by Harry and Rosemary Wong
There Is Only One First Day of School
Melissa Pantoja's first year as a teacher (see June and July columns) was so rewarding and such a learning experience that she said, "I'm so excited about what I've learned in my first year of teaching. Next year will be a great opportunity for me to make adjustments in my classroom management and to use procedures that I have found to be successful. I have so many ideas and I am eager to use them."
A New Start Every Year
Just as Melissa Pantoja can't wait to start another school year with ideas she learned from her last year, Lee Gray says, "There is something inherently special about our profession that allows us to close out a previous academic year and plan for a new beginning-a sort of annual renewal, if you will."
That's the beauty of teaching; we get to start all over again each year. You can't do this if you are a meteorologist or a salesperson. When school starts this fall, or whenever, if you are on a year round school, you will get a new group of students. You can do anything you want with them. The effective teacher starts with a plan, a better and more reflective plan than the previous year. The ineffective teacher does the same thing year after year, which is why Einstein said, "Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting different results."
The First Day of School
Douglas Brooks was teaching at the University of Texas-Arlington when he wrote an article, "The First Day of School," for Educational Leadership in 1985. He said that most all new teachers start their teaching career without having received any instruction on what to do the first day of school as well as never having seen a first day of school as a student teacher. That's like asking a pilot to fly a plane without having received any instruction on how to take off with a plane nor having ever seen a runway at an airport. The analogy is not so far-fetched when you see how many novice teachers begin their first day of school.
The first day of school is the most important day of the school year. There is only one first day of school and what you do can determine your success or failure for the entire year. On this day the students form their first impression of you. People in marketing know that you have seven seconds to create a positive impression.
The uninformed novice teacher thinks that starting with a fun activity forms a positive impression. Douglas Brooks wrote in 1985 that he video taped some teachers on their first day of school and discovered that those teachers who started with a fun activity spent the rest of the school year chasing after the students. Whereas, those teachers who spent some time during the first couple of days organizing the class so that everyone knew how the class was structured and managed had far fewer discipline problems and had students who were involved with learning.
In the same way that Melissa Pantoja started her class correctly on the first day of school, Judie Gustafson, a high school teacher, did likewise. Her plan can be found on page 172 in our book, The First Days of School.
Seven Things Students Want to Know
Douglas Brooks says that students want to know seven things on the first day of school, thus, effective teachers plan their first day of school accordingly. The seven things students want to know on the first day of school are
- Am I in the right room? For many students, who come from dysfunctional families or challenging neighborhoods, school can be a safe and consistent haven. Help the students to look forward to coming to school by providing hall guides, signs, and welcome messages on the most important day of the school year. The First Days of School states that we celebrate the wrong day at school, which is graduation day. Many students never see their graduation day and this may be because we never start them off correctly.
Teachers should be standing at the door, helping anyone who needs help. A sign should be on the door as well as the chalkboard of the classroom with the teacher's name and other welcoming and supporting information.
Check every registration card to be sure that the correct student is coming into your classroom. Otherwise, help the student to quickly get to the correct room.
- Where am I supposed to sit? You have two choices, open seating or assigned seating. When the students enter the classroom of an effective teacher, they all know where to stand, sit, or be. Thus, when you greet your students at the door on the first day of school, you might want to assign the seating for that day immediately. This can be done in many different ways and suggestions are made in the book, The First Days of School, or the video series, The Effective Teacher.
The hallmark of effective teachers is that they listen to their students. A sixth grade student in Las Vegas said, "I like having assigned seating on the first day of school. Sometimes you walk into a class where you barely know anyone. Having assigned seats may not put you close to your friends, but at least you won't feel like a loser because no one wants to sit next to you."
If you want to make a good impression, invite your students to take an assigned seat, much like a gracious host or hostess would invite you in to sit-and offer you something to drink.
- What are the rules in this classroom? Every student knows that he or she is to behave. They are just waiting for the discipline plan to be revealed so that they know the limits on the classroom. Effective teachers have a hard copy of a discipline plan ready for explanation. Every student gets a copy, a copy should be sent home, a large copy needs to be posted on the classroom wall, and extra copies are made available as new students enter throughout the school year.
