July 2024
Vol 21 No 7

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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.

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 2.5 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

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The First Days of School with Enhanced CD, Never Cease to Learn
by Harry & Rosemary Wong
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The Effective Teacher (Video Set)
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8 DVDs, with Facilitator's Handbook in PDF, book The First Days of School, and storage case, $695.00 from (volume discounts available)
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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
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New Teacher Induction: How to Train, Support, and Retain New Teachers
by Annette L. Breaux, Harry K. Wong

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

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Results : The Key to Continuous School Improvement
by Mike Schmoker

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Improving Schools from Within : Teachers, Parents, and Principals Can Make the Difference
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A First-Year Teacher's Guidebook, 2nd Ed.
by Bonnie Williamson, Marilyn Pribus (Editor), Kathy Hoff, Sandy Thornton (Illustrator)

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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

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The Courage to Teach : Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher's Life
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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

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Effective Teaching...
by Harry and Rosemary Wong

November 2005

The Emergency Teacher

Several years ago we received an unsolicited manuscript from Christina Asquith that had us transfixed.  It was about her year of teaching in the Philadelphia Public Schools.  Her writing style and the subject had us riveted on her every word.

Since we have a publishing company, we quite often get requests from teachers wondering if we would publish their materials.  Regretfully, we declined because we publish only our own work and we hated to disappoint Christina.

However, through the years we have remained friends with her.  Go to and under the list of columnists in the left margin, click on Christina Asquith and you will understand why we have remained in contact with her through the years.  As a correspondent from Iraq, she covered the war, befriended Iraqi women, and got involved in the fight for women’s rights in the Middle East.  In fact, while she was in Iraq, we sent her copies of The First Days of School to distribute to educators who were patching the schools back together.

Two Questions to Answer

But, back to the manuscript she submitted to us!  The book was about Christina leaving her job with The Philadelphia Inquirer and going into the classroom to teach.  She aspired to “make a difference in a child’s life,” or so promised the School District of Philadelphia’s marketing brochure.

Without certification or training—an “emergency teacher”—Christina is hired on the spot and (unknowingly) assigned to the 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.

“Sink or swim,” Christina is told on her first day!

Being the good journalist that she is, she promises herself on the first day of school to answer the two classic questions:

Why are American inner-city public schools failing?
Can one young, motivated person make a difference?

To get a glimpse of Christina’s answers to those questions, read from an article she wrote with us for school board members—those people who determine policy and have the power to change schools.

Christina wrote in the article:

          On many days I truly loved teaching, but my lack of experience made the bad days too terrible for everyone involved.  Overwhelmingly, I felt guilty, confused, and hopeless about the experience.  Yet, in the back of my mind, I wondered if I hadn’t been thrown in cold, if I had had some training, any training—some support, could my brief career in teaching have turned out differently?

          New teachers are always excited and nervous for the first day of school, and I was no exception.  At 26 years old, I had a college degree, a background in journalism, and dreams of teaching English to a classroom of low-income children.  In Philadelphia, a recruiting campaign pushed the idea that we could make a difference, and the city’s $1,500 hiring bonus sweetened the offer.  In September of 1999, I began my second career as one of the city’s 1,200 new teachers.  We were all filled with hope.

          Right away, the troubles started.  The district assigned me to a middle school—the least desirable age group—and I unknowingly selected one of the most challenging schools in Philadelphia.  I received one day of orientation, during which I mostly filled out forms.  No one officially welcomed me or the other three new teachers to my school; in fact the veterans received us with skepticism, at best.  Apparently, I was assigned a mentor, but she was busy with her own classroom.  I’ll never forget the first morning when a student asked me for a pass to the bathroom and I didn’t know where it was.  I have heard administrators describe a new teacher’s first year as a ‘sink or swim’ experience.  I began to sink.

          At the end of September, the newspapers reported that 100 of Philadelphia’s newly recruited teachers had already quit.  Throughout the year, six teachers in my school walked off the job, and I fought the temptation to join them.  Isolated in my classroom with few supplies, no experience and nowhere to turn for help, I struggled to control students.  When the $1,500 bonus arrived, it meant little to me—as I would have paid twice that to succeed.

