April 2024
Vol 21 No 4

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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... Harry and Rosemary Wong are committed to bringing quality and dignity to the materials they produce. For this, they have formed their own publishing company, of which Rosemary is the CEO. They have dedicated their lives to leaving a legacy in education and 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 2.4 million copies have been sold.

A third edition of The First Days of School has been released and includes an added bonus, an Enhanced CD featuring Harry Wong. The Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn, is dedicated to those teachers who know that the more they learn, the more effective they become.

The Wongs have also produced the video 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 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 DVDs, Facilitator's Handbook in PDF, book The First Days of School, and storage case, $695.00 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

March 2005

His Classroom Is a Real Life Office

If I would have had procedures in place and more importantly practiced them, leaving the teaching profession would have never entered my mind.

Sitting at lunch in a charming Mexican restaurant in the Old Town of Albuquerque, New Mexico, we had the delightful opportunity to meet Ed Lucero and his wife Ruby.

Ruby is in the special education department of the Albuquerque Public Schools and Ed teaches business, marketing, and finances in a high school.

Ed shared a bit of his life with us and it was so powerful that we asked him to tell us more in writing so that we could share it with the thousands of educators.  Because his story is best told in his own words, we’ve chosen to leave it as a first person narrative.

Ed Lucero and His Defining Moment

As the first member of my family to graduate from college, teaching was the furthest thing from my mind until I found I could incorporate my business degree with my love of football.  When I was in high school, I told myself that I would never want to become a school teacher because the pay was low and the lack of respect teachers often received from many of the students.

When I graduated, I received a college scholarship and decided to major in business administration with a concentration in accounting.  No low-paying job for me–that’s why people get a degree, I thought!  While in college, I earned extra money coaching football as an assistant at my alma mater, Del Norte High School in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In my sophomore year of college, I lost my brother Vincent.  After a six month struggle with cancer, he lost his battle.  This was a very stressful time for me and my family.  From the loss of my brother, I had what I call a “Defining Moment” in my life.

It made me reflect on the importance of doing the right thing for myself because life can be so short.

I knew I wanted to continue to coach football and, ultimately, teach young individuals about life through football.  I continued to coach part time after graduating from college in December of 1989.

I turned down a couple of business sector opportunities because it conflicted with my coaching schedule at the high school.  As a temporary solution, I decided to substitute for the Albuquerque Public Schools.  This gave me a chance to gain a little experience as a classroom teacher.  I liked it so much that I decided to become an Educational Assistant, helping in the classroom.  So for the next two years, I coached football, worked as an EA, and studied for the CPA exam.

In 1993, I passed the CPA exam and began practicing accounting full time.  At the same time, I started working on my MBA.  I constantly questioned myself, however; if I was doing the right thing.  I truly missed working with young people.

Soon thereafter, I really felt like I could make a difference in this world by teaching and coaching vs. working as an accountant.

So I left the MBA program and began taking education classes.  Approximately one year later, I completed the coursework for my teaching certificate.  The passion in my heart was for teaching and coaching.

I Had No Structure in My Classroom

My first year as a teacher, I taught math and a work study program called Industrial Cooperative Training.  I thought I had the best of both worlds.  I assisted students in finding jobs while teaching them job skills.

It wasn’t long before I began teaching Accounting and Computer Application classes.  At one time, I was teaching five different classes with five different preps.

In addition, I served on several committees and continued to coach football.

I eventually became the head football coach and shifted much of my energy to coaching.  At this point, I had become the epitome of an over-extended teacher, having taken on too much responsibility.  This soon led to the inevitable “teacher burnout”.

I was at a crossroads—was I to be a teacher or a coach?  Or was it still possible to do both and be effective?

Initially I thought the combination of teacher/coach was not bad; however, I quickly began to think that I was more effective as a coach than as a teacher.

In coaching, I got my players to perform on and off the field by teaching them self-discipline, instilling a work ethic in them, and having high expectations of all.  There were consequences both individually and for the team when players failed to meet those expectations.  I clearly explained the reasoning behind the lesson(s) being taught.

In contrast, in the classroom, I failed to clearly explain the need to learn, did not teach discipline, did not instill a work ethic, and did not set expectations for my students.

Unlike football practice, I had no structure in my classroom.  Rather than having consequences, I would merely avoid the problems that caused me to become stressed and angry most of the time.

Everyday was a challenge to keep my students on task.  I felt I was a “glorified baby sitter.”  I found myself in true survival mode day after day.  As I look back, I don’t know how I did it.  I also realized that I was not doing a very good job of teaching.  Somehow, the information I had learned in the education courses I took years ago was not being used.

I eventually resigned as the Head Football Coach.  There were several reasons for my drastic action, but I decided that I needed to become a better classroom teacher.  I wanted to develop that passion for teaching again.

I Thought About Leaving the Profession

Last year was my eleventh year of teaching.  I was miserable!  Students weren’t paying attention.  I constantly repeated myself.  Students would ignore my instructions and at times talk back.  Some students would attempt to call me “bro.” instead of Mr. Lucero.  I truly thought about leaving the teaching profession.

I promised myself that I would not have another year like I did last year.  If the situation did not change, I would leave teaching and practice public accounting again.

If I stayed, I knew I had to make some radical changes.

My wife Ruby, who is a support teacher for the largest school district in New Mexico, saw and felt my misery.  She suggested I read a book called The First Days of School: How to Become an Effective Teacher by Harry and Rosemary Wong.  I spent the greater part of the summer reading the book and researching its many ideas.

If I had not read the Wongs’ book this past summer, I am sure I would not be teaching today.  I was so distraught that I had begun inquiring about jobs outside of the classroom.

I wanted to try one more time and apply the information that I learned from The First Days of School.  My plan was to make my classes more business like.  This corresponded with the classes that I was teaching—Business, Marketing, and Finance.

This idea took some advance preparation of materials such as daily log sheets, work procedures and computer procedures, but I was prepared the first day of classes.

  • I communicated to my students that school is the equivalent of “their job.”
  • The classroom is their office, teachers are their supervisors, and the students are the employees.
  • All employees (students) are scheduled to work Monday through Friday.
  • Passing periods are short breaks between jobs (classes).
  • Employees (students) work up to six different shifts in one day.
  • In my “office” the work shift is 56 minutes.
  • Their report card is the equivalent of their paycheck and their compensation is tied to their work effort.
  • They get weekends, holidays, and ten weeks off during the summer.  Not a bad deal—as many employees get only a two-week vacation.
  • As in a “real” job, employees (students) may get docked if they do not work the entire shift or are absent.  This implies that employees (students) must be on task the entire “shift”.

    For the first time in a long while, I feel like I am truly making a difference in the lives of students again.

After implementing many of the strategies and ideas from The First Days of School, I am having the best year of teaching—ever!

Implementing the First Day of School—The Most Important Day of the Year

Preliminary Paperwork:  As students enter their office (classroom), I stand outside my door and greet every student.  As they respond, I hand them an Information Sheet to complete when they get to their seats.  The sheet asks for their personal information such as contact names and numbers, school schedule, interests, hobbies, extracurricular activities, etc.  Students enter the classroom and find their desks from the seating chart posted on the wall.

Students not on my original “Employee List” are assigned a seat, and proceed to complete the Information Sheet.  The Information Sheet provides me with important information on each “employee” and can create a basis for additional communication; I get to know my employees better in a very efficient manner.

A few students are surprised that a seating chart has already been made up; thus not allowing them an opportunity to sit by their friends.  Just as in a real work situation, employees are often unable to choose their work stations.

While students fill out the Information Sheet, I take roll, add the new students to my roster, and update the seating chart.

Job Orientation:  Approximately ten minutes into class, I introduce myself and explain “work” expectations, procedures, and attendance/tardy policies.  I also tell them that this is going to be one of the most beneficial classes in high school because it is modeled after “real life” work experience.