If you do not have a plan, you are planning to fail. Have a plan and work the plan. For help with a discipline plan, read chapters 18 and 19 in The First Days of School, access www.MarvinMarshall.com, or read Cooperative Discipline by Linda Albert.
- What will I be doing this year? Effective teachers manage their classrooms with procedures, whereas ineffective teachers discipline the students with threats and punishments. The key word to understand is "procedures." Procedures have to do with teaching students what to do in the classroom, such as what to do if the teacher wants the class's attention, what to do upon entering the classroom, and how to make entries in a journal.
Effective teachers spend the first two weeks of school teaching students how to be responsible for their behavior and their learning. Students want to succeed and they want to be taught how to do things, but they can only succeed if they are shown the procedure for how to do things.
Procedures will be explained in more detail next month (or read unit C in The First Days of School).
- How will I be graded? Although it is perfectly understandable that students want to know about their grade, the effective teacher is much more concerned with getting the students to complete the assignments and passing the tests. Grades are the after-effect of the assignment and the test.
Effective teachers do not grade using the "curve." In an effective classroom, the students earn their own grade based on their mastery of the learning criteria. It would be best to wait until day 2 or 3 to explain this concept to your students or better yet, when you give them their first assignment. We will discuss the assignment, test, and grading in subsequent months (or read unit D in The First Days of School).
- Who is the teacher as a person? Many teachers take a small section of a bulletin board and create a "personality bulletin board," which contains a collage of personal items about the teacher, such as pictures and objects about the teacher's life, work, and family. If you are a K-1 teacher, you may find this more effectively done by placing objects about yourself in a bag and pulling the objects out one at a time and discussing each-a teacher's own show and tell.
We've had our students bring objects about themselves to be posted on a personality bulletin board showing the students' work and their achievement. Using this technique the message is made clear that every person in the classroom is important.
- Will the teacher treat me as a human being? Everyone wants to be treated with respect, dignity, and love, whether that person is a teacher, administrator, or student. You have seven seconds to create that perception beginning with
- how you treat yourself with respect, dignity, and love,
- how you greet your students at the door,
- how you dress,
- what signs are posted in your classroom,
- the message on the chalkboard,
- the obviousness that you are organized and ready, and
- that you are in control of the learning environment for the classroom.
The ineffective teacher is more concerned with doing "my thing" and can't wait to start with a fun activity so that he or she can be the student's friend or pal. The students are not looking for fun. They are looking for security, consistency, respect, dignity, and care and you can convey that message on the first day of school by conveying how well you are organized. Your classroom management skill will tell the students if the class will be exciting or boring, whether they will learn or fail, and if you will light or blow out their candle.
Please Share With Us
Your kindness in sharing your first day of school organization or script with us will be most appreciated. It can be E-mailed to us or sent to us at Harry K. Wong Publications, 943 North Shoreline Blvd., Mountain View, CA 94043.
We wish all of you a very successful start to a new school year. We truly believe that you can be a very effective teacher. This is because, each of you are
Use the resources available to you to make this year your best ever year of teaching.
- destined for accomplishment,
- engineered for success, and
- endowed with seeds of greatness.
Past Gazette Articles by Harry & Rosemary Wong:
If you spot a link that appears to be out-of-date, please alert us at firstname.lastname@example.org!
