by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
A Grateful Goodbye After 15 Years
Early in her teaching career, Melissa Pantoja shared these PowerPoint slides of her beliefs. Years later, she feels as strong as ever about her commitment to the profession and having a positive impact on every student who walks through her classroom door.
The June 2000 article was the first column we wrote for Teachers.Net. It featured a first-year teacher, Melissa Pantoja, now Melissa Boone Dorn, from Oklahoma. She shared her first two weeks of school plan for success.
Because she planned for her success and her students’ success—success happened.
Her plan has inspired so many through the years as it has been an integral part of our speaking presentations. We’ve referred thousands to that June 2000 column where Melissa tells exactly what she does on the first two weeks of school. And we can tell by the clicks, that many people have accessed the article to find out exactly what she did in the classroom so she could be successful and her students could be successful, too.
It is now June 2015—fifteen years have passed since we wrote our first contribution to this website. When we started, a dozen of eggs cost 89¢; the mobile phone was considered a “Yuppie Device;” and “uber” was a prefix and not a car service. Through the years we have featured more than 1,000 teachers, schools, school districts, college professors, and education researchers in an effort to help you become the effective teacher we know you can be. Thank you to all who have shared so generously with us so we can share it with you.
We also thank you, the readers, for following our column all these years. Your comments, encouragement, and contributions have driven us to keep writing and sharing. But, alas, all good things must come to an end. So, with this column, it will mark the end to our monthly contribution.
The Benefits of Intentionality
We can think of no better ending than to return to the beginning and Melissa Pantoja Boone Dorn. We posed some questions to Melissa and she responded with such eloquence that we share her reflections and insights with you, unedited.
Why is it so difficult for me to come up with words that will adequately describe the past 15 years of my teaching experiences? I can’t come up with just a few “words of wisdom”—however I can conjure up a thick novel filled with do’s and don’ts, going on and on about what works with kids and what doesn’t work. After all, isn’t the sum of an effective teacher being able to determine what works and what doesn’t work?
The “tried and true” strategies I’ve learned have remained at the forefront of my teacher brain ready to be utilized in a moment’s notice. I have had some very rewarding times and opportunities to make a positive difference as a teacher of students and as a leader in my area of expertise. Coming up with a few clever words seems so difficult—so much so that I’ve been thinking about it for over 5 weeks.
A year out of college, working substitute teaching jobs here and there, a young teacher will drive many miles to fulfill one’s obligations to the district who has given you the opportunity to join the teaching profession.
Doing more with less funding
Lots of unpaid hours of work
Professional learning and personal enrichment
What to teach and how to effectively teach it
Changing campuses, changing administrators
Battling burn out—balancing home and work
My first two classrooms didn’t have a computer or a telephone. This was in the late 90’s so there were classrooms with computers, but mine wasn’t one of them. I look back on that experience and wonder, “How did I function without email, computer access to student information, or any on-line services?”
I know one thing I had then that I don’t have now—that’s a good-old-fashioned address book. At my desk was a list, issued by the school’s front office, detailing each of my students’ basic contact information. If I needed to contact the parent, I had to find a free moment, walk down stairs to the front office, hope that a phone line was open then dial—no privacy was guaranteed, as another person waited behind me to make their phone call.
Grades we bubbled in on a scanable paper listing each of my students’ names at the left and a series of numbers 0 to 9 across the page in two rows—these were turned in to the front office and they were responsible for entering them into our computer system. Now I can input grades for 450 students on my smart phone, iPad, or laptop computer.
When I began teaching, my oldest daughter was only 4-years-old and my son was an infant. In order to adhere to my daily lesson plans, without nervously getting side tracked, I scripted what I was going to do and say for the entire day. Now, so many years later, my “script” flows freely and is as natural as breathing. When a small situation arises, such as a classroom management issue, I know what works good and what works better—between the two of those choices I can create a happy environment for my students and myself.
I credit the level of accomplishment and joy I’ve experienced, even now, with the intentionality I had that very first year of teaching. I know the hours I spent reading, studying, and highlighting page after page of “The First Days of School” was a crucial component of my initial success. Once I knew what to do, how to do it, and how amazing it feels for us (me and my students) to be meeting our goals each year—I’m energized by the feeling that comes from being my students’ teacher.
Today my oldest daughter is in college pursuing her education degree. How proud I am to pass along words of wisdom to my very own child, explaining to her how important she will be to her future students. I will encourage her to associate with positive, uplifting teachers who strive to be innovative and fresh in their interactions with students, using technology and proven effective teaching strategies.
I hope to see her grow and develop student leaders in her own classroom, reflecting the confidence they glean from her. If she learns but only a few things from me, I hope it is this:
Be the kind of teacher who guides your students
so that they may be leaders among leaders,
thinkers among thinkers,
and doers among those
who are making a positive difference
as they do for others.
Committee meetings, sustaining programs, curriculum implementation or revision, organizing events, state mandates, standardized tests, communication with parents and community, re-teaching or modifying content, and lobbying education concerns—to name a few—will always be issues educators have to face head on. BUT, the most important thing, the most magical relationship in our educational organization, is the one between that one child and his/her teacher.
I tell myself that I may be the one person who makes that child’s life better; I can’t give up on them nor can I allow them to give up on themselves. On the last day of my last year in my classroom, I want it to be said of me, “I am a better person, because that teacher loved and cared about me.”
The months of June and July come and go so quickly, but there are no months that pass me by as fast as August through May. When thinking about years gone by—I couldn’t have dreamed 15 years ago that a day would come when I’d be able to type from an electronic device while lying in my bed, and not even be plugged into an electrical outlet. Nor could I have foreseen the immense rewards I’d be reaping year after year. Personally I’ve gained by what I have given to my students and professionally, by what I’ve contributed to our educational system. And, here I am many years later, still passionate about what I’m doing in my classroom, and I’m on my laptop computer typing away, no cords attached.
I am among an elite group of people—I’m a career teacher—an educator who looks forward to being able to retire from the classroom but not from the teaching profession, when my working years come to an end.
I love my “job,” but more importantly, I am thrilled to see young faces come into my classroom each day, each month, year after year and say, “What are we doing/learning today?” as I greet them at the door and tell them how excited I am to see them again—just as I did with that first group of students who walked into my classroom so many years ago when I was a “new” teacher.
The wisdom that Melissa shares as a 15-year veteran is just as valuable as the wisdom she shared as a beginning teacher. So many of our readers have taken Melissa’s early advice and used it to craft a successful start to their careers.
The Final Days Are Just as Important
One such teacher is Amanda Brooks. Amanda heard our presentation, put together her plan, and the rest is history. We featured Amanda in our August 2010 column. We stay in touch with her and she with us. From a nervous, first-year teacher to an insightful, six-year teacher, Amanda’s growth is obvious as she shares her plan for closing out the school year.
As a six-year teacher, I have spent the majority of my educational career making sure my students’ first days of school and the weeks that would follow would give my students the desire to want to come to school each day.
The first two weeks we get to know each other. I learn their backgrounds, their personalities, what subjects they love, and slowly we build a relationship that will carry us through the end of school.
The beginning of my year always seems easier thanks to procedures and rules, but in the fifth year of my teaching, it hit me that my last days of school were equally as important to the beginning. As a teacher this would be my last impression on students.
We all know as teachers the last weeks of school can be wild and chaotic after year-end testing. It seems every program or award show is thrown in at the last minute and we find ourselves in a mad rush. When I noticed this last year, I immediately did just one thing. I slowed down.
I sat down one evening and took out my grade book and looked at every child’s name. I began thinking what skills they had that would contribute to the next classroom they would enter. I didn’t focus much on academics because I knew their test scores would do that for me. Instead, I focused on their positive character traits that had encouraged me and their classmates throughout the year.
I didn’t want to spend the next few weeks hoping I would get to tell them at some point. I knew I needed a plan. I planned my own personal classroom awards banquet and handed out awards that would recognize them for their own personal accomplishments.