          While I had it tough, the loss was greatest for my 6th graders, almost all of who failed the state writing tests in the spring.  It was seeing their disappointed faces each day that pushed me out the door in June.

The rest of this article, written for the American School Board Journal, can be seen by going to and clicking on Dec 16, 2002, "Assessing and Supporting New Teachers."

Christina’s First Day of School

Many teachers can relate to Christina’s situation as a brand new, first year teacher.  The rest of the story of her experience teaching in the Philadelphia schools can be found in Christina’s just released book, The Emergency Teacher, (  Yes, she found a publisher and she has graciously allowed us to share with you an excerpt from the book.

From The Emergency Teacher, Chapter 1:

They’ll Take Anyone

That could not be a school.

A weather-beaten gray-stone edifice glared down at me as I stood on the corner of Eighth and Lehigh in North Philadelphia.  The building looked like a prison.  No, a dungeon.  The roof had four turrets with menacing gargoyles arched forward.  Surrounding the massive building was a cracked concrete parking lot ringed by a black iron gate.  Empty, rotting factories loomed in the distance.  It was hard to believe any parent would send children here.  I parked in a pothole and walked up the steps.

          I yanked open the only door that wasn’t chained shut and saw a little placard with the words MAIN OFFICE, down the hall.  I walked quickly towards it.  A woman behind the counter shuffled through papers.  She glanced up over the glasses perched on her nose.

          “Hi, my name is Christina Asquith,” I said. “I’d like to teach here.”

          The city of Philadelphia still had fifteen hundred teacher vacancies—more than 10 percent of the teaching staff.  The district was desperate to hire anyone, or they’d have thousands of kids without a teacher that September.  I was a 25 year old journalist, and had recently finished a two-year internship with The Philadelphia Inquirer.  I ought to have been looking for a job in journalism, but the other day I had come across an advertisement at the bus stop: “Change a Life. Be a Teacher.”  The ad showed a sweet young boy gazing longingly for a teacher.

          Although I’d worked for newspapers since college, I had felt frustrated with newspapers as of late.  I wanted to make a difference, particularly by covering urban school systems, but from the distant perch of the newsroom, I felt out of touch with the real problems inside the classroom.  Teaching was always something I had a passion for, but I didn’t want to go back to school for years to get an education degree.  Apparently, I didn’t have to.

          The woman behind the counter was Mrs. Jimenez, the assistant principal.  She looked sophisticated in gold jewelry and pinned up hair.  She was friendly and offered to give me a tour.  Gliding along the wooden floors, she told me she had taught here for a decade, but that the school was much older than that.

          “The school used to be called the Northeast Manual Training Center, but they renamed it twice, and now it’s called Julia de Burgos Bilingual Middle Magnet School, after the Puerto Rican poet,” she said.

          The school was old, but strangely beautiful.  A dimly lit staircase led up to an antique stained-glass window that filled the archway with the colored light of a church.  The wooden floors creaked.  As we moved along them, I took in all the trappings of a public middle school: the trophy case, the library, the halls of lockers, the white Halsey Taylor water fountains, the nurse’s office, and the science labs.  The school hallways formed a square, with a courtyard in the middle and three sets of staircases leading from the basement to the third floor.  Years had passed since I’d stood in the long, shiny hallways of a school, and I was flooded with memories of my own private school in Northern New Jersey.  My favorite teachers: the reading teacher Miss Mercer, who taught us to love Shakespeare, J. D. Salinger and F. Scott Fitzgerald; and the math teacher Mr. Senn, with the great stickers, and Math Quiz Mondays.  I saw myself marching to class wearing an oversized Benneton sweater, a Swatch watch, and purple jeans tucked into thick white socks, carrying a thick binder divided up neatly into all the subjects.  Middle school was this golden period, before the complications of high school, when life was about playing tennis in the Fall and going to clarinet practice in the Winter and acting in the school play in the Spring, while my parents watched from the audience.  How exciting to step back in time like this, and become the teacher!  Around me, I saw a few other teachers shuffling beyond open classroom doors, dusting off the desks and applying fresh paint—setting up the theater for the grand performance, for which I was auditioning.  The thought sent chills down my body.

