May 2024
Vol 21 No 5

Current Issue » Cover Page Cover Story Harry & Rosemary Wong Columns Articles Features
Back Issues


About Harry and Rosemary Wong...

Special Speaking Notice

March 23, 2006. Harry Wong will be speaking at New Jersey City University. The meeting is free, but seating is limited. Details can be found at, “Special Events.” Contact Dr. Fran Levin at for permission to attend.

March 23-24, 2006. Harry Wong will be speaking in New York City at the “Celebration of Teaching and Learning.” Click here for more details.

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.

Nearly a 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.

Their latest contribution to helping teachers succeed is an eLearning course on Classroom Management.

1. The course can be taken in private at the learner's convenience.

2. The outcome of the course is
a 2 inch binder with your own
Classroom Management Action Plan.

This Action Plan is similar to the organized and structured plan used by all successful teachers.  Details for the classroom management course can be seen at

The Wongs have written The First Days of School, the best-selling book ever in education. Over 2.7 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 with Harry Wong LIVE, speaking on How to Improve Student Achievement, 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, and eLearning course 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 with Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn
by Harry & Rosemary Wong
$18.30 from
More information


The Effective Teacher (Video Set)
Presented by Harry Wong

8 DVDs, with Facilitator's Handbook in PDF, book The First Days of School, and storage case, $695.00 from (volume discounts available)
More information


Classroom Management with Harry and Rosemary Wong
eLearning course for individual use, CEUs available Preview the course and order at $124.95 (Group discounts available.)


How to Improve Student Achievement
Hear Harry Wong Live! in this 2 CD set
More information


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

$23.07 from
More information

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

$12.57 from
More information


Results : The Key to Continuous School Improvement
by Mike Schmoker

$20.95 from
More information


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

$13.30 from
More information


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

$17.95 from
More information


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
More information


The Courage to Teach : Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life
by Parker J. Palmer

$16.76 from
More information


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
More information


Effective Teaching...
by Harry and Rosemary Wong

March 2006

The Success of Special Ed Teachers

The demands on the teachers of special education students are enormous and the rewards are equally enormous.  These are the wonderful teachers who have the skill to bring order and structure to the lives of their students and who have the kind and understanding hearts to see all children as capable and worthy.  These are the teachers we called “The Saints of Education” in our October 2004 column.  (

In this column, we will revisit with the teacher we featured in our October 2004 column, Robin Zarzour, now Robin Barlak.  (Our best wishes to Robin!)

In addition, we will share the techniques used by Charlotte Empringham, who teaches special education in the Thames Valley School District in London, Ontario, Canada.

Finally, we’ll close with the strategies and wisdom of Dan Seufert, who recently retired after years of teaching special education in North Carolina.

Robin Barlak and Her Nurses’ Procedures

Robin Barlak works with children who have a variety of disabilities—autism, speech and language delays, ADHD, and severe behavior, physical, and developmental handicaps.  “Miss Robin,” as the students call her, teaches special education at First Step Preschool in Ohio’s Parma City Schools.

Her classroom assistant and right-hand helper is Lois Preston, "Miss Lois" to the students.  Lois is in the classroom each day, all day long assisting with small groups, snacks, attendance, record keeping, art, and anywhere else she is needed.

Robin says, “After reading The First Days of School, I constantly think of procedures, because special education students can be put in an at-risk situation if there is not a consistent set of procedures.  They like a consistent set of routines every day as it makes life familiar and friendly.”

The consistency helps Robin because she has a student with medical complications who needs a nurse with him while he is at school.

There are three nurses and five therapists in and out of Robin’s classroom each week for this one child.  At the beginning of the school year she simply typed up the schedule and procedures of the day.  These were given to each nurse and therapist when they first came to her classroom.  This way each professional knows the daily routine, and therapies can be scheduled according to the prevailing schedule, such as Physical Therapy during gym time.

Robin Barlak’s Daily Schedule

Morning Class (repeated for the afternoon class)

8:20-9:15 Free Play
During Free Play, the children can go to the bathroom and all go to the Art table to do an art/craft project with “Miss Lois.” Some of the children do TEACCH. TEACCH is a program used for autistic children developed by the University of North Carolina.  It helps children who need to complete work and who need a schedule and structure to do so (  Others can practice speech therapy cards, if applicable.
9:15 Clean up
9:17-9:30 Circle Time
During Circle Time the children do the calendar, the weather, a game, a song, the story of the week, the word of the week, and a social skill (Listening, Using Nice Talk, Sharing, etc).
9:30-9:50 Gym
On Thursdays the children have Musical Gym, a structured gym time with movement and music.