I also wrote a personal note from me on the back. I encouraged them to take this and stick it in their junior high locker, and on those especially hard days, pull it out and remember all their teacher knew they could do.
I encourage all new teachers to spend the last few weeks making sure we tell students what they have meant to us. Maya Angelou stated,
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,
people will forget what you did,
but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
As teachers our final days should be spent on making students feel as if they mattered this year, they learned this year, and because of this year they are ready for the next grade or chapter.
It’s these very feelings of success that make students want to come back and visit long after their name is no longer a part of your gradebook. So as the end of your year approaches, plan your most important lesson, show students they mattered this year!
You Do Make a Difference
To all of our Teachers.net contributors, “Thank you!” You have mattered to us and to the profession. Every day you have demonstrated your dedication to the profession. Programs come and go, initiatives come and go, policies change, administrations change, standards for the profession change, but there is one constant we all face—there will be students at our classroom doors for 180 days—depending on us to be kind, caring, compassionate, knowledgeable, and effective—to help them grow and mature into instruments of change.
The tools for being that effective teacher for all students are in our columns from the past 15 years. Read them, reflect on the information, and become that teacher all students need and deserve.
Please keep in touch (HWong@HarryWong.com and RWong@HarryWong.com) as you continue your journey in the noblest of all professions—that of a classroom teacher. It’s been an honor to have been part of your success.
Key Idea: Start school with a First Day of School script. One teacher began his year with fun activities and spent the rest of the school year chasing after his classes. His first day lacked structure, which led to his students structuring his classes for him. Elementary school teacher, Melissa Pantoja, began the first day of school with a script, which led to a successful beginning. Her script is provided so you can adapt it for your classroom.
Key Idea: Mentoring is not induction. Know the difference between mentoring and new teacher induction. Statistics say that teachers entering the profession right now will not be teaching in three to five years. In fact, many will not even last a year. To combat the high turnover rate of teachers, many schools and districts are turning to new teacher induction (not mentoring) programs to prepare teachers for success in the classroom. Examples of successful induction programs are provided. Review them and learn what to look for in your next school.
Key Idea: Seven things students want to know. What you do the first day of school will determine your success for the rest of the school year. Discover the seven things all students want to know on their first day of school and why a successful school year starts on the first day. You would not expect a truck driver to haul an expensive load without first making sure he knows how to drive the truck. Neither can you expect students to succeed if they do not know the routines and procedures of your class. The seven things all students want to know are provided so that you can use them to prepare for your first day of school.
Key Idea: Manage, do not discipline, your classes. Learn how to manage, rather than discipline, your classroom. The former will enhance student learning, while the latter will wear you down. Rather than discipline your classes, manage them. Learn which procedures every class needs to have in place before students can start learning. Create or hone your procedures so this school year will be your best school year ever! Suggested procedures are outlined for you to copy and use in your own classroom.
Key Idea: Start your class with effective start-up routines. Start the day or period with an organized routine that includes bellwork and other procedures that get the students ready for the class. The first few minutes of every class are prime time, so what you do in those first few minutes determines how on-task your students will be for the rest of the period. Read about teachers and schools who have experienced success because of effective prime time practices. Use the prime time examples as a guide to create your own effective prime-time practices.
Key Idea: The first five minutes are the most important. Make the first five minutes of your class count. Like the first chapter of a good novel, the beginning of class must capture students’ attention. Have your students working the minute they walk into class and you will have their attention for the rest of the period. Once you have achieved this, keeping them on-task is easy. Use the examples in this article to create your own bellwork and warm-up activities.
DECEMBER 2000—It’s Not the Students. It’s the Teacher.
Key Idea: Effective teachers show, not tell. When teachers tell us their discipline problems, we refer them to this article. Ineffective teachers want to “do things” (punish, discipline, send to detention, etc.) to students, whereas effective teachers know how to teach procedures. Rather than telling students what to do, show them how to do it. Effective teachers, like effective parents, show students what to do instead of telling and yelling. Even a student from a negative home environment will respond positively if teachers follow the steps shared for teaching procedures.
Key Idea: Thanks for being a teacher. Learn what teachers have been doing right and how they have improved the American education statistics exponentially in a few short years. Teachers are the most amazing professionals in the world and deserve to be thanked and to know that their accomplishments are shaping the nation and world for continued success. Take heart and encouragement from the stories of hope in this article. You, the teacher, are a miracle.
Key Idea: Teachers impact students’ lives. This column is about the journey teachers make into the hearts of their students. What teachers do every day touches the lives of students in immeasurable ways. Teachers change lives, and the proof is in every student who has gone on to succeed. If you touch just one life as a teacher, you are a success. Learn how to invite students to learn by following the steps outlined in this article.
MARCH 2001—What Successful New Teachers Are Taught
Key Idea: Induction prepares teachers for success. Learn how induction programs teach new teachers to be successful. Start your career right in a district that values its teachers and provides a comprehensive and ongoing induction program for all teachers new to the district. Know the difference between mentoring programs and induction programs, and choose to teach in a district that has a solid, comprehensive program to help you develop in your chosen career.
Key Idea: The ten questions to ask at your interview. Know the ten questions you should ask at your interview to ensure you choose the school and district that are right for you. After reading this article, you will be able to recognize the district you should teach in to maximize your potential. Your career depends on the decisions you make. Note the ten questions to ask and pose them in your next interview.
Key Idea: Motivational activities capture students’ attention. Motivate and entice students with discrepant events. Then, learn how and why to continue the lesson with group collaboration. Students will remain motivated to take on whatever they are asked to do. Ideas for discrepant events in different subjects are provided in this article. Use them to capture your class’ attention and imagination.
Key Idea: A good university will teach you how to be an effective teacher. Sarah Jones' (now Jondahl) experiences at Western Kentucky University enabled her to begin her teaching career with the proficiency of a veteran teacher. Her success is due to diligent instruction in everything from lesson planning to effective classroom management practices. Before she ever set foot in a classroom, she had a comprehensive list of classroom procedures to develop responsible students. Steal and adapt Sarah’s action plan to meet the needs of your teaching environment.
Key Idea: Effective teachers can implement what other effective teachers are doing. Become an effective teacher by thinking about what you learn, observing other teachers doing it, and adapting it to meet your unique classroom management needs. Steve Geiman, a Physical Education teacher in Virginia, thought about what Harry said at a conference and the wheels of his imagination began to spin. The result is an effective and efficient model of classroom management that has transformed his PE class. Steve’s procedures are outlined in this article. Steal, adapt, and implement his procedures in your class.
Key Idea: Effective classroom management works in every situation. This column illustrates effective classroom management procedures in two very different environments: the library and an elementary art classroom. Betty Hamer and Jeanne Bayless guide their students to success with procedures that cut down on confusion and mistakes while allowing students to get down to the business of learning. Both teachers’ classroom management procedures are featured in this article for you to steal and adapt to your needs.
Key Idea: A safe and productive school culture leads to an effective school. Transform your school into an effective school by creating a school culture that promotes a safe and productive learning environment from day one. Goldfarb Elementary in Las Vegas, Nevada, has such a culture. They developed and maintained a set of consistent, school-wide procedures that have become the foundation for the school’s culture. Create school-wide procedures using Goldfarb’s procedures as a guide and watch your school blossom into an effective learning environment.
Key Idea: Become a stress-free teacher. Reduce your work-related stress by creating consistent procedures for all classroom activities and interactions. Liz Breaux’s structured approach to classroom management has guided students to success and has made her classroom virtually problem-free. Apply her techniques for stress-free teaching and begin your own path to a teaching career free from anxiety.
Key Idea: Teacher induction means teacher retention. Learn how to retain your new teachers with a structured new teacher induction program that guides them through classroom management, instructional strategies, and more. Teach them the things they need to know to ensure success before they even step foot in a classroom. See the procedures that Medford’s new teachers have created and get inspiration for your own list of procedures.
