie wastes
no time setting the stage for the rest of the year. He starts
by saying his name and telling them a little bit about himself.
Together the class repeats his name several times. Bernie tells
the students that he is very excited that they are in his class and
assures them that he will take good care of them. He tells them
They will get breakfast and lunch every day.
will make sure they get on the right bus at the end of the day.
are things the students are most anxious about. “If they fill their
time worrying, they won’t be able to focus on learning,” he
says. Bernie wastes no time. Once his students have been assured,
he begins teaching his classroom procedures.
Procedures with Modified Modeling
most of my kindergarteners cannot read yet, a written list of rules won’t
work,” says Bernie. “Of course, I never use the word
rules anyway. Instead we just talk about the correct way
we are to do things in kindergarten. I guide the discussion, but
always try to let them think that they are coming up with the
ideas of how “big” boys and girls should act in kindergarten.
use a method called modified modeling to teach my students the correct
procedures. Instead of just telling my students what the procedure
is, I act out the wrong way first. For example, in my classroom,
if a child needs to use the restroom, they raise two fingers.
begin to teach this procedure by jumping up and down, waving my hands
and yelling, ‘I got to use the restroom,’ over and over.
The students all get a big laugh. Then I ask them if they can
think of a better way to ask permission for the restroom. At
least one student will always come up with the idea of raising his
or her hand. I simply modify this with the two fingers signal.
Then I do the following:
model the correct procedure.
ask individual students to model it.
ask the whole class to model it.
continue going through our classroom procedures using this process for
most of the day.
have three good reasons for using this method to teach.
children love watching me act out the wrong way to do something.
It helps them relax and loosen up.
The children like being part of the process for thinking up the
procedures. It gives them immediate ownership.
The children all get a chance to model the correct procedure.
This lets me know when and if they have learned it.
course it takes more than just one magic day of going over procedures
for the students to master them all. We go over each procedure every
day, again and again, that whole first week of school. By the end
of the week, most of the students know what, when, and how to do each
procedure. They also understand that by following these procedures
they will be prepared to have a good day and to learn.”
for the Hallway
uses other procedures to help his classroom run smoothly:
citizenship/homework folder out of your book bag, and put it in
the Folder Holder.
up your book bag.
to your seat.
out a book and read until given further instructions.
I say “Listening Position,” stop all activities.
up in your seat.
your hands on top of the desk.
still and look at me.
Help/Have Something to Say
you need to go to the restroom, raise two fingers.
you need help or have something to say, raise five fingers.
Procedure to Leave Classroom
As we line up we say,
hands are at my side.
I’m standing straight and tall.
Got a bubble in my mouth,
I’m ready for the hall.
in the Hall
on the right of the side of the hall.
the silver tile line on the floor.
in the hall.
Workers Do the Work
addition to these main classroom procedures, every week he assigns different
students to a list of rotating jobs. These students are called “Star
Worker Jobs Line Leader King/Queen
Serves as the line leader for the week and sets the example for the others
while in line.
Responsible for taking the attendance sheet to the office and makes other
trips to the office as necessary.
Passes out and collects all papers and other materials as needed to perform
In the morning the pencil mechanic distributes pencils from the pencil
box to the students. In the afternoon, he/she collects and re-sharpens
the pencils for the next day.
Note: During the day if a pencil breaks, students
may quietly exchange it for another one in the pencil box.
No talking, raising hands, or sharpening pencils is needed.
While all the students are responsible for keeping their desks clean,
the clean-up custodian goes around the room at the end of the day to check
that everything has been picked up and put in its place.
Sets lunch tables with utensils and napkins.
Passes out the milk at lunch.
Opens, holds, and closes the door for the other students.
Turns the classroom lights on and off as needed.
Is Living Proof
to Bernie, “The students love doing these jobs and look forward
to their turn at each task. They may only be five years old, but
they take pride in doing their jobs well. And they enjoy the responsibility
and leadership that come with their tasks. Their willingness to
handle these jobs serves as a role model for the other students and makes
our days run smoothly with fewer interruptions.
these procedures also makes it easier for substitute teachers. I
just leave a schedule for that day and tell them to ask the Star Workers
to do their jobs. Substitutes have told me how well the classroom
ran in my absence. Each Star Worker knew just what to do and when,
making the job of the substitutes that much easier.”
Nothing Less Than the Best
Bernie interviewed at Spencer Bibbs Academy, he knew he had found “his
school.” Filled with disadvantaged youth, the school offered
Bernie an opportunity to work in an environment similar to the one in
which he grew up. “My teachers might not have agreed, but
I am living proof that all children can learn,” says Bernie.
is absolutely no research correlation between success and family background,
race, national origin, financial status, or even educational accomplishments.
There is but one correlation with success, and that is ATTITUDE.(FDS, page 35)
I did not believe that statement,” Bernie tells us, “I would
not be teaching today. So what keeps me interested and motivated
year after year working in one of the lowest socio-economic school districts?
fame! The money! The glory! The glamour!
laughing? When you stop I’ll tell you the real answer.
Corny as it might sound, I truly believe that I can change the world one
child at a time. If I can do my part to help a student have
a better future, that is all the motivation I need.
importance of having positive expectations for our students cannot be
overstated. No matter how difficult things were for me growing up,
my mother never let me give up. She would say, ‘You can do
it!’ Frankly, she just wouldn’t take ‘no’
for an answer. My mother’s positive expectations for me are
what propelled me to overcome my obstacles to work hard to achieve my
goals. Her words remain in my mind.
feel it is now my responsibility to share this same positive expectation
with each and every one of my students. And I do so every day.
A poster next to our classroom door very simply reads,
Never, Never, Ever Give Up!
the first day of school we discuss this together as a class. I ask
my students to always do their best. It’s only natural that
there will be times when they are frustrated with something. Still,
saying I can’t is not an option. I encourage my students
to think I can and I’ll keep trying.
a procedure, my students touch the poster as they enter the classroom
in the mornings. Does it help? Former students of mine come
by my room all the time and tell me, ‘I remember our sign, Mr. Alidor.’
I always ask them if they are doing what it says and they tell me, ‘Yes,
sir. I am.’
incorporate my high expectations for my students within their daily lessons
as well. They learn that achievement is within their control and
that success is highly attainable. A social studies lesson,
for example, might focus on the community and the jobs people do within
our community. I ask my students what they want to be when they
grow up and tape their answers to their desks. Some want to be doctors,
bankers and fire fighters; others want to be cowboys and ranchers.
I encourage the students to aim high and I focus on what it takes to reach
their goals. Whenever a student is struggling, I point to their
label and encourage them to continue to work hard so they can become successful.”
Involvement Is Key
of the parents of Bernie’s students have tough lives. They
are often the sole caretakers and breadwinners for their families.
Their time is limited. Sometimes their vision for the future is
limited as well. But Bernie works to involve the parents in their
children’s education from the start. He explains that his
expectations for their children have no limits. He assures them
that he will do his best as their teacher to help their children achieve
the highest level of success they can reach. Then he tells them
he will need their full support. Bernie has yet to meet a parent
who has not been supportive when approached in this manner. Sometimes
all it takes is information, encouragement, and high expectations.
tells us that even after eight years of teaching he continues to learn
new things. He shares that last year he attended a conference in
which Harry spoke and “came away feeling ready to motivate,
invigorate, stimulate, and educate his students.”
says, “I have been to many educational conferences, but this one
was more than just a pep rally. One of my favorite parts focused
on the importance of teachers. I get so tired of teachers always
blaming everything under the sun for the problems they encounter in their
classrooms. I say quit complaining and use that energy for something
conference underscored that it is up to us as teachers to ensure the success
of each our students. When we couple high expectations with clear
and effective classroom management techniques, we are providing the tools
our students need to succeed in school. I would add to this that
until a child knows that we as teachers care about them, they will not
care to know what we can teach them.”
Safe and Consistent Environment
takes focus—which requires a stable and consistent environment,
one that removes distractions and situations that take away from the teacher’s
teaching time and the students’ learning time. We
understand that all too often students come to school with the weight
of the world on their shoulders. Some have major responsibilities
for sibling care or adding to the family income. Others witness
violence that hits too close to home. Many come to school unfed—hungry
and tired. Still others must overcome the obstacles that stand in
the way of conventional learning, such as attention deficit disorders,
dyslexia, or other learning challenges. As we have seen
time and time again, a structured school environment provides these children
with the only safe and consistent environment they know.
Chelonnda Seroyer how school became her comfort zone
after her world turned upside down when her mother passed away.
She’ll also tell you that procedures are what made her an effective
high school teacher from her very first day of teaching. “My
students enjoy having a predictable environment. They feel safe
because they know exactly what to expect each day. They like consistency
in a world that can be very inconsistent. Procedures are simple,
but their impact is enormous.” Chelonnda’s story and
her procedures can be seen by clicking here.
Gibbs’ fourth-grade classroom runs like a well-oiled machine.
Like Bernie, he is an effective teacher who manages his classroom with
procedures. Nathan also suffered from ADHD as a child. He
realized that he was the most successful in classrooms that were structured.
Now he knows that if his procedures enable even his most challenged students
to be successful, he will have a classroom filled with successful students.
To read more about Nathan’s procedures, click here.
March 2007, we introduced you to Karen Rogers, a high school teacher in
Kansas. Karen says, “Procedures are such an important part
of classroom management. They work at all levels. In my high
school classroom, if I don’t reinforce a procedure throughout the
year—for example, being seated for dismissal—it becomes a
management problem later in the school year when I must then waste time
at the end of the hour repeatedly saying, “be seated!” Click
to see Karen’s procedures.
one of these teachers know: Students want a well-managed
classroom even more than the teachers do because there is security in
a classroom that is consistent. There are no surprises
and no yelling in a classroom where everyone—students and teachers—knows
what is happening.
comes from procedures and routines.
know that students readily accept a uniform set of classroom procedures
because it simplifies their task in succeeding in school. Efficient
and workable procedures allow many activities to take place with a minimum
amount of confusion and wasted time. It is up to us as teachers
to structure and organize a classroom so our students feel safe.
And so our students can learn.
you have successful classroom procedures you would like to share with
us, we’d like to hear from you! Please send your emails to
to Teachers is a U.S. Department of Education and Department of Defense
program that helps eligible military personnel begin new careers as teachers
in public schools. The primary objective of the program
is to help recruit quality teachers for schools that serve students from
low-income families throughout America. Troops to Teachers helps
relieve teacher shortages especially in the areas of math, science, and
special education. The program provides many services that assist
military personnel in making successful transitions to second careers
the time Bernie Alidor began his journey to become a teacher the program
was in its infancy and was not able to provide much more than career advice.
Today Troops to Teachers is a cooperative program of the Department of
Education and Department of Defense, which provides counseling and referral
services to military personnel interested in teaching as a second career
in the K-12 public school system. Eligible applicants also receive
has become an active member of the Troops to Teachers program serving
as a mentor to other service members interested in becoming teachers.
For more information on the Troops to Teachers program go to www.proudtoserveagain.com.
titled this column “An Amazing Kindergarten Teacher.” Yet,
what Bernie is doing in his classroom on a daily basis really isn’t
amazing in the true sense of the word. He practices solid
classroom management techniques together with positive expectations and
to his amazement—It Works!!
sounds so out of reach and applicable to only a few. Read through
the past 8 years of teachers.net articles during your summer break and
you’ll find each of the teachers featured are amazing. But,
ask them personally, and they’ll reply very humbly they’re
just doing their job—producing successful students.
what others who don’t
should be doing.
doesn’t cost a penny to produce successful students. It just
takes commitment to put into practice the techniques known to deliver
student achievement. We didn’t say it would be easy,
either. Simple, yes, easy, no! The road in the beginning will
be riddled with pot holes and you’ll have a few fender benders along
the way. But, once you hit the open road, it really is the road
trip of lifetime for you and your students.
yourself this summer and get amazed when you greet your students this
next 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.