by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
The Inspiration of a Mother
We all become teachers for the same reason. Someone, somewhere along the line, has inspired us in a profound way. They changed our lives, and in doing so, they instilled in us a desire to make a difference in someone else’s life. They have made us who we are today.
For Andrew Miller and Shannon Dipple, there is one person in particular who has inspired them throughout the years—one person who has been their strength, their support, and the source of their passion. One person they attribute all their success as teachers, and as human beings, too. The one person they call
“With the support of my family, I now have the knowledge to change lives and help others, with similar disabilities as my own, realize and live their dreams . . . like I am right now!”
Intervention Specialist/Special Education Teacher
Cincinnati Public Schools
Unable to Learn
When Andrew Miller was in the second grade, he was diagnosed with Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, and ADHD. The Intervention Specialist told Andrew’s parents that he would be lucky to bring home anything higher than a C. He also said Andrew had little to no chance of attending a four year college or university.
Andrew was considered a slow-learner and “one of those kids who were unable to learn” for most of his elementary schooling. Andrew’s mother, however, refused to believe it.
“My mother,” Andrew says, “had positive expectations for me to succeed.”
Despite what the Intervention Specialist had said, she encouraged Andrew to bring home only As and Bs. She would sit down with Andrew and teach him how to edit his papers. She helped him with his homework every night. Andrew always felt like he had a lot of support at home.
Andrew’s learning took off in his freshman year of high school. He graduated his senior year number one in his Teaching in Technology program and number two in the school. He went on to study at a four year college, where his mother continued to support his educational endeavors.
Working with Special Needs
Andrew is now an Intervention Specialist and Special Education teacher in the Cincinnati Public Schools, where he works in an inclusive high school setting. Having grown up a special needs student himself, he understands that structure and procedures are very important, if not more important, for students who have special needs.
“This is why I am a Special Education teacher. Students, like myself, need that encouragement, those positive expectations, and procedures to follow, like my parent gave me. This, in my opinion, is the keystone for success for the population of students I work with.”
Generations of Teachers
Shannon Dipple, a second grade teacher in Kettering, Ohio, comes from a long line of educators.
Shannon’s mother, Maggie
Says Shannon, “I try to emulate my mother in how I treat my students and my own children. I watched my mother ‘teaching’ my boys. She would read to them like she did with me, play games with them, talk to them, be firm with them when necessary, and they always knew her expectations of them. Isn’t that what we want for our students?”
Shannon’s story begins back in the early 1900s, when her great-grandmother, Georgia Easterling, taught in a one-room school house in South Carolina.
At a time when it was illegal for African American children to go to school with white children, Georgia Easterling dedicated herself to teaching students of all races. During the day, she would teach in the school house. At night, she invited African American children into her home to learn.
Shannon says, “Both she and my great-grandfather were known for being compassionate and highly regarded citizens. They both refused to give in to prejudices and believed in the equality of all people.”
This was the beginning of a set of core values and beliefs that would be passed down through generations of teachers.
Belief #1 All students, regardless of race, socio-economic levels, ability, and public perceptions
are worthy and deserving of being taught.
This value was passed down to Shannon’s grandmother, Bessie Easterling.
Gentle, Yet Firm Grandparents
Shannon describes her grandmother as “a very quiet woman who had great internal strength of character.” Bessie Easterling married a principal, James Clement Sweet, and moved to North Carolina, where she taught her daughter, Maggie, Shannon’s mother.
Shannon’s mother tells stories of going to school with her parents. She remembers her mother treating her no differently than the other students—it was always fair—and she was a very loving teacher.
Shannon knows from the stories that her grandmother took great pride in her students’ achievements and had a deep desire to see them learn.
Of her grandfather, Shannon describes how he ran the school with a gentle, yet firm, hand. “Nobody wanted to get into trouble with Mr. Sweet because they did not want to disappoint him,” says Shannon. “It wasn’t that they were afraid of him—on the contrary, they loved him so much.”
Belief #2 Treat students with respect, be fair and just, take pride in your students’ accomplishments, and remember that a gentle yet firm hand does more to manage a classroom/school than a discipline plan that has no teaching of expectations behind it.
Continuing the Legacy
After growing up attending her parents’ school, Shannon’s mother, Maggie, was also inspired to become a teacher. Though she quit teaching to raise Shannon and her brother, Maggie embraced the same core values as she taught her children.
Shannon has fond memories of her mother teaching her to read. Her mother never forced her to read. Instead, she taught Shannon to love reading. She took her to the library. She read out loud to her for hours. She encouraged her to write stories, and listened to them “as if I were a best-selling author.”
Thanks to her mother, Shannon began Kindergarten reading at a second grade level.
Belief #3 The foundation of teaching reading is first
teaching children to love listening to stories.
Shannon says, “When I have a poor reader in my classroom, the first thing I do is make sure that child gets lots of ‘lap time’ every day. This is simply my way of referring to being sure a child is immersed in listening to stories.”
Shannon reads aloud to these students at least twice a day. She encourages them to listen to stories on tape, CDs, mp3s, or the computer. She pairs them with an older reading buddy who reads to them every day.
She refuses to use “drill and kill” with these children. She wants them to love listening to stories so much that they want to start learning to read by themselves. The human brain reacts to emotions, either positive or negative. When reading becomes a pleasurable activity, children will want to start and try by themselves.