Key Idea: Good leaders are models of success. We have shared how teachers and principals create and maintain effective schools. In this article we show you that superintendents do it, too. Sunnybrook School District #171, under the guidance of Dr. Joseph Majchrowicz, has developed an effective, district-wide culture based on core values agreed upon by all the members in the learning community. The district-wide set of procedures established by Sunnybrook’s learning community, as well as their four core values, are showcased in this column. Review this article to select elements of effective teaching to implement in your school or classroom.
Key Idea: Evidence supports new teacher induction programs. The costs of having an effective new teacher induction program are small in comparison to the cost of losing newly hired teachers. Use the information in this article to guide you as you build an effective induction program for your new teachers. Or use the information within this article to guide your quest for the perfect school or district in which to begin, or continue, your teaching career.
JUNE/JULY 2002—Teaching Procedures Is Teaching Expectations
Key Idea: Procedures start on day one. Teach your students procedures from day one. Establishing procedures—beginning with the first day of school—will set you up for a smooth-sailing school year. Use the First Day of School Script shared in this article to develop or hone your own First Day of School Script.
Key Idea: Start your first day of school with an action plan. Sarah Jones (now Jondahl) began planning her action plan, procedures, and activities long before she ever set foot in a classroom—and it paid off. Use the sample Action Plan to guide you in creating your own First Day of School Action Plan and the Academic Expectations templates to guide you in creating your statement of academic expectations.
SEPTEMBER 2002—Dispensing Materials in Fifteen Seconds
Key Idea: Effective procedures make activities effortless. Using procedures will make any classroom activity go off without a hitch and will guarantee that all your supplies are accounted for at the end of the activity. Imagine a school year in which no supplies are lost and activities take place without a single discipline problem. Use the time-tested methods contained in this article for dispensing and collecting materials and never again lose another ruler!
OCTOBER 2002—Effective Practices Apply to All Teachers
Key Idea: Effective practices work in all classes. Effective classroom practices apply to all teachers—even foreign language teachers. Effective teachers can adapt the techniques in The First Days of School to any classroom environment and any subject matter—even high school Spanish. Review examples of foreign language teachers’ procedures, from what to do before class starts to procedures for traveling teachers. Reflect on what you have learned and then adapt your favorite procedures to implement in your classroom.
Key Idea: Learn how to manage your non-traditional classroom. Imagine standing in front of 500 teenagers, raising a hand, and having the entire class of 500 grow quiet in a matter of seconds. It is possible. These results are just a matter of establishing procedures and practicing them with students until they become routine. This article examines the success of teachers in non-traditional classrooms and illustrates how even the largest class can be a well-oiled learning machine.
Key Idea: Students remember effective procedures. School-wide procedures can make a school run smoothly even after a devastating act of nature has shaken the community. Imagine a hurricane tearing through your community and school, and leaving in its wake devastation and despair. Now imagine the students returning to school, shaken but finding a classroom ready for learning. This is not a fluke. It is a result of consistent and practiced school-wide procedures.
DECEMBER 2002/JANUARY 2003—Wanted: Educators’ Business Cards
Key Idea: Share your business cards with us. Professional educators are invited to share their business cards with us. An update on the December 2002 article featuring Sacred Heart Elementary (the school that survived Hurricane Lili) is included in this month’s column. If you did not take some of Sacred Heart’s school-wide procedures as your own last month, take the opportunity to adopt them today.
Key Idea: Teacher induction is a multi-year commitment. Retain new teachers by implementing a new teacher induction program. Induction is a multi-year investment in your new teachers’ career, and in your school's or district’s ability to retain top talent. Induction is a process that includes a variety of career building activities, from courses in classroom management practices to how to integrate effective strategies within a lesson plan. Learn the components of a successful induction program and read examples of three commendable programs. Model your approach after these fine examples and watch as your retention rates rise to unprecedented levels.
Key Idea: First Day of School Scripts work. Here’s further proof that First Day Scripts put teachers on the road to success. This article shares Melissa Pantoja’s Daily Class Routine for the Substitute and John Schmidt’s First Day Script, Procedures, and Class Policies. Use these exceptional works to guide your creation of a First Day Script, as well as to develop procedures that will guide your class to success from day one.
Key Idea: Effective substitutes employ effective practices. Prepare in advance for your next substitute teaching adventure. Learn how to create a Sub Pack, including what materials it should include and why. Print a copy of the Professional Substitute Teachers’ Checklist and use it to organize your daily routine and prepare for your next subbing job. Peruse the many helpful substitute teacher links we’ve gathered and glean many more helpful tips from them.
MAY 2003—Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market, Part 1
Key Idea: Learnthe actions that guarantee a successful interview. There are two critical questions you should ask at your interview. In this article, we discuss the first question, “Does your district have a new teacher induction program?” Review the tips contained in this article as you prepare for your teaching interview and get ready to wow your interviewer.
JUNE/JULY 2003—Applying for a Teaching Job in a Tight Market, Part 2
Key Idea: Look for a district with a curriculum and standards guides. This article discusses the second question all teachers should ask when they interview for a position, “Does the district have a curriculum guide that is aligned to state standards?” Understanding the state standards and implementing them in a classroom is hard enough, but to do so without a curriculum guide is suicide. Be sure that the school you choose has a set curriculum for each grade and that the curriculum is aligned with the state standards. As a bonus, included are end-of-the-year procedures. Use them to guide you toward a stress-free summer vacation and new school year.
Key Idea: Creating effective lesson plans. Discover how to begin lesson planning when there is no curriculum guide to steer you. Many districts do not have curriculum guides and most teachers do not leave behind collections of curriculum and activities to assist a beginning teacher. Follow the Steps to Creating an Effective Assignment and begin your lesson planning with confidence.
Key Idea: Get out of survival mode. This article explores the realities of survival mode and explains how to move beyond survival to mastery. If you are in survival mode, you must read this article. It contains advice that will help you to become the teacher you always dreamed you would be. The article also contains an innovative adaptation of the Tote Tray System. We invite you to explore and adapt this method for use in your own classroom.
Key Idea: Classroom management helps in the diverse classroom. This article features the classroom management plan of Nathan Gibbs, whose class is a well-oiled learning machine. Consistent classroom management will make even the most behaviorally challenged children take note and perform their best. Adapt the procedures you find in this article to meet the needs of your learning community.
Key Idea: Respond to complaints the right way. This article highlights the proper response to complaints and presents further examples of Nathan Gibbs’ procedures that you can modify for use in your classroom. In every group, there will be at least one person who complains; this includes any given group of students. We share insight into how to deal with complaints without becoming upset, and how to promote critical thinking and problem-solving skills at the same time. Try the complaint procedure and see how it changes the dynamics in your classroom.
Key Idea: Effective classroom management is universal. Classroom management procedures are universal and can be used to create a successful learning environment from Pre-K to Technical College and beyond. The career-changing management and teaching strategies of Jeff Smith are featured. His is a story of both teacher and student success.
AUGUST 2004—How to Help Students with Their Assignments
Key Idea: Provide students with an agenda. After teaching for over ten years, Carol Brooks, a middle school teacher in South Carolina, came up with a solution to the problem of student organization. In time, her classes of under-achieving students were doing so well that the parents (who didn’t even know what she was doing) were clamoring, “Get my kid into that notebook class!” Carol’s one-page agenda is shared.
SEPTEMBER 2004—How Procedures Saved a Teacher’s Life
Key Idea: Be prepared for an emergency. Heather Chambers, who teaches kindergarten in Denton, Texas, had a diabetic seizure and collapsed in class. Because of her health condition, Chambers had developed a simple but highly effective procedure for her class, so they would know what to do in case she had a seizure. Indeed, because her class knew the procedure, they saved her life.
Key Idea: The need for structure is vital in the special education classroom. The demands on the teachers of special education students are enormous. The work is emotionally and physically draining, the stress is considerable, and the magnitude of the workload is colossal. Robin Zarzour (now Robin Barlak) works with children with a variety of disabilities—autism, speech and language delays, ADHD, severe behavior issues, and physical and developmental handicaps. Read about the remarkable work she does with her students.