          Mrs. Jimenez smiled at me warmly, as if she really wanted me to teach here.  And she didn’t seem shocked when I told her I had never taught before.  “Mmmm, yes.  Well, we really need teachers,” she replied simply.  Even though the school needed some serious renovation, I saw that the teachers and students had painted pretty murals of Puerto Rico, and hung signs of school pride that gave it a sense of spirit.

          This was how I imagined an urban school.  This would be tough, but if I were going to do this, I didn’t want a school that anyone would teach at.  I wanted the kids that no one else would take.  When Mrs. Jimenez offered to write a letter requesting I be assigned here, giddiness overwhelmed me and I engulfed her in a warm hug.  “I’ll be the best new teacher, I promise.”  She looked slightly surprised.

          “Can I really teach without any experience?” I asked Eppy, the recruiter for the Philadelphia School District.  Most teachers were required to graduate from a college program and log at least forty hours in the classroom training alongside a real teacher.

          Eppy waved my comments away.  It wasn’t necessary.  “Believe me, we need you more than you need us,” he said.

          I had no direct experience in the classrooms, but had always dreamed of being a teacher.  My first year at Boston University I had taken several education classes.  Eventually, though, I’d switched to journalism because the classroom seemed too confining at such a young age.  I wanted to go out and learn about the world first, and journalism was a vehicle to travel, meet new people and explore different subjects.  Immediately after college, I moved to Chile for one year to write for a newspaper.  Upon my return, I was accepted into The Philadelphia Inquirer’s two-year internship program.  While there, I always kept a foot in the education world.  For two years, I volunteered in the Big Brother Big Sister program of Philadelphia and also for the Salvation Army Boys and Girls Club.  At the Inquirer, I had gravitated to education, and written dozens of stories about testing, school life and teachers programs.  Eppy didn’t seem too interested in my experience, or lack thereof.

          “The real need is in the middle schools,” he was saying.  “I was a middle school teacher.” Eppy was overly friendly, like a salesman.  He never stopped grinning and looking relaxed, even as he constantly interrupted our meeting to take phone calls that always seemed to involve an emergency.

          “Really? OK.” I thought I would be better in high school, teaching maybe English, science, or history.  I was imagining the famous teacher-movies: Stand and Deliver, Dangerous Minds and Lean on Me.  But I trusted him, and we spent about two hours together on that first day.  By the end he had convinced me to take middle school. Philadelphia had only a handful of Spanish/English bilingual middle schools, so that narrowed the choice to Julia de Burgos and a few others.  He gave me a stack of application forms.  He warned me to hurry because it was already July.

          “It’s not the eleventh hour, Christina. It’s quarter to twelve.”

          Immediately, I had a million things to get: a criminal-record check, a child-abuse check, a doctor’s physical.  And I needed to enroll in a certification program at a university.  I was excited.  After years writing about education, interviewing principals, reading about the troubles of urban schools, and pleading to see a real classroom in action, I’d finally be on the inside and able to uncover how schools really work.

          Journalism could wait.  For years I’d been covering the suburbs, school boards and sewer projects.  At 25, I was full of determination to change the world and make a difference, and inner city schools seemed like the perfect place for me.  A year as an inner-city teacher would be a challenge, and a chance to help children in need and find answers to my questions, such as: why were inner city schools failing?  I’d find the solutions.  Maybe I’d write about it afterward.  But I’d worry about that part later.  I hadn’t been in middle school in more than a decade.  I didn’t even know any twelve-year-olds.  The school district wasn’t really going to let me do this . . . were they?

          It may seem unbelievable that someone could simply walk off the street and into the classroom, but in Philadelphia and many urban districts, this was exactly what was happening.

          The thriving economy of the late 1990s drew potential teachers and college graduates into other, higher-paying jobs.  This occurred just as birth patterns gave rise to a massive increase in student enrollment.  At the same time, an aging workforce meant that scores of teachers were retiring.  This perfect storm in the education-employment world led to one of the periods of greatest demand for new teachers in thirty years.  An estimated 7 million new teachers would have to be hired between 1997 and 2007, and the need would continue to increase until 2013, according to the U. S. Department of Education.