Thirty-five minute training:  Once the first day procedures are explained, the “training” begins.  We discuss and practice the procedures for beginning each “work shift.”  They include the following:

  1. Students pull their folder (time card) as they enter their office.  This indicates they have punched in and are now on the clock to begin work.
  2. Students log their Daily Business Agenda sheet which includes a “Business Smarts Activity,” the class objectives, and assignments for the day.
  3. Students begin their Business Smarts Activity.  The Business Smarts Activity is a “small” job.  It could be reading a short business article, watching a small segment from a video or simply taking notes regarding the day’s task.  (Readers of The First Days of School refer to this as “Bell Work.”)  This allows me to take attendance and perform other necessary tasks before we begin our core assignment (job).
  4. Students are briefed on the business tasks/work objectives for the day.
  5. Upon completion of the jobs for the day, students must begin working on additional “jobs” (assignments).  All students have a copy of an Additional Assignment List.  It contains ten possible assignments that they can work on.  This idea has worked effectively and has helped eliminate wasted time in my classroom.  As in real life employment, employees will get reprimanded or penalized if they are on the clock and doing nothing.

    Students do get bonuses (extra points) for completing these additional assignments.  More importantly, students better their business skills or keep up to date with current events in the world of business.  Surprisingly, I also have learned a great deal from the additional assignments students have submitted.  It’s like having grad assistants who perform research for me.
  6. Students understand that when they file their folder, they have just punched out and can go to break before they go to their next job and supervisor.  However, they can only punch out after they have completed their fifty-six minute shift.

All students have a hard copy of my class procedures.  It is a six-page “Employee Handbook” that explains how to do things during my “work shift” (class).  Click here to view Ed’s Handbook.

Teaching Gets Better Each Day

I no longer have to repeat myself or answer redundant questions from students.  Instead, I ask them, “What’s the procedure?”  Periodically, we revisit and practice a procedure to remind those who may have forgotten it.

Implementing these procedures the first day of school is most important.  It really does set the tempo for the entire school year.  Students learn what is expected of them from day one.

Although I have been successful as a teacher in the eleven years that I have taught, last year was a real challenge and almost led me to leave the teaching profession.

I wish that I had read the Wongs’ book before my first year of teaching.

If I would only have had procedures in place and practiced them, leaving the classroom and teaching would never have entered my mind.

I’m sure I would have minimized the stress and burnout in my teaching.  The reality of becoming an effective teacher leads me to once again consider including the other passion I have—coaching.

My school year has been great.  I feel good that students are utilizing every minute of class productively.  I am so glad that my wife, Ruby, introduced me to The First Days of School.  I continue to get more and more ideas each time I pick up the book, and I have begun to share the ideas and strategies with many of my colleagues.

I never knew that teaching could get better with time!

Tax Help in New Mexico

From Ed’s story, it certainly appears that his passion for working with young people has been rejuvenated.  In fact, teaching is going so well for Ed Lucero that he is able to contribute to the community.

He and a colleague, Judie Dwyer, teach a tax class to high school students.  This class is offered by the Albuquerque Technical Vocational Institute and is coordinated by Fred Gordon.  In this program, they recruit high school students to take a college class at the high school.  Through the class, students earn concurrent credit with the Vocational Institute and Albuquerque Public Schools.  This program trains students to prepare basic income tax returns for low income, disadvantaged, and elderly people in the community.

Students must pass a rigorous IRS Certification Exam before they can prepare and e-file a tax return.

Last year, the students processed over 300 tax returns and refunded more than $250,000 back to the community.  Information on this program can be found at

The students at Ed’s high school, Del Norte, were mentioned in the Congressional Record in the U.S. Senate for their work in the community.

Success Has No Boundaries

As Ed set up a real life experience for his students to follow while in his classroom, he also found a way for the students to use their knowledge and take it out and use it in the real world.

The chain of success for Ed Lucero extends beyond his dream.  This successful teacher instilled in his students the passion to use their skills to help others.  The successful students helped less fortunate people in the community file their taxes.  The community people got much needed refunds to help sustain their livelihood.

Ed Lucero prepares his students for the real world—and you can, too.  We firmly believe you can make anything happen in your classroom, as long as you have procedures in place for the students to follow.  With this structure you are free to create and live your dream of TEACHING and making a difference in the lives of students—and so many others.

And remember, Ed Lucero wanted to be an accountant.  It looks like, through teaching, Ed is finally an accountant, many times over.

While the road to Ed’s success was circuitous, he is on track and living his passion each day.  Follow his example.  Seek help for the problems, and reinvent yourself if necessary.  The rewards are immeasurable.

For a printable version of this article click here.

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