- A Grateful Goodbye After 15 Years (Jun 2015)
- Love, Marriage, and Babies, Oh My! (May 2015)
- Retention Rate Is 100 Percent (Apr 2015)
- Teacher Effectiveness and Human Capital (Mar 2015)
- Training Teachers to Be Effective (Feb 2015)
- Making Deals Is Ineffective (Dec 2014 / Jan 2015)
- Retrieving and Carrying Electronic Devices (Nov 2014)
- Sharing to Succeed (Oct 2014)
- How a University Prepares Its Students (Sep 2014)
- Effective Teaching (Aug 2014)
- Your Future Is in Your Hands (June/July 2014)
- The Classroom Management Book (May 2014)
- When Students Succeed; Teachers Succeed (April 2014)
- Teaching New Teachers How to Succeed (March 2014)
- Execute and Praise (February 2014)
- Shaping a Solid Foundation (Dec 2013 / Jan 2014)
- The Most Misunderstood Word (November 2013)
- How to Start Class Every Day (October 2013)
- Prevention: The Key to Solving Discipline Problems (September 2013)
- Planning, Planning, Planning (August 2013)
- Are You THE One? (June / July 2013)
- Practical Examples That Work (May 2013)
- A Disability Is Not a Handicap (Apr 2013)
- Totally Inexcusable (Mar 2013)
- Be Proud of Public Education (Feb 2013)
- Structure Will Motivate Students (Dec 2012 / Jan2013)
- Orchestrating the Classroom (Nov 2012)
- The Lasting Impact of Instructional Coaching (Oct 2012)
- Learning, Laughing, and Leaving a Legacy (Sep 2012)
- Twenty-two, First Year, and Legit (Aug 2012)
- A Master Teacher of Teachers (June/July 2012)
- Where Going to School Means Success (May 2012)
- A Nationally Celebrated High School (Apr 2012)
- The Highest Rated School in New York City, Part 2 (Mar 2012)
- The Highest Rated School in New York City, Part 1 (Feb 2012)
- The Importance of Culture (Dec 2011 / Jan 2012)
- You Can Teach Classroom Management (Nov 2011)
- Seamless, Transparent, and Consistent (Oct 2011)
- Coaching Teachers to Be Effective Instructors (Sep 2011)
- How a Principal Creates a Culture of Consistency (Aug 2011)
- Graduation Begins in Your Classroom (June/July 2011)
- The Inspiration of a Mother (May 2011)
- How to Be an Effective Leader (Apr 2011)
- Learning Objectives: The Heart of Every Lesson (Mar 2011)
- Even Shakespeare Had Structure (Feb 2011)
- Effectiveness Defined: It's Not a Mystery (Dec 2010 / Jan 2011)
- Surviving Without a Principal (Nov 2010)
- Achieving Greatness: Locke Elementary School, Part 2 (Oct 2010)
- Teaching Greatness: Locke Elementary School, Part 1 (Sep 2010)
- Effective from the Start (Aug 2010)
- Ten Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2010 (June/July 2010)
- The Success of a Culture of Consistency (May 2010)
- Training Teachers to Be Effective (Apr 2010)
- Learning to Teach, Teaching to Learn (Mar 2010)
- Turning Teaching Dreams into Reality (Feb 2010)
- Dreams and Wishes Can Come True (Dec 2009 / Jan 2010)
- Success in a State Controlled School (Nov 2009)
- Inner City Is Not An Excuse (Oct 2009)
- Exceeding All Expectations (Sep 2009)
- Teachers Are the Difference (Aug 2009)
- Nine Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2009 (Jun/Jul 2009)
- Teachers Are the Greatest Assets (May 2009)
- The Tools for Success (Apr 2009)
- Assessing for Student Learning (Mar 2009)
- To Be an Effective Teacher Simply Copy and Paste (Feb 2009)
- The Sounds of Students Learning and Performing (Dec 2008)
- A School That Achieves Greatness (Nov 2008)
- Boaz City Schools: Professional Learning Teams (Oct 2008)
- It Was Something Close to a Miracle (Sep 2008)
- A Computer Teacher Shows the Way (Aug 2008)
- Eight Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2008 (Jun/Jul 2008)
- An Amazing Kindergarten Teacher (May 2008)
- Schools That Beat the Academic Odds (Apr 2008)