          To meet demand, schools hired “emergency-certified” or “alternative-certified people.”  These were candidates who didn’t have a university degree from a college of education; neither did they have a major in the field in which they planned to teach, such as chemistry, math, or English.  They also didn’t have to take any state or school-district teacher exams.  In the case of Philadelphia, all teachers typically had to take the Praxis exam, designed by the Educational Testing Service.  It’s a basic battery of tests to assess prospective teachers’ basic knowledge of math, reading, and writing.  Emergency-certified teachers would not have to take that test until after three years on the job.

          At the turn of the century, forty-five states, and Washington D. C., allowed for emergency-certified teachers, and their ranks were growing.  In Texas, one in four new teachers was emergency certified.  In Detroit—the city with the greatest numbers—one in three teachers was uncertified.  In rural and poor inner-city schools, their numbers are even greater.

          Many people opposed the idea of emergency certification, pointing out that the equivalent in medicine would be to solve a hospital’s doctor shortage by doing away with medical school and board examinations, and simply telling anyone who wanted to be a doctor to “train on the job.”  No patient would want to go to an emergency certified doctor.

          But others said that loosening standards allowed people to change careers and go into teaching, without having to go back to school for three years.  In these instances, schools benefited from diversifying their teaching ranks with successful professionals, such as scientists, mathematicians, entrepreneurs, and writers.  One popular national program, Troops to Teachers, gave former military commanders emergency certifications to become teachers and eventually school leaders.  Teach for America was another popular national program that recruited college graduates, placed them in underprivileged school districts for two years, assisted them in getting their emergency certifications, and ran training courses.  It also acted as a support for new teachers in their first year.

          These programs gave between one to six weeks of summer training, but new teachers like me, who applied directly to the school district, often received less.  I would receive only a few days.  Supposedly that was enough to take on a classroom of the city’s toughest-to-teach children.

          Years later, a Philadelphia think tank found otherwise.  When Philadelphia’s emergency-certified teachers finally did take the basic licensure tests—the Praxis exam—the think tank uncovered: “less than half of the emergency-certified teachers passed the basic mathematics test.”  Only two-thirds passed the reading.  Only 60 percent passed the writing.

          “Their inexperience makes classroom management a problem,” stated the report titled “Once and for All” by the ‘Learning from Philadelphia’s School Reform Project.  In math, science, and bilingual classrooms—the areas that were the hardest to find teachers for—half of all new teachers were uncertified.  This meant a child in Philadelphia’s public schools had less than a 50 percent chance of getting a math teacher who could do basic math.

          The report concluded: “The data makes clear that students in Philadelphia have not been able to count on getting a teacher who has mastered basic academic skills.”

          As the summer drew to a close, the Philadelphia schools still needed to recruit hundreds of warm bodies.  It offered $1,500 sign-up bonuses.  A few hundred more signed on, and a couple hundred additional bodies joined in September and October.  Like me, they would be too late for the one-week induction seminar, so they received no training at all.  I didn’t want to imagine the kind of unqualified, uninterested teacher who would take the job at the last minute just for the sign-on bonus.

          By the time school started, more than eleven hundred random people—one in ten teachers—had wandered off the street and been handed classroom keys.  They were directed to the most troubled schools, and when September started they stood in front of their classrooms.  They had no educational experience, no guidance, no instruction and scant support.  Like me, many had no clue how to teach.

          Pete, my boyfriend, took on the task of training me to be a teacher.  He was, at that moment, the only person really behind the idea.  Years earlier, before entering medical school, Pete had spent a year teaching in a New York City public school.  Tall, handsome, outdoorsy, Pete was the perfect boyfriend, and also a good friend.  Although, he had some bizarre advice:

          “Just remember, you’re in charge.  The most important thing is discipline,” he said. “You gotta seat‘em first, then teach them.”

          “Ok,” I said.  “No problem.”

