May 2024
Vol 21 No 5

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About Harry and 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 Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher"s Medal. Rosemary was chosen as one of California"s first mentor teachers and has been awarded the Silicon Valley Distinguished Woman of the Year Award.

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.

More than a half-million teachers worldwide have heard his message. Because he is fully booked for two years, he has agreed to and has invited his wife to join him in doing a monthly column for Teachers.Net so that more people can hear their message.

About Their Work... The Wongs have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO. The Wongs are dedicated to bringing quality and dignity to the materials they produce for teachers and to leaving a legacy in education by making a difference in the lives of teachers and students.

The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 2 million copies have been sold. They have also produced the video series The Effective Teacher, winner of the Telly Award for being the best educational staff development video of the past twenty years and the 1st place gold award in the International Film and Video Festival.

They have released a new set of CDs, How To Improve Student Achievement, featuring Harry Wong as he speaks at one of his many presentations. He is the most sought after speaker in education and his presentations are legendary.

When the book, video series, and CD are used together, they form the most effective staff training tool for developing 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 or Best Sellers

The First Days of School
by Harry & Rosemary Wong

$23.96 from
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New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers
by Annette L. Breaux, Harry K. Wong

$23.07 from
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The Effective Teacher (Video Set)
Presented by Harry Wong

8 VHS video tapes, binder with Facilitator"s Handbook, book The First Days of School, and storage case, $795.00 from (volume discounts available)
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New Item

How to Improve Student Achievement
2 CD set
by Harry & Rosemary Wong

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Pathways: A Guide for Energizing & Enriching Band, Orchestra, & Choral Programs
by Joseph Alsobrook

$12.57 from
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Results : The Key to Continuous School Improvement
by Mike Schmoker

$20.95 from
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Improving Schools from Within : Teachers, Parents, and Principals Can Make the Difference
by Roland Sawyer Barth

$13.30 from
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A First-Year Teacher"s Guidebook, 2nd Ed.
by Bonnie Williamson, Marilyn Pribus (Editor), Kathy Hoff, Sandy Thornton (Illustrator)

$17.95 from
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Schools That Learn: A Fifth Discipline Fieldbook for Educators, Parents, and Everyone Who Cares About Education
by Peter M. Senge (Editor), Nelda H. Cambron McCabe, Timothy Lucas, Art Kleiner, Janis Dutton, Bryan Smith

$24.50 from
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The Courage to Teach : Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher"s Life
by Parker J. Palmer

$16.76 from
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If You Don"t Feed the Teachers They Eat the Students : Guide to Success for Administrators and Teachers
by Neila A. Connors

$13.96 from
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Effective Teaching...
by Harry and Rosemary Wong

February 2004

The Effective Teacher Adapts

Are you now one of the teachers that has moved from the fantasy stage of teaching to one of survival?  Fantasy is the stage where you will find most new teachers.  They enter teaching full of enthusiasm with the belief that they can reach every child and will make a difference in their lives.

However, things do happen-things they never told you about in college.  Some of you have now resorted to worksheets, quiet readings of the textbook, and watching videos-anything to just make it through the day.  This is what happens to people in the survival mode.

We assume you would like to get out of the survival stage and get into the stage we consider "mastery."  This is the stage where teachers are considered master, competent, or effective teachers.  This is where the students are learning and achievement can be seen and measured.

The good news is that when you reach the mastery stage and start to make a difference in the lives of your students, you will return to the fantasy stage.  You'll pinch yourself with disbelief because your classes are running so smoothly that you can't believe you are a teacher.  This reality is your dream come true.

You Find Them on Every Staff

The true reality is there are many teachers still operating at the survival mode-after 20 years in the classroom. 

We are in no way making fun of the people who are in survival.  Our daughter, daughter-in-law, and brother are teachers; many of our dear friends are teachers.  So we would never do anything to demean teachers.  But we know how these teachers fell into the trap of becoming a teacher in the survival stage.  In all probability, other teachers who were also in survival influenced them, and rather than make a choice to become an effective teacher, they decided to do what so many others were doing, simply survive.

What happened?  Ask any one of these teachers about their efforts to learn and you will discover that all of them have not read a professional journal or gone to a conference in decades.  That is, they have made no effort to learn or to better themselves.  Teaching is a job and they view teaching as labor, putting in time to make money.  Douglas Brooks describes these people as bitter blamers, constant critics, and managers of monotony.  Thus, they become toxic influences on the staff.

To not know is all right.  But not to know is a tragedy.  If you simply survive and refuse to learn, then you won't know anything about anything.  When you reach 40 or 45 years old, you are done.  You will be obsolete because you will be good at nothing.

So, you have a choice with your life.  Where you will be in five years will be determined by

  • the people you meet
  • the places you go
  • the things you learn, and
  • the risks you take.

If you are presently in a survival mode, we invite you to become a master teacher.  Our columns are carried under the banner of Effective Teaching.  Master teachers are effective teachers and our columns chronicle the success stories of effective teachers.  Print off all of our columns since June 2000 and store them in a binder for reference.

Find Nourishing People

In contrast to people with toxic behaviors, there are people with nourishing behaviors.  These people will be easy to find.  They believe in the potential of all children.  They believe in the dignity of the profession.

Most important, they believe in nourishing themselves by constantly learning.

Please reflect on the following statements:

I take responsibility for myself. 

No one else will.

I make a statement of dignity to myself and the teaching profession when I acknowledge and accept that I make a difference.

You cannot make a difference in the lives of your students until you make a difference in your own life.  Nourishing people know this and, thus, participate in lifelong, professional learning.

If you dare to teach, you must never cease to learn.