Key Idea: Present procedures in PowerPoint. Some teachers duplicate pages and distribute them to students. Some teachers make charts and attach them to walls. Some teachers make overlays and display them with a projector. Kazim Cicek in Tulsa, Oklahoma, communicates his classroom management procedures to his classes with a PowerPoint presentation.
Key Idea: It’s all in how you begin. Jane Slovenske’s success with her students begins on the very first day of school. She spends the first ten days of school teaching and reinforcing the behaviors and standards her students will need to succeed in her classroom. Jane shares her lesson plans in this column.
Key Idea: A great school year stems from a great start. The first day of school finally arrived. Her lesson plans were ready. The desks were in order. Her PowerPoint presentation was ready to go. First-year teacher Chelonnda Seroyer had not even entered the classroom. The first minute of her first year as a new teacher had not begun. Standing at the door dressed in a suit, she was greeting her students when she had an eerie feeling. She turned to look in her classroom and saw that her students had already started working on the assignment. Yes! She was now confident that this was going to be a good day. It turned out to be a great year. Learn what she did in this article.
Key Idea: Never, ever, give up. Ed Lucero was miserable. He was seriously considering leaving the teaching profession. He decided to give it one more try, but knew he had to make some radical changes. He restructured his classes to be more business-like. This corresponded with the classes he was teaching: Business, Marketing, and Finance. It worked and now he loves teaching again.
Key Idea: Effective teachers go to conventions to learn. Never, ever cease to learn. Go to at least one conference a year. This column explains how conferences are structured and how you can reap the greatest rewards from your attendance. Go and listen to the ideas and insights of successful teachers. They are all participating, contributing, and doing. No one is complaining. It is heartwarming and contagious. You return to school fully charged with a positive attitude and proud that you are a teacher.
May 2005—Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple, Part 1
Key Idea: It’s the teacher that makes the difference. It’s the teacher—what the teacher knows and what the teacher does in the classroom—that results in student learning. Improving student achievement is very simple. It boils down to the teacher and how the teacher instructs. When teacher instruction is effective, you will see improved student learning. In fact, the most effective teachers produce as much as six times the learning gains as the least effective teachers.
June 2005—Improving Student Achievement Is Very Simple, Part 2
Key Idea: It’s the teacher that results in student success. It is the teacher who holds the key to student achievement. And, it is the district that holds the key to the lifelong professional development of teachers. Everything the district does should focus on student learning. And training teachers to be the best must become the priority for a district, especially if we believe that students deserve the very best teacher—every year.
Key Idea: Create morning routines. A high performing school has a culture of consistency that must be established the first day and first week of school. See how an elementary school establishes a culture of consistency every morning with a morning routine at the playground. They do this with a staff that works together in a professional learning community.
SEPTEMBER 2005—A Successful First Day Is No Secret
Key Idea: It’s all in how you start. On the first day of school, Elise brought in a roll of toilet paper for a fun activity. She left teaching after two days. Sarah Jondahl came to school on the first day with a binder complete with a management plan. Today, Sarah is an accomplished fifth-year teacher. Sarah’s classroom management action plan is featured in our eLearning course offered at www.ClassroomManagement.com.
OCTOBER 2005—Classroom Management Is Not Discipline
Key Idea: Learn the difference between management and discipline. Ineffective teachers discipline their classes with rules and punishments. Effective teachers manage their classrooms with procedures and routines and experience the joy of a productive working environment. It’s never too late to implement classroom management techniques in your classroom. Alternative certification teacher Diana Greenhouse shares how she has set up her classroom for student success.
Key Idea: Experience the trials of a first-year teacher. Without certification or training, “emergency teacher” Christina Asquith is hired on the spot and assigned to a classroom that few veteran teachers would take—sixth grade in the city’s oldest school building, in a crime-infested neighborhood known as The Badlands. Christina asks the two classic questions: Why are American inner-city public schools failing? And can one young, motivated person make a difference? Her story reminds us all to stay steadfast to our dreams of helping children.
DECEMBER 2005/JANUARY 2006—Fifty Years Ago Today, the Legacy
Key Idea: Lessons learned from Rosa Parks. Effective teachers know that the rewards go only to the professionals. They are the happiest, make the most money, get the most respect, and are the most successful. Professionals have arrived at this happy state in life because they build on strengths, not on weaknesses. The professional educator chooses to always learn and grow. The professional educator is on an endless journey—looking for new and better ideas, new information, and improved skills to further student success.
Key Idea: Learn what teachers have accomplished. Some children face staggering challenges: homelessness, neglect, abuse, malnourishment, poverty, etc. As teachers, we welcome them into our classroom and strive to nurture, love, and teach them. You, the teacher, make a difference in the lives of countless children, and so we say, “Thank you.”
Key Idea: Meet three Special Ed teachers. The demands on the teachers of special education students are enormous, but the rewards are equally huge. These are the wonderful teachers who have the skill to bring order and structure to the lives of their students, as well as kind and understanding hearts that are able to see all children as capable and worthy. In this column, we revisit Robin Zarzour (Barlak) and meet two other special education teachers: Charlotte Empringham of Canada and Dan Seufert of North Carolina.
Key Idea: Standards and objectives are needed for elementary students. If students know what they are to learn, you increase the chances that they will learn. This is how Julie Johnson does it: 1) She decides what she wants her students to learn; 2) She shows them what they are to learn; 3) They practice or do the assignment on what they are to learn; and 4) They are tested on what they know they are to learn. Julie says, “There are no secrets as to what is expected of them. When I do this, they all succeed.”
MAY 2006—Hitting the Bulls Eye as a Beginning Teacher
Key Idea: Standards and objectives are needed for high school students. Many teachers begin teaching without a clear lesson plan format or an operational curriculum. Even fewer receive curricula that are aligned with state standards. Norm Dannen is presently enrolled in New Pathways to Teaching, an alternative route program to teaching in New Jersey. They give their teachers-in-training a template to use as a lesson plan format. Norm created a 15-day unit to have students interpret The Great Gatsby artistically, thematically, and historically. He shares his rubric with you in this article.
Key Idea: Create a classroom community. Effective teachers first have a plan to prevent problems and then they proactively work the plan. Barbara De Santis is ready and organized from the first day of school. She has a Classroom Management Plan. She builds a Classroom Community by teaching her students to respect and celebrate the success of others. Learn more about Barbara’s plan and why thinking like Gumby, Darwin, and Disney helps her.
Key Idea: Use of a personal responsibility card. Two effective teachers, Chelonnda Seroyer and Barbara De Santis, share how they use Pink Slips to improve homework turn-in rates. Find out who they “stole” the idea from and how they each made it their own. Plus, tips on how to improve your homework turn-in rate and a few procedures for orchestrating homework for maximum effectiveness.
OCTOBER 2006—Assessing Student Progress with a Rubric
Key Idea: Give students a scoring guide. The role of the teacher is not to grade a student. The teacher’s main role is to help every student reach the highest possible level of achievement. The purpose of a test is to assess what the student has learned so that further learning can be planned. Read how Norm Dannen’s rubric helps to engage his students while assessing what they have learned. The tone of your classroom will change when the students see that you are there to help them progress through the year.
Key Idea: Steps to writing a rubric. Give students a rubric before each assignment. Structure each lesson so that the students know beforehand what they are to accomplish. Decide which factors you are looking for as this will tell you if students have learned what you want them to learn. Oretha Ferguson’s Prose and Poetry Rubric is shared for you to use as a model. Her success goes way beyond a single lesson as her classroom is structured and organized from day one.
DECEMBER 2006/JANUARY 2007—Rubrics in Two College Classes
Key Idea: Rubrics apply to all grade levels. Two college professors use rubrics to train future teachers. Dr. Lena Nuccio-Lee found herself teaching an online class for the first time after Hurricane Katrina left her without a classroom and without the majority of her teaching materials. She used rubrics to make her course a success. Carla Boone uses rubrics to guide and grade the results of her course for new teachers at the College of Mainland, Texas. Learn about the success that follows from using rubrics from these effective teachers.