- Academic Coaching Produces More Effective Teachers (Mar 2008)
- Coaches Are More Effective than Mentors (Feb 2008)
- Wrapping the Year with Rap! (Dec 2007/Jan 2008)
- The Floating Teacher (Nov 2007)
- Taking the Bite Out of Assessment—Using Scoring Guides (Oct 2007)
- Ten Timely Tools for Success on the First Days of School (Sep 2007)
- First Day of School Script - in Spanish, Too! (Aug 2007)
- Seven Year Summary of Articles, 2000 to 2007 (Jun 2007)
- Effective Teachers End the Year Successfully (May 2007)
- Training Gen Y Teachers for Maximum Effectiveness (Apr 2007)
- Classroom Management Applies to All Teachers (Mar 2007)
- Students Want a Sense of Direction (Feb 2007)
- Rubrics in Two College Classes (Dec 2006/Jan 2007)
- How to Write a Rubric (Nov 2006)
- Assessing Student Progress with a Rubric (Oct 2006)
- A 92 Percent Homework Turn-in Rate (Sep 2006)
- Effective Teachers Are Proactive (Aug 2006)
- Five Year Summary of Articles (Jun 2006)
- Hitting the Bulls Eye as a Beginning Teacher (May 2006)
- They're Eager to Do the Assignments (Apr 2006)
- The Success of Special Ed Teachers (Mar 2006)
- What Teachers Have Accomplished (Feb 2006)
- Fifty Years Ago, The Legacy (Dec 2005/Jan 2006)
- The Emergency Teacher (Nov 2005)
- Classroom Management Is Not Discipline (Oct 2005)
- A Successful First Day Is No Secret (Sep 2005)
- The Most Important Factor (Aug 2005)
- Four Year Summary of Articles (Jul 2005)
- Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 2) (Jun 2005)
- Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple (Part 1) (May 2005)
- Never Cease to Learn (Apr 2005)
- His Classroom Is a Real Life Office (Mar 2005)
- The Power of Procedures (Feb 2005)
- The First Ten Days of School (Jan 2005)
- PowerPoint Procedures (Nov/Dec 2004)
- The Saints of Education (Oct 2004)
- How Procedures Saved a Teacher's Life (Sep 2004)
- How to Help Students with Their Assignments (Aug 2004)
- Three Year Summary of Articles (Jun/Jul 2004)
- His Students are All Certified (May 2004)
- What to Do When They Complain (Apr 2004)
- A Well-Oiled Learning Machine (Mar 2004)
- The Effective Teacher Adapts (Feb 2004)
- How to Start a Lesson Plan (Aug 2003)
- Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market - Part 2 (Jun/Jul 2003)
- Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market (May 2003)
- The Effective Substitute Teacher (Apr 2003)
- A First Day of School Script (Mar 2003)
- How to Retain New Teachers (Feb 2003)
- No Problem With Hurricane Lili (Dec 2002)
- A Class Size of 500 (Nov 2002)
- Effective Practices Apply to All Teachers (Oct 2002)
- Dispensing Materials in Fifteen Seconds (Sept 2002)
- How To Start School Successfully (Aug 2002)
- Teaching Procedures Is Teaching Expectations (June - July 2002)
- $50,000 to Replace Each Teacher (May 2002)
- Even Superintendents Do It (Apr 2002)
- Impossible, No Job Openings? (Mar 2002)
- A Stress Free Teacher (Feb 2002)
- A Most Effective School (Jan 2002)
- Van Gogh in Nine Hours (Dec 2001)
- The Effective Teacher Thinks (Nov 2001)
- How a Good University Can Help You (Sep 2001)
- How to Motivate Your Students (May 2001)
- How to Recognize Where You Want to Be (Apr 2001)
- What Successful New Teachers Are Taught (Mar 2001)
- A Journey of the Heart (Feb 2001)
- The Miracle of Teachers (Jan 2001)
- It's Not the Students. It's the Teacher. (Dec 2000)
- The First Five Minutes Are Critical (Nov 2000)
- How to Start a Class Effectively (Oct 2000)
- The Problem Is Not Discipline (Sep 2000)
- There Is Only One First Day of School (Aug 2000)
- Applying for Your First Job (Jul 2000)
- Your First Day (Jun 2000)
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