You are the only person on the face of the earth who can use your abilities.  It is an awesome responsibility.

If you want positive results from your life, you must keep certain responsibilities in focus.  (Please see page 18 in The First Days of School.)

Effective Teachers Can Adapt

Here's the biggest secret to teaching success:  beg, borrow, and steal.  It's really not stealing, it's called research!  Like people who haunt E-Bay to find the hidden treasure to buy, effective teachers attend conferences, read books, and haunt the Internet looking for ideas they can use in their classroom.  (November 2001

Truly effective teachers can adapt ideas used by other teachers.

Regardless of the subject area or the grade level, effective teachers can make the ideas of other teachers work in their own classrooms.  That is what Michelle Beck did with the Tote Tray System described in our September 2002 article, "Dispensing Materials in Fifteen Seconds"
( )

She wrote to say, "I loved reading your tote tray idea!  I have used this for the last year."

Developed originally for a secondary school classroom, Michelle wanted us to know how she adapted the Tote Tray System for use with six-year-olds in her Sydney, Australia, classroom.

The Tote Tray System has necessary materials preorganized in containers which are carried to the students' work areas.  Michelle found a way to make this procedure work for her 32 first grade students' unique needs.

According to Michelle, her school has a shared vision which supports cooperative learning while implementing Howard Gardner's Multiple Intelligences, so group work is an important part of each school day.  She has learned that four is the optimal number of students in a cooperative learning group.  The following are some of the procedures Michelle Beck uses for what she calls her Team Tubs System to streamline the action of grouping students and distributing materials, making her a most effective teacher.

Michelle Beck's Team Tubs System for First Grade

Preparing the Team Tubs.  Michelle uses box lids, but any set of similar containers (shoeboxes, plastic organizers, dishpans, coffee cans) will work.  The number of groups will determine the number of tubs you will need.  In Michelle's case, she divides her class of 32 into eight groups of four, so she has eight "tubs."  Before students arrive, equip each tub with the materials and supplies each group will need.  This might include items such as a pencil and eraser for each child, a roll of tape and a stapler for each group, etc. depending upon the activity.  Label each tub with a different color tag.

Divide the class into equal size groups.  Break the class into small groups using any system of random matching.  Michelle uses a variety of methods, including one known as "Folding the Line."

Forming Groups.  Michelle explains that "Folding the Line" is a cooperative learning procedure used to form random groups.  The children line up in one line according to alphabetical order of their names, or when their birthday falls, or by names pulled at random.  After they make one single line, the end turns or folds (wraps around) so the end person faces the beginning person forming a pair.  She then puts one pair from the beginning of the line with a pair at the end until each pair has been matched up with another to form a group of four in each.

Assign Each Group a Color or Symbol.  Michelle uses a different color name for each group, corresponding to the colors attached to the Team Tubs.  So the orange group uses the orange tub, etc.

Team Tub Bosses.  Assign each student a number or day to determine the "Boss of the Day."  Each student in the group is assigned a label in the form of a unique number, 1 through 4 (or as many as there are in the group), or a day of the week (Monday Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday person) to determine which member of each group is responsible for fetching the team tub on a particular day.  If using numbers, #1 would signify Monday, #2 would stand for Tuesday, etc.

Because she uses groups of four students, on the fifth day of the week (Friday) Michelle rolls a die to determine which student will be Boss of the Day for the second time that week.  If number one comes up, the #1 or Monday person fills the role and so forth.

Each Boss of the particular day is in charge of collecting and returning the team tub and the colored hoops around which Michelle has her groups sit.  With 32 students, she has eight hoops in eight colors corresponding to the colors of the team tubs.  This procedure helps the children move quickly and easily to join their groups, and each team tub can be placed inside the corresponding color-coded hoop.  She has the children face their original Folding the Line partner while sitting around the hoops with their team of four, promoting eye contact and focus.

Michelle suggests an alternate method teachers of older students might use for assigning day-of-the-week roles:  Label members of each group with playing card suits.  Hand out cards so that in each group of four one child has a heart, another a spade, a third with diamond, and the fourth a club.

Then, on one day of the week all of the hearts will be Boss of the Day for their individual groups. On the next day all diamonds will come forward to pick up the tubs, etc.

The most exciting aspect of teaching is that it is a creative outlet.  All people want to be creative as this nourishes the body.  Michelle of Australia saw an idea from our September 2002  column and used it creatively.

Wisdom for a New Year

  • Our best advice for new teachers is never pass up an opportunity to learn, even if it does not pertain to what you're currently doing.  You will never know when you'll need it.
  • Organize your classroom.  Opportunities and creative ideas fit in better when there is an organized or structured classroom-otherwise, you'll never see how it applies to you.
  • Do more professional reading so you can be aware of more choices.
  • Work to develop good habits.  This is far easier to do than it is to break bad habits.
  • Don't be like so many people in their golden days who will tell you that if they had to do it all over again, they would have done it.
  • Treat each day as if it was a first day of school.  Each day is the dawning of a new day.  Listen, again, as English teacher, Joyce Randolph sings "My New Day."  (May 2001   Don't adopt a wait until next year attitude.  Do it right now.  Every day is a precious day for learning for you and your students.  Do it!
  • If you don't start, it's certain it won't arrive.  Success stops when you do.
  • The best way to escape your problem is to solve it.
  • Others can stop you temporarily, but only you can do it permanently.
  • Education is a long-term commitment.  You can blindly steer a course full of potholes and road blocks, or you can plot your journey with a roadmap for success.

Come and join so many of us for a very exciting, nourishing, and fulfilling ride as we work with children.  It's the ultimate trip of a lifetime!

For a printable version of this article click here.

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