Key Idea: How to construct your own rubric. Kathy Monroe uses a picture rubric to vividly show her students how their work will be evaluated. Karen Rogers uses short and simple rubrics to guide her science students. Diana Greenhouse created a rubric using a teacher tool called RubiStar. All of their rubrics have three parts, involve students in the assignments, and help assess what the students have learned. Review their rubrics and create your own to foster student and teacher success.
MARCH 2007—Classroom Management Applies to All Teachers
Key Idea: Observe, reinvent, and implement procedures. Stacey Allred is a special education teacher who knows that classroom management is applicable to all teachers—regardless of grade level or setting. The key to becoming a successful classroom manager is to observe procedures practiced by other effective teachers. Then reinvent their procedures to meet your classroom needs. Finally, you must practice your procedures with your class. Specific examples from various effective classroom managers are shared.
APRIL 2007—Training Gen Y Teachers for Maximum Effectiveness
Key Idea: Generation Y and how to have a successful induction program for them. There is a new generation entering the teaching profession. The Millennials are a generation poised to be lifelong learners and collaborators. They are team-based learners and thrive on collaboration. To meet the needs of this new generation entering the profession, induction programs focus on a group approach. Learn from Dr. Linda Lippman and others about their successful programs for the Millennial teacher.
MAY 2007—Effective Teachers End the Year Successfully
Key Idea: Preparation, preparation, preparation. Beth Sommers knows that an ounce of preparation can save a ton of time and trouble. She spent the summer before her first year as a classroom teacher preparing herself and her classroom for the first days of school. Beth made contact with her students and their parents before the school year began. She greeted her students with an impressive PowerPoint presentation, which she later shared with her students’ parents. View Beth’s PowerPoint presentation and learn how she was a successful first year teacher from start to finish.
JUNE 2007—Summary of Effective Teaching Articles, 2000–2007
Key Idea: Gain happiness from continuous growth. Melissa Boone-Hand was Melissa Pantoja when we wrote about her in our first Teachers.net article in June 2000. We know that 50% of new teachers drop out of teaching within their first five years on the job. Melissa is not one of those statistics. What Melissa did in her first year of teaching, on her very first day, may be a clue to ensuring the future success of beginning teachers. Melissa Boone-Hand’s career success and happiness are a result of her continuous education, involvement in various organizations, and constant growth—and it all began with her First Day of School Script.
AUGUST 2007—First Day of School Script—in Spanish, Too!
Key Idea: Plan for student success. Your foremost responsibility as a teacher is to create a classroom that is organized so that the maximum number of classroom minutes can be spent on instruction and learning. Elmo Sanchez and Angelica Guerra are two teachers who reclaimed their classrooms by using First Day of School Scripts. View their PowerPoint presentations (one of them in Spanish) and find out how their scripts transformed their teaching experiences.
SEPTEMBER 2007—Ten Timely Tools for Success on the First Days of School
Key Idea: Consistency is the determiner of success in your classroom. The most important factor to establish in the first week of school is consistency. You set your students up for success when they know what to expect and how your class is run. The ten tools in this article will ensure a positive learning experience for both your students and yourself.
OCTOBER 2007—Taking the Bite Out of Assessment—Using Scoring Guides
Key Idea: Have your students help develop rubrics. By having a hand in creating their scoring guides, your students will see the value of using rubrics to assess their work. Scoring guides can be used to assess any kind of assignment, including the growing trend of multimedia assignments. Norm Dannen started using scoring guides in his very first year of teaching. Read about Norm’s success and view his rubrics.
Key Idea: Be organized—very organized. Diane Blocker and Tobias Larson are effective migrant teachers who are extremely organized. They have all of their classroom materials on hand at every moment. This article contains tips to help you succeed as a floating teacher or as a teacher in a self-contained classroom.
DECEMBER 2007/January 2008—Wrapping the Year with Rap!
Key Idea: Get creative with your lessons. Alex Kajitani uses rap, not only to teach math concepts, but also to teach procedures. He connects with his students through an innovative method of teaching, which also helps to increase the scores of his “at-promise” students. Find out how he came up with his alter ego, “The Rappin’ Mathematician,” and the difference his approach made in his classroom. Listen to some of his raps, too!
FEBRUARY 2008—Coaches Are More Effective than Mentors
Key Idea: Mentors have roles; coaches have responsibilities. Hopewell City Schools in Virginia has a formula for new teacher success. They know that one-on-one mentoring does not improve student learning. Instead, new teachers are given a full complement of activities and access to skilled coaches to help them become proficient and effective. Learn how Hopewell ensures the success of each of their new teachers.
MARCH 2008—Academic Coaching Produces More Effective Teachers
Key Idea: Academic coaches are important to school and teacher improvement. Angie Cook and Vallorie Borchardt are two academic coaches who have helped their teachers, students, and schools improve. Coaching assistance is sustained and job-embedded, and the transfer and implementation of new skills is immediate. Read about how the gains from coaching are six times more than the gains from spending money on class-size reduction.
Key Idea: Use professional learning communities. L.C. Kennedy School in Arizona has created a learning community of teachers that tackle problems and issues. The teachers work as a team, with student success at the forefront of every meeting and conversation. Learn how two grade level teams developed a common goal, as well as the steps they took to achieve success.
Key Idea: Structure your classroom for success. Bernie Alidor found procedures provided him with the structure he needed to work with his ADHD. He now provides his kindergarten students with a safe, inviting, and comfortable environment through the use of procedures and routines. See how he provides his students with consistency and nurtures in them a “can do” attitude.
JUNE 2008—Eight Year Summary of Articles, 2000–2008
Key Idea: Effective teachers adapt, not adopt. Adopting means you want someone to tell you what to do. Adapting means you implement someone else’s work—regardless of their grade level, subject matter, or even professional field—molding it for use in your unique classroom situation. Effective teachers are also proactive. They prevent problems from occurring in the classroom, rather than react to problems. They do this by implementing a well-considered classroom management plan.
Key Idea: Whoever is doing all the work is doing all the learning. When you walk into a classroom, what do you see? Is the teacher doing all the work—lecturing, demonstrating, and rushing back and forth? If so, the person doing the most work is the teacher. Encourage your students to be responsible for their own learning by setting a class goal. When students tutor each other, working to help each other toward a common goal, they learn more.
SEPTEMBER 2008—It Was Something Close to a Miracle
Key Idea: Good classroom management and constructive lesson planning make for a classroom that is “a truly delightful place to teach.” Thirty year corporate veteran, Stacy Hennessee was a first-year lateral entry teacher. Three weeks into his lifelong dream of teaching, his class was out of control and he was ready to flee. He had a light bulb moment and implemented procedures in his classroom. Now state officials say of Stacy’s class, “This is the type of classroom that we should strive for!”
OCTOBER 2008—Boaz City Schools: Professional Learning Teams
Key Idea: Together, we learn. The Boaz philosophy states, “We can do something to help every child’s school—all ranked in the top ten percent of the state.” They are able to accomplish this with mutual cooperation, emotional support, and personal growth. There is an on-site instructional coach in each school to help lead the professional development process. Learn how your school can commit to improving the learning process for teachers and students.
Key Idea: The group always accomplishes more than the individual. Isolation is the enemy of improvement. In low performing schools, teachers are less likely to collaborate with and learn from one another. Whereas in high performing schools, teachers will share with one another the needed knowledge and skills to help their students attain greater academic heights. Read this article to learn how to go about creating a professional learning community in your school, as well as to see examples of teacher coaching and teacher collaboration.
DECEMBER 2008—The Sounds of Students Learning and Performing
Key Idea: Structure translates to success. Nile Wilson was hired as the new Director of Orchestras for John Paul Stevens High School in San Antonio, Texas. She started her very first day armed with a thick handbook of classroom procedures. Students and parents were initially skeptical of her methods, but grew to appreciate the structure and organization of her class. Subs love her. “My students run the show and all the subs have to do is supervise. I’m proud of my students for being productive and staying on-task, even when I’m not around!” Nile shares the orchestra handbook she uses for her effective classroom management and improvement of her students’ skills.
FEBRUARY 2009—To Be an Effective Teacher, Simply Copy and Paste
Key Idea: Teach the teachers well and they will teach the students well. Prairie Rose in Alberta, Canada, is a highly effective school district with a professional development program to continually upgrade the effectiveness of their teachers. Entire staffs take our online Classroom Management course together and wind up teaching and reinforcing the same, school-wide procedures and routines. Tips are shared on how to replicate Prairie Rose’s success, as well as links to its induction program and the induction programs of seven other school districts.
Key Idea: Assessment for learning sets students up for success. Brad Volkman does something unusual—almost unheard of—in his class. He guarantees his students if they work with him and follow his system of practice and self-assessment, they will not fail his course, no matter how bad they think they are at math. And every single one of them pass his class! The one simple sentence that Brad uses in assessing his students is shared.
Key Idea: If everyone knows what to do, they will do it. We introduce you to four visionary educators who all subscribe to the same mantra, “If everyone knows what to do, they will do it!” These educators have seen the benefits of having successful teachers and know how to achieve a school and district-wide culture of success. The components of success are well documented. And it has nothing to do with programs, money, secrets, or luck. Four education leaders share how they do it!
Key Idea: Successful schools wisely invest in the effectiveness of their teachers. The better the teachers instruct, the more the students will learn. Studies cited consistently state, the more effective the teacher, the more the students will learn. Good teaching matters for student achievement more than any other single, education resource. We also know that the first group to benefit from an increase in teacher effectiveness is the lower-achieving students. Money well spent on processes that improve the capabilities of the teachers yields the greatest benefit for the students.
JUNE 2009—Nine Year Summary of Articles, 2000–2009
Key Idea: Effective teachers are unique. They do not limit themselves to doing the same things, thinking the same ways, or behaving just like everyone else. Alex Kajitani, 2009 National Teacher of the Year Award finalist, has a unique ability to connect with his students, especially those who have all but given up on school. Lowell Leffler, Deputy Superintendent of the Prairie Rose School District, has developed a unique and effective three year induction program. Successful teachers like these are always on the lookout for good ideas they can adopt and adapt for the unique needs of their specific classroom.
Key Idea: Be a difference maker. Just like Melissa Dunbar, she is not satisfied with anything less than a 100% success rate in her students. Melissa chooses to be a “Difference Maker.” This means she continually goes above and beyond, working with her fellow teachers and supporting her students in all aspects of life. She is always on the lookout for new ways to raise student achievement, create a better classroom environment, and be a more efficient and effective teacher.
Key Idea: Positive expectations can change lives. Ruby Hernandez was born into a migrant family. She spent her entire education fighting low expectations. Now as a teacher, she works to empower her students. Ruby stresses the importance of collaboration between the teacher, the student, and the parents. She is a strong advocate for including a child in decisions made in the classroom. She believes students should know that no matter what, you will always be on their side.
Key Idea: Address is not a factor in student achievement. Demographics and culture are not an excuse for poor student achievement. Research shows that how a teacher instructs is 15 to 20 times more influential in student success than family background, income, race, or gender. Marcos Campos knows this. He uses procedures, collaboration, and motivation to gain a 100% pass rate in his classroom. Make a conscious decision to be positive and set high expectations for both your students and yourself. Every child is capable of success.
NOVEMBER 2009—Success in a State Controlled School
Key Idea: Consistency and structure equal student success and achievement. Griselda Almonte uses rules, procedures, and routines to achieve a high success rate in a struggling, state controlled school. She calls it her “Stress Free System” because when everybody knows what to do, nobody gets stressed out. She emphasizes that classroom procedures benefit everyone, not just the teacher. If you are a proactive teacher, and not a reactive one, demographics and school situation don’t matter. You, too, can be an effective teacher.
DECEMBER 2009/JANUARY 2010—Dreams and Wishes Can Come True
Key Idea: A First Day of School Script leads to a successful year. First-year teachers Sarah Ragan and Stacey Greene rave about the ease their First Day of School Script gave them. And after a rough start to the year, Nick Saadipour went back and wrote a First Day Script when he realized he had introduced his procedures, but had failed to rehearse and reinforce them. After reintroducing his procedures, he was sure to model each one, discuss the purpose of it, and rehearse it with the class. The rest of the year was a huge success.
FEBRUARY 2010—Turning Teaching Dreams into Reality
Key Idea: Stealing ideas is the mark of a truly effective teacher. EPI is an Alternate Certification Program for people looking to transition into teaching. They embrace the “beg, borrow, and steal” mentality. Each month they hold a Fill Your Toolbox activity night to share ideas and things that work. Ninth-grade teacher George Bartuska’s first year was a disorganized mess. But after a workshop where he was able to steal procedures from other teachers, he went back his second year prepared. By introducing his procedures on day one, George was able to successfully introduce his curriculum the rest of the year.
Key Idea: A few simple changes can make all the difference. Jessica Fenton had a difficult first semester of school. Then she discovered that a few simple steps could change everything. She set up classroom procedures and routines, being sure to follow through with how she implemented them. By setting expectations of herself and her students up front, Jessica paved the way to a successful rest of the year.
Key Idea: Teacher induction is necessary to create effective teachers. To simply give a new teacher a mentor will not produce an effective teacher. Teachers must be trained in a well-organized program, with varied activities, and instructors with defined responsibilities. This article shows one example of a top notch, induction program. The Flowing Wells School District has an exemplary eight-year induction process. They know that effective teachers produce student success. And proper induction produces effective teachers.
Key Idea: A successful school has a Culture of Consistency. A school must have a set of schoolwide procedures that are constant from classroom to classroom. This way, everyone knows what to do, what is happening, and what to expect. At Elite Scholars Academy, Graysen Walles has created a culture of consistency. He set up teams of teachers to share ideas, plan lessons, and tackle problems as a unit. Teamwork, consistency, and procedures have led to an extremely successful and smooth first year for the school.
Key Idea: The Effective Teacher: What we do best. This is the tenth anniversary of our columns on teachers.net. You know our style. We feature educators who are effective so you can “steal” from their effectiveness. Angela Hiracheta says that she began her first year clueless. Then she learned how to create procedures so there was no room for confusion and said, “Thanks for the peace I’ve been looking for so long in the teaching profession!”
Key Idea: The first day of school was flawless. Amanda Brooks of Dyersburg, Tennessee, heard us speak at a preschool meeting. During the event she began to map out her first day of school plan while listening attentively and taking notes. She went home and finished her plan in PowerPoint. Later she wrote, “The first day of school went like clockwork and the day was absolutely flawless.”
SEPTEMBER 2010—Teaching Greatness: Alain L. Locke Elementary School - P. S. 208, Part 1
Key Idea: Effective schools have one voice, one common language. What happens in one classroom happens in all. At Locke school, procedures are the same from classroom to classroom, even on the playground. These procedures and routines make school safe, predictable, dependable, and consistent. This is especially important to children who may come from a home or neighborhood environment that does not offer consistency to them.
OCTOBER 2010—Achieving Greatness: Alain L. Locke Elementary School - P. S. 208, Part 2
Key Idea: This is a continuation of our September column. This is a school you would want to teach in. This is a school the kids want to be in. Alain L. Locke’s success has attracted students from all over New York. Some students commute from Brooklyn and the Bronx on a daily basis anywhere from half an hour to an hour to get to school every day. All of the teachers at Locke Elementary take great pride in what they do. They teach greatness . . . and nothing less.
Key Idea: Procedures were the key to keeping things running smoothly. One day principal, Debra Beebe, was in school with 980 6th and 7th graders and staff. The next day she was gone for eight weeks and only her family knew where she went. She spent these missing weeks filming as a participant on Survivor. When she was asked who ran the school in her absence, she said, “The same people who do when I am there.”
DECEMBER 2010/JANUARY 2011—Effectiveness Defined: It’s Not a Mystery
Key Idea: Effective teaching is identifiable, teachable, and implementable. For over 25 years, we have consistently underscored a single point: To produce student achievement, produce and retain effective teachers and principals. This article tells you how.
Key Idea: Give students the structure to create. Theater Arts Director, Laurie Kash, has directed over fifty theatrical productions and showcases. How does she do this? Through the use of procedures and routines, she brings theater off the page and into the lives of her students each and every day. She uses procedures, disguised as games and theater exercises, to keep her classes efficient, full of energy, engaged, and entertained.
MARCH 2011—Learning Objectives: The Heart of Every Lesson
Key Idea: Objectives ensure learning is focused on the purpose of what students are to learn. With objectives, students also know what is expected of them. A learning objective states what a student will be able to do once he or she has completed instruction. The research says: Simply tell students what they will be learning before the lesson begins and you can raise student achievement as much as 27 percent.
Key Idea: A school that is managed effectively becomes a well-oiled factory for success. Judy Jones was given the challenge to turn an academically unacceptable school into an exemplary school in just one year. Judy grabbed her copy of The First Days of School and jumped in! She said, “I’m going to run my campus the way I ran my classroom as a teacher with similar procedures, routines, and being consistent. If I was an ‘effective teacher’ then I can be an ‘effective principal,’ too.”
Key Idea: Someone, somewhere along the line, has inspired us in a profound way. 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. The one person they attribute all of their success as teachers, and as human beings, too, is the person they call “Mom.”
JUNE 2011—Eleven Year Summary of Articles, 2000–2011
Key Idea: Graduation begins in your classroom. This is the eleventh anniversary of our columns on teachers.net. As is our style, we feature educators who are effective so you can “steal” from their effectiveness. See how Amy Harris “graduates” her kindergarten students and Casey Weeks posts college banners in his English classroom that serve as encouragement for his students to dream dreams beyond the classroom.
AUGUST 2011—How a Principal Creates a Culture of Consistency
Key Idea: First day success can be simple and obvious. Karen Whitney will show how she took a public school with over 500 referrals and low achievement scores and in two years created a school that made AYP for the very first time—all based on a culture of consistency.
SEPTEMBER 2011—Coaching Teachers to Be Effective Instructors
Key Idea: Coaches help teachers to be effective. Three instructional coaches in Idaho show how they teach the knowledge and skills of effective instruction to bring out the potential in every teacher and build a professional learning team.
OCTOBER 2011—Seamless, Transparent, and Consistent
Key Idea: Managing so students know how to function responsibly. Christina Shoemaker went from being a high school student, to college, and back to her same high school as a teacher, using the same procedures used by her teachers when she was a student to make teaching a seamless joy for her and her students.
Key Idea: The gift of a classroom management plan. From an alternative certification teacher to an assistant principal in six years, Diana Greenhouse now teaches classroom management to all the new teachers in her district.
Key Idea: Turning around a dysfunctional school. Chelonnda Seroyer arrives at a dysfunctional school and in four meetings in just over a year turns the school around into a safe and consistent learning environment.
FEBRUARY 2012—The Highest Ranked School in New York City, Part 1
Key Idea: The importance of trust in the profession. At the Staten Island School of Civic Leadership there is a high degree of trust for the professionalism of teachers to determine the curriculum, teach the students, and solve their own problems, all based on a consistent lesson plan format.
MARCH 2012—The Highest Ranked School in New York City, Part 2
Key Idea: The importance of collaboration in the profession. What characterizes the success of the staff at the Staten Island School of Civic Leadership is trust (Finland) and collaboration (Singapore), the two concepts that have created the best school systems in the world.
Key Idea: It’s all about instruction. Literacy is taught in every classroom, a factor that took Brockton High School from one of the worst perform schools with a 33 percent dropout rate to one of the nation’s best high schools with a 75 percent graduation rate.
Key Idea: Progress from a culture of consistency. At Sisseton Middle School, the teachers all use procedures implemented on the first day of school and a common lesson plan to create a culture of consistency. In two years, this school made AYP for the first time ever.
Key Idea: A tribute to Harry Wong—the master teacher of teachers. In recognition of his masterful devotion to helping teachers be effective, Harry was awarded the first-ever Lifetime Achievement Award by the National Teachers Hall of Fame in Emporia, Kansas. The influence he has had in the profession is acknowledged with this tribute and award.
Key Idea: Preparation and planning guarantee success from day one. Kara Moore was a first-year teacher whose grade-level students, subject matter, and classroom assignment changed one week prior to the first day of school. But, she was able to take these changes in stride and start her career as a teacher on the right foot because she’d written her classroom management plan and first day procedures.
SEPTEMBER 2012—Learning, Laughing, and Leaving a Legacy
Key Idea: Preparing new teachers to move from studying to teaching. Greg Risner is a professor at the University of North Alabama who prepares his first-year teachers for the real classroom with innovative methods. Always with humor, 32 years of teaching experience, and micro-teaching, he addresses the struggles of first-year teachers, analyzing what not to do and defines ways of self-reflection to solve problems.
OCTOBER 2012—The Lasting Impact of Instructional Coaching
Key Idea: Instructional coaches help teachers improve skills to enhance student learning. David Ginsburg uses “cause-effect coaching” to show teachers what they are or are not doing and how that relates to what students do or do not learn. Using “content-focused coaching,” David focuses the daily task of lesson-planning on the content students are to learn.
Key Idea: Effective teaching through classroom management and procedures transcend subject matter. Orchestra teacher Nile Wilson deftly teaches five different orchestras with students at various skill levels. With procedures, she manages it all by empowering student leaders and the students themselves begin the class and learning as soon as they enter the classroom without necessitating verbal direction from Nile.
Key Idea: Procedures create the consistent structure and trusting environment students need to focus on learning. Start the school year by teaching and showing the students what to do, when to do it, and how to do it. The consistency created builds trust and the most effective classrooms are the ones where there is trust.
Key Idea: Public education continues to make positive strides. Americans are more educated today and our students are taking a more challenging curriculum. Special needs students are better-integrated into regular classrooms and some of the achievement gaps between various racial groups are narrowing. Effective teachers are the key to these gains and to improved student learning.
Key Idea: Safety in our schools is paramount and procedures can establish and enhance safety. A fifth-grader in Detroit died while heading home in a school bus because of a lack of procedures. End-of-day procedures ensure students are safely reunited with their parents, delivered to after-school care, or returned home on school buses. Students taught appropriate conduct through procedures, and teachers reinforcing that appropriate action, can prevent anxiety and even save lives.
Key Idea: Physical handicaps take a back seat where perseverance and drive eclipse them. Despite personal, devastating challenges, Merlyna Valentine, the indomitable principal of St. Rose Elementary School, leads and inspires her staff and students to soar to new heights. There are processes and accountability in place to make sure every child makes gains. The faculty and staff are diligent and relentless in improving on what is already in place so children get the best education to be found anywhere.
Key Idea: Any school can become a model of effective student learning—for free! Practicing educators share their techniques for transforming classrooms and schools into positive, learning environments at little or no cost. See how Chelonnda Seroyer’s keen observations, identification of problem areas, and suggestions turned the second-lowest performing school in Detroit into a school with a culture of consistency in only 14 months. Other educators in South Dakota, New York, Massachusetts, Louisiana, and Arizona are working miracles for children and learning.
Key Idea: Teachers touch the lives of children in so many ways, just by being caring. Melessa Bosch was chosen by her school district to be Teacher-of-the-Year. In her acceptance speech, Melessa recognized the 600 other teachers in the school district who mentored and coached her to be a better teacher. Read the poem Melessa wrote acknowledging the many little things her teachers—and all teachers—do each and every day for their students with no other purpose, but to be THE one to touch a child’s life.