Her mother also taught her many other lessons. Shannon says, “My mother also never gave up on me, and I certainly put her through the wringer as a teenager.”
Shannon was a gifted student who became bored with school. She had very poor grades and graduated with a barely passing GPA because she had to maintain it in order to stay on the cheerleading squad.
“But my mother never criticized me,” says Shannon. “She tried to redirect me, present options, and encouraged me to work up to my potential.”
Belief #4 Don’t discount a student—ever.
They are probably capable of a lot more than they are showing.
With the right encouragement, they will perform for you.
In college, Shannon began to succeed. Her grades improved. Her problem now was that she had no goal. She was wandering aimlessly.
When she reached her final year of college without enough credits in any one area to get a degree, her mother put her foot down. There would be no fifth year of college. Shannon had to graduate now.
Shannon’s mother suggested teaching. Shannon questioned the career path at first, but soon she fell in love with it.
Belief #5 At times we have to make our students do what we know is best for them.
Teaching them how to get to it is key.
Don’t let them ‘wander’ and wonder what to do.
Shannon’s Classroom Procedures
“I didn’t know it at the time, but those values and beliefs that were passed down to me, that I had heard about through stories . . . those beliefs set the stage for how I teach,” says Shannon.
Using these five core beliefs as a guide, Shannon has created several procedures in her classroom. These allow her classroom to run efficiently, free from chaos, and give her the freedom to produce results.
“Every moment counts,” says Shannon, “so every moment is defined by a procedure.”
From the second students walk into the room, they have tasks to accomplish. They unpack their bags, turn in homework, sign up for lunch, turn in Teacher Mail, sharpen their pencils, and get straight to reading. These procedures have been taught, modeled, and practiced so that every morning, these tasks are completed within the first two minutes.
“From the moment students walk through the door, they know I expect results. More importantly, they know what results I want because I have left nothing to chance. They have been taught how to work towards my expectations,” says Shannon.
Shannon begins every Math lesson the same way. Students work independently to solve three review questions in their math journals. They then move on to complete a short facts review. Students who finish early can work on a challenge problem. There is no wasted time in Shannon’s classroom.
After five minutes, Shannon leads the class through the review questions together. She finishes the daily routine with two mental math problems and a one minute timed test.
This fifteen minute routine is the same every single day.
Shannon says, “My students know what to do and how to get results, and so do I. Their high math achievement scores show this.”
Shannon’s results are not limited to math. Last year, her lowest performing student showed a year and a half’s improvement in reading literacy on his DIBELS test.
Shannon says, “I often get the children (or parents) nobody else wants because my principal knows they will succeed in my room. Why do they succeed? My classroom management plan does not allow for failure. It is not just a plan for children managing themselves, but the way I manage my own teaching.”
Continuing the Legacy
In 2009, Shannon began Primary Education Oasis, a website where she shares her knowledge and experience from almost twenty years of teaching in the states and abroad. The website provides resources that work. By sharing this, Shannon hopes that teachers will be inspired and motivated to rethink some of their classroom practices.
Shannon wants especially to help new teachers get up to speed quickly. She remembers her struggles in her first years of teaching. She hopes her website will allow new teachers to easily grasp the research in education and become better teachers.
Primary Education Oasis is geared towards improving teachers. By providing proven teaching strategies and methods, Shannon works to improve student achievement by improving the quality of the teaching.
“I feel strongly that absolutely no program will save your students. It is the quality of the teacher that makes the difference,” says Shannon.
In Loving Memory
Early one Friday morning in 2007, Shannon’s father telephoned as she was preparing to leave for school. It’s the phone call we all fear could happen to us one day. Her father called to say her mother had gone to bed the night before and just never woke up. Life stopped for Shannon that day. “When she died, I lost the most loving, caring person I had ever known,” says Shannon.
“She isn’t really gone,” suggests Shannon. “Often I have reflected on why I am a teacher, how I can be better, and how I can be a mother like she was. I realize that those core values, those beliefs—what she taught me through sharing about our family, showed me in her parenting, and guided me with continual encouragement—that is what shapes who I am and what I believe about all kids.”
Shannon’s Beliefs About Kids
Everyones deserves to learn
Be respectful of your students
Manage and guide your class, don't just discipline
Make learning pleasurable for kids—
something they want to do
Never discount a student for any reason
A teacher's words can encourage or cause great harm; what we say matters
Help students set goals and be clear with how they are to achieve them
A Post Script
One of the procedures we use in writing these t.net columns is sending a draft of the article to the people featured and asking them to review it for accuracy of their ideas. Along with the comments we received from Andrew, he shared his amazement at the wealth of resources he discovered on Shannon’s website. Next year he will be teaching 1st and 3rd graders with severe behavior difficulties and emotional disabilities. He said there is so much to “beg, borrow, and steal” from Shannon’s website.
Andrew was so inspired by the words that Shannon had for her family he made a request for us to add a P.S. to the article if appropriate. His request was simple—add a picture of his mom and his words to her.
Words alone are unable to express the gratitude I have
for all the times you picked me up when I fell down.
Your encouragement and positive expectations for me have cultivated my dreams.
This is an article about the power of convictions, positive expectations, belief, and love. It’s what we hold in our hearts as parents and teachers for our children. It’s knowing that one day, the world will shine brighter because we made a difference in someone’s life.
For a printable version of this article click here.
About Effective Teaching...
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.