Musical Gym was developed with a colleague of Robin’s, Sandy Krems.  Sandy shares gym time with Robin.  They each plan Musical Gym activities for two weeks and then they rotate.  At the end of the year, the students put on a Musical Gym show for the parents.

9:50-10:00 Wash hands and have a snack.
10:00-10:05 Look at books on carpet.
10:05-10:20 Circle Time
Another story of the week and music, movement, rhythm, two songs, or finger plays.
10:20-10:45 Small groups
Three students are on the computer with “Miss Lois”
Four students are with “Miss Robin” playing a game (Lotto game/number game, etc.)
Four students are playing on their own in the sand box/role play/Play Dough, etc.
The groups switch every 7-10 minutes
10:45-10:50 Dismissal

Robin says, “With a schedule, it has been working great because we are all are on the same page and I don’t have to repeat myself and take class time to discuss my classroom schedule and procedures.  All the nurses and therapists are very grateful as well."

Charlotte Empringham and Personal Fulfillment

Charlotte Empringham is a Special Education Specialist who has been teaching Developmental Education for ten years.  Her classes consist of ten students with various learning differences and special needs.  The students may be in her classroom for three or four years and then move onto a high school setting.

Her program is based on academics developed through a Provincial (state or district) Curriculum which she modifies to suit her students’ abilities.  She says, “My classroom setting is structured to take advantage of teachable moments.  Communication skills, daily living skills, and learning strategies are integrated into our programming.”

Charlotte teaches grade 5-8 students with developmental challenges.  Here’s how Charlotte describes her class:

Mission Statement
I believe students with developmental disabilities must participate in educational programs designed to assist them in reaching the levels of independence in daily living, gaining responsibility for self and others, and attaining personal fulfilment as determined by potential.  This education must take place in a safe and accepting environment.
Mission Strategies
I will strive to
  • provide a safe learning environment.
  • create a positive atmosphere in the classroom.
  • promote a sense of caring among staff and students.
  • encourage independence in the school environment.
  • design individualized programs to maximize potential.
  • encourage the development of responsible attitudes towards self, others, and the environment.
  • provide age-, interest-, and skill-appropriate opportunities for integration.
  • maintain open lines of communication among school staff, parents/guardians, and community-based personnel.
Charlotte’s classroom consists of ten developmentally challenged students with various learning differences.  One student has Downs Syndrome, two students are hearing impaired using wireless FM systems, and one student communicates with American Sign Language.  There are two Educational Assistants in the classroom who help students with their living skills, academics, and social skills.

Her classroom is structured with procedures and routines taught at the beginning of the year and re-taught several times throughout the school year.  The classroom is a visual learning environment with charts and posters available on the walls so that students can access information to enable them to complete their assignments.

As they enter the school every morning, each student is personally greeted by at least one of the adults in the classroom.  Every effort is made to notice and acknowledge good behavior, kindness to others, and those who are following the procedures and routines with verbal praise and/or rewards—such as tickets for our weekly draw or a ‘star’ certificate, which is a schoolwide incentive program.

Students follow these routines and procedures:
  • Bring communication book (daily communication between teacher and parent), planner, pencil case, and any other items needed for classes into the classroom.
  • Students deposit communication books in a blue bucket.
  • Students work in their cursive writing books while waiting and listening to announcements.
  • Students are given a ticket if they have put their communication books and planners into the blue basket and are working quietly.
  • Another ticket is given if students remembered to have parents sign their communication books.
  • At the signal of announcements (buzz on the PA system) students immediately stand beside their desks facing the teacher and sign and sing O Canada.
  • At the end of announcements a student collects the writing books and puts them into the ‘blue marking basket’ as students take out their daybooks to begin the daily morning routine.
  • As students complete their daybook activities, their daybooks are placed in the ‘blue marking basket’ and they immediately take out their spelling books.  Students have been trained on the procedure to use with the worksheets for their individual spelling lists.  No two students have the same list, but all students use the same procedures for learning their words.
  • SALAME is called at 10 a.m. to instruct students to clear off their desks in order to have their snacks delivered.

SALAME - Stop And Look At Me (from the video series The Effective Teacher, Part 4)

      • The teacher, educational assistant, or co-operative education student (a high school student placed in the classroom) can put up a hand and call SALAME for the attention of the students at any time.
      • Students should respond by putting up their hand without saying a word and looking at the person in order to hear the next instruction.
      • Students who respond correctly get a ticket.
  • When the bell rings for recess, students remain in their seats until the ‘superhelper’ has been told to line up at the door.  The bell does not dismiss them!
  • When students return to the classroom after a recess there is a procedure to follow which is the same every day:
      • Cursive writing after morning recess
      • Mad minute math after lunch recess
      • Write tomorrow’s messages into their planners after afternoon recess
  • All students are responsible for a job in the classroom, such as pencil sharpening, handing out books, collecting books, putting out the thermometer, checking the weather forecast on the computer, assisting with snack program, wiping off charts, etc.  Jobs are assigned according to abilities and interests and remain their responsibility all year.
Incentive Charts and Stamp Charts
  • All students have an incentive chart on their desk
  • When a student is disruptive, gets out of his or her seat without permission, or has been warned about a behavior and continues, a stamp is put on the student’s incentive chart.  The staff member says nothing; the chart is stamped without interrupting the flow of the activity in progress.  Students can receive up to five stamps per day.
  • For every blank space on their chart at the end of the day, they receive a ticket for the Mickey Mouse Draw.
  • If a student receives no stamps all day and has had a good day, a sticker is put on the chart on the wall.
  • At the end of the month, the sticker chart is checked and if the students have the correct number of stickers or more, they receive a ticket for the monthly draw of a tuck (sweet) shop token.
  • A student who has a perfect month—a sticker for every day of the month—receives a tuck shop token.
Mickey Mouse Good Box
  • Students receive tickets for positive behavior, e.g., communication books put into blue basket in the morning, having all supplies, beginning work on time, staying on task, finishing on time, good work, manners, helping others, etc.
  • Every Friday a name is drawn from the Mickey Mouse Good Box and that student chooses a treat from the Mickey Mouse Treat Box.
  • All tickets are tallied and the top three students also choose a treat from the Mickey Mouse Treat Box.
In addition to teaching special education, Charlotte Empringham for the past twelve years has been involved with the organization and running of the annual Special Olympics, a track and field event for special needs students.  Charlotte Empringham is another reason why we call special education teachers the “Saints of Education.”

Dan Seufert Stands Tall

Dan Seufert is not a traditional teacher by a long shot!  Dan immersed himself in teaching his students turning his classroom into an Early American hands-on museum where the special education students serve as docents to regular classroom students.  Dan was also known for his pirate character that prowled the school.

Dan retired from teaching special education in North Carolina and moved to South Carolina where he now teaches in the Lancaster County School District. He is the special education teacher at Indian Land Elementary/Middle School.  He feels he has a good grasp on what it takes to bring about change in special needs students as a result of the self-contained, behaviorally-emotionally disabled classes he taught for fourteen years.

He says that his ideas center on recognizing the potential of these students.  They center on recognizing the positive spirit of these students.

They center on celebrating and encouraging the "thinking out of the box" that these students are so good at doing, just as all great leaders and discoverers are capable of doing.

Dan shared, sadly, how often he watched teachers try to break the spirits of these children, make them feel worthless, or set them up for failure.  He feels there is no need to come crashing down on students for bad behavior and miss the golden opportunity to teach a new behavior.

He says, “We don't need to break their spirits.  What we need to do is re-direct their spirits and then watch their spirits and abilities and "differentness" carry them to new heights!”

Dan delighted in the years of opportunity he has had to teach important life lessons to his students, lessons such as real men know how to shed a tear and are not afraid to do so; the real man is one who reaches out to help others, not belittle or hurt others.

Like Robin and Charlotte, Dan Seufert’s classrooms have structure and consistency.  Dan’s classes, however, go beyond structure and consistency.

Dan wisely says we should not assume structure and consistency alone will solve the many behavior problems these students have.  Structure and consistency only delays the appearance of behavior problems for a little while, and when the structure is removed, the behaviors will return.

Students need to be taught alternatives to unacceptable behaviors.  It means that positive behaviors have to be taught.  Replacement behaviors have to be taught.

Beyond the recitation of the rules and procedures, they have to know

what those rules and procedures mean;
why those rules and procedures are in place;
what they should be doing to show they are following those rules and procedures; and what the benefits are of replacing old behaviors with new behaviors.

Rules and procedures should have meaning and relevance to the students.

Dan says he often sat with the students (sometimes after each activity) and processed with them what he liked about their behaviors, recognized exemplary behaviors, talked about behaviors that he saw and/or students think should be changed, and taught them alternative behaviors.

He says, “When a student misbehaved in my classroom and it was necessary to utilize a time-out procedure, before he/she could return to the general class population I would ask them:

  1. Can you tell me what happened?
  2. What could you have done differently to have kept this from being a problem?
  3. What can you do differently to keep it from being a problem next time?
  4. Is there anything you think needs to be done now to resolve this problem (e.g., letter of apology, apologizing in person, picking up the books that were knocked over)?”

“I would also incorporate the use of group processing time, where the entire class looks at a problem situation and offers possible solutions.  This technique worked great in settling a problem between students.”

Dan believes and knows that beyond the personal strife or the need for attention, many children demonstrate inappropriate behaviors because they do not know alternative behaviors when they are in certain situations.  What works for them in the home or in the "hood" is oftentimes unacceptable behaviors in school, but they are the only behaviors they know.

To bring about new behaviors we have to give them new tools for dealing with life and problem situations.  We have to teach them responsibility for their actions and what steps to take to develop and show acceptable behaviors.

Beyond behavior, Dan shared his viewpoints about expectations with us.

He says, “I think the biggest injustice we do to children is setting our expectations too low.  I especially see this with children in special education.  I have found that children will give you what you expect.  I expect 100 percent from my students and 100 percent of the behaviors I know they are capable of giving me.  I do expect a lot!

“I then go about setting up the procedures and techniques and methods to make it happen.  Ah, the joy on their faces when they realize they can reach 100 percent, when they see they can be the best!”

Dan did not accept what was “good enough.”  As a self-contained teacher of children with severe emotional and behaviors difficulties, Dan said, “It was not good enough for my students to just have behaviors that were as good as students in a regular classroom.  Before I would consider mainstreaming my students into the regular classroom, their behavior had to be the best, much better than the other students they would encounter in the regular classroom.  I found out that if I only expect their behavior to be ‘as good as’ the behavior of students in the regular classroom, when their behaviors began to slip they would quickly find themselves back to the behaviors that landed them in my self-contained classroom.

“However, if I expected their behavior to be better than the other students, then a slight slippage of behavior still gave them room to pull themselves up to acceptable behaviors.  I taught them what they needed to do when their behavior began to slip.  We role-played it in the self-contained classroom; we talked about possible situations that might lead to behavior slippage and what they could do about it.”

Stand Tall

We met Dan Seufert over fifteen years ago and he shared his personal quote with us:

"Ours is not the business of producing doctors or lawyers or teachers or nurses or factory workers or sales associates.  Ours is the business of putting smiles on young faces, hope in young hearts, and dreams in young minds.  The rest will take care of itself."

In his classroom hangs a sign that reads,

"A man is never so tall as when he stoops to help a child."

In his career, we are sure that many of his students found Dan Seufert one of the tallest men they ever met!

Reaching New Heights

The lessons learned from Robin, Charlotte, and Dan are not just for dealing with special needs students, but they can be applied to all children.

We encourage you to start going beyond the expected and reach for the extraordinary.

  1. Select three children in your classroom, in your school, or in your community.
  2. Interact with each of these children in one of the following ways:
  • Say something that will bring a smile to their young faces.
  • Express a thought that will bring hope to their youthful hearts.
  • Plant a dream in their adolescent minds that they will recall for the rest of their lives.
Do this and you’ll join the ranks of those who make a difference in the lives of children.

For a printable version of this article click here.

Harry & Rosemary Wong products:
Email Harry Wong:

Gazette Articles by Harry & Rosemary Wong:

Browse through the latest posts from the Classroom Management Chatboard...

  Site Map: Home Search Teaching Jobs Classifieds Lesson Plans Contacts PR Advertise
  © 1996 - 2013. All Rights Reserved. Please review our Terms of Use, Mission Statement, and Privacy Policy.