Key Idea: The #1 factor affecting student learning is classroom management. Although this is true, many universities do not offer classroom management courses to their students. Nevertheless, three universities get it right. Read how LSU, the University of New Orleans, and William Penn University teach their students to plan, plan, and plan some more, and to develop classroom management plans in binders that help their students get hired to be new teachers.
September 2013—Prevention: The Key to Solving Discipline Problems
Key Idea: Discipline problems can be prevented or minimized through classroom procedures and routines. When students know what to do and when to do it, they work from the moment they enter the classroom. Rules and punishment don’t work. Read how Sarah Jondahl and Oretha Ferguson maximize their classroom instructional time while simultaneously eliminating discipline problems by teaching their students procedures that become routines.
Key Idea: Greeting students is the perfect way to start every school day. Research shows that when students are greeted at the door, the teacher establishes an immediate connection that can result in increased student engagement between 42 to 72 percent! Read how successful teachers and schools use greeting to start every school day.
Key Idea: The most misunderstood and misused term in education is classroom management. Too many people in education equate classroom management with discipline. But discipline is behavior management. Classroom management is the array of procedures and routines teachers use to manage their classrooms so that teaching and student achievement can take place. Read the difference between these two terms, and how some teachers manage their classes so well, they simply don’t have discipline problems!
December 2013/January 2014—Shaping a Solid Foundation
Key Idea: Any teacher can be an effective teacher using the solid foundation of classroom management procedures. Like creating a solid foundation for pottery to build up beautiful and intricate vase designs, classroom management procedures become the solid foundation upon which new teachers develop into effective teachers. Read how first-year teachers succeeded on their very first day of school by having a classroom management plan and teaching that plan to their students.
Key Idea: Creating a trusting and stable learning environment is one of the teacher’s most important roles. Procedures help create this environment. Learn how to teach procedures to your students using the three-step method: teach, rehearse, and reinforce. As students practice procedures, affirm and praise their specific actions to reinforce what you want them to do in the classroom. Read how to teach procedures and see specific examples of what to say as you teach them.
Key Idea: Every new teacher can be an effective teacher with the proper induction program. Even veteran teachers learn and re-energize when they learn along with brand new teachers in good professional development programs. The Moberley School District in Missouri calls their program S.H.I.N.E.—and was inspired by Arizona's Flowing Wells Unified School District model. Read about Moberley’s two-year induction program, and other exemplary professional development programs, that help teachers of all experience levels succeed.
April 2014—When Students Succeed, Teachers Succeed
Key Idea: Teachers face many challenges both in and out of the classroom. Leah Fairs is a high school biology teacher in Manning, Canada, who has Crohn’s disease. Leah uses every opportunity, even her condition, to teach students about real life. They see her heroic physical struggles, and yet, she is a very successful and effective teacher. Read about Leah’s detailed classroom procedures, and the school’s behavior model, SOLE (Respect for Self, Others, Learning and Environment), which she helped to develop.
Key Idea: Classroom management is the #1 factor that governs student learning. THE Classroom Management Book, our newest book, is complementary to The First Days of School, and focuses on Unit C. The 50 procedures detailed in this book are applicable to every subject, every grade level, and will help you develop or enhance your classroom management plan, while the stories of every-day teachers reaching their potential as effective teachers will inspire you.
Key Idea: Classroom management plans are not only invaluable in the classroom, they can help you get a classroom. Jessica Ferguson nailed her first job interview because she went prepared with a physical copy of her classroom management plan. Whether a novice or veteran teacher, access a variety of plans from successful teachers to create your own plan for success.
Key Idea: Effective teachers plan, plan some more, and share those plans with their students. Execute your plan from the first minute of the first day of school. See a complete first-day plan and tailor it to your own classroom or choose from 50 specific procedures, including those for special education classrooms, from our new book, THE Classroom Management Book.
September 2014—How a University Prepares Its Students
Key Idea: Not all universities teach future teachers how to manage their classrooms for maximum learning and achievement. Stacey Allred, a former elementary and special education teacher, shares her real-world, hands-on experience with her students at Ball State University. See the five, basic parts of the classroom management plan that all of Stacey’s students create and the rubric she created to identify in detail what to include.
Key Idea: Teaching is a sharing profession. Nick LaVecchia did not start on the first day of school; however, his implementation of procedures resulted in noticeable classroom order.
Read how Nick and our other teachers turned their classrooms around by instituting classroom procedures.
November 2014—Retrieving and Carrying Electronic Devices
Key Idea: Electronic devices are a growing trend in education and schools. Oretha Ferguson shares the step-by-step procedures that have kept the laptops in her classes safe and damage-free for over six years.
December 2014/January 2015—Making Deals Is Ineffective
Key Idea: Students crave and welcome the structure and consistency of procedures. When children misbehave in the classroom, the solution is not to make deals or issue bribes. The solution is to replace opportunities for misbehavior by implementing, teaching, rehearsing, and reinforcing procedures so that students know exactly what to do, when to do it, and how to do it.
Key Idea: New teachers need induction, and all teachers need continuous professional development to build the human capacity of their schools and districts. The Flowing Wells Unified School District in Tucson, Arizona, has been training and developing effective teachers for over 30 years. Read about their success, which has resulted in numerous awards, and how they achieve it through a multi-year professional development program.
March 2015—Teacher Effectiveness and Human Capital
Key Idea: The single greatest effect on student achievement is the effectiveness of the teacher. Gary Becker, University of Chicago, received the Nobel Prize in economics for his work on Human Capital. Read how school districts in Moberly, Missouri, and Providence, Rhode Island develop their greatest asset—their teachers—through multi-year induction and professional development programs that nurture and grow the human capacity of their human capital.
Key Idea: Teacher training and retention are vital to creating a culture of consistency in the classroom. The research consistently shows that 16 percent of new teachers drop out of teaching after one year and 50 percent leave within five years of teaching. Dr. Linda Lippman shares the details of her teacher induction program, which has resulted in 100 percent retention of her new teachers over the past three years.
Key Idea: Strong classroom management helps teachers through life’s little interruptions. Meet Cristina Bianchi, a new mother whose maternity leave happened in the middle of the school year, and Janelle Papazian, who was married in April. Read about the procedures both teachers put in place that helped them and their students celebrate these happy events without missing a beat in the classroom.
Key Idea: A strong start will yield a successful career journey. After 15 years of columns, the Wongs bid farewell and share messages from two teachers and the impact their start has had on the rest of their careers. Their insight inspires us all to be the difference in the lives of students.
For a printable version of this article click here.
About Effective Teaching...
Harry and Rosemary Wong have been writing columns for Teachers.Net for over 13 years and the columns all have a distinctive style. They write about effective teachers, administrators, schools, and school districts featuring techniques that are immediately replicable and at no cost. More importantly, they work to enhance student learning. An archive of past articles can be found at the end of every column, with an abstract of all articles at the end of the most recent June column.
For over 30 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. They have built and sustain a school in the jungles of Cambodia.
The Wongs are the most sought after speakers in education today, booked two years into the future. Their presentations are practical, offering a common sense, user-friendly, and no-cost approach to managing a classroom for high-level student success. Over a million teachers worldwide have heard their message. 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.
THE Classroom Management Book is what everyone has been waiting for. It is an exhaustive extension of Unit C on classroom management in The First Days of School.
Turn chaos into student achievement
Reduce behavior issues; increase learning
Step-by-step plans to a well-managed classroom
50 procedures in detail
40 QR codes with additional resources
320 pages in full color
Complete first days of school plans
Suitable for all grades, all subjects, all teachers
Costs no money to implement
How to Be an Effective and Successful Teacheris an audio CD set that 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 3.8 million copies have been sold. It is used in 120 countries, 2,114 colleges, and most every new teacher induction program. The fourth edition has been translated into five foreign languages and 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 books, 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.HarryWong.com.
Helping you produce effective teachers is our passion.