          We had spent the morning researching the school district through back issues of The Philadelphia Inquirer and found out that Philadelphia was then the fifth-largest public school district in the nation, with 210,247 students, twelve thousand teachers, more than two hundred schools, a $1.6 billion annual budget, and a very frightening $80 million deficit.  Like most big urban areas, the school system had turned abysmal in the 1970s—correlating with the disappearance of big industry and white flight to the suburbs—and hasn’t turned around since.  These days, 78 percent of eleventh-graders couldn’t even complete basic-level work in any major subject, according to scores on the SAT-9, the city’s standardized test.

          City officials had been trying for decades—without success—to turn the system around.  The latest trend strove to make schools run like businesses, an approach that was gaining in popularity in urban districts across the country.  In the spring of my year teaching, the school board fired its school superintendent, David Hornbeck, and replaced him with a chief executive officer.  Plans were afoot to turn dozens of schools over to for-profit companies.  Voucher programs, in which children use public money to attend private schools, were also being pushed by the governor’s office.  So were teacher-accountability measures and teacher recruitment.

          Missing from this list were proposals to improve teacher training.

          I stretched out on the warm, well-manicured, summer grass of Rittenhouse Square, sipping from my latte, fanning out the teacher training workbooks we had splurged on in Barnes and Noble.  While I waited for Eppy to process my application I devoted all of July to training myself how to be a teacher.  I read The First Days of School, by Harry and Rosemary Wong.  Rather than comfort me, it opened my eyes to how much I didn’t know.  What was a lesson plan?  How did I decorate a classroom?  How did I discipline a child?  How would I get parents involved?

          I pored over teaching books that explained concepts like name charts, pencil-sharpening procedures, and positive reinforcement. I learned all kinds of new details about preteens that I had long forgotten, such as the most important thing a child wants on the first day is security.  Transition frightens them, and teachers should explain every small detail, such as how to pronounce the teacher’s name and classroom locations and schedules.

          I scribbled down tips for myself: “Don’t mark X on the answers that are wrong, just mark C on the answers that are correct.” “Never, ever raise your voice.” “Teach a new vocabulary word each day, and call it, ‘Word of the Day.’” The most important thing was to “plan and plan extra.”

          Behind dark sunglasses, my eyes closed and my mind wandered as Pete was reading aloud from a teacher training manual.  Thoughts of teaching filled my head, and I reveled in the sense of purpose and meaning that came from helping others.  A smile spread across my face as I dreamed of having my own gradebook, and my own quizzes and students reading aloud and calling me Ms. Asquith.  This was a major life change, and yet I was counting the days until September.

          “Never kick a student out of class to be disciplined,” Pete said, interrupting my reverie.  “That sends the message that you aren’t the authority.  Handle all your own discipline.”

          He told me not to smile until Thanksgiving, either.  “There are two different types of teachers—the ruler-cracker and loving pushover.  Who are you going to be?” He explained that, in his school, the female teacher across the hall from him was soft and fuzzy, and won over the kids with warmth.  Her class was always chaotic, but the students covered her desk with gifts at Christmas.  They listened because they loved her.

          Pete was the opposite, a real “hard-ass” teacher who demanded quiet and didn’t let the kids get away with anything.  When a fight broke out in the hallway one morning, he’d jumped in and put a red-faced boy in a headlock, pushing the kid’s chin into the floor.  The rest of the students saw this and knew not to mess with him.  He never let the slightest infraction slide.  That may sound harsh, he said, but these kids craved borders.  My strictness would pay off, and I’d be glad, he promised.  For example, he recalled a day in the spring when he conducted a physics experiment.  He was able to leave half his class—unattended—while he and several other students went to another floor to study velocity.  His students behaved.  Other teachers saw this and marveled at his control.  “Watch out for the cynical veterans.  They will try to drag you down with them.”  When he reminisced about teaching, he grew nostalgic.

          “This will be the best thing you’ve ever done,” he said, giving me a hug.

          Then he gave me a piece of advice.

          “Never enter a showdown you can’t win,” he said.

          “A showdown?” I asked.

          He nodded. That night he demonstrated a judo move in which I was to grab his wrist, wrap it around in a circular orbit, and grip him in a headlock.  This could nail someone in three seconds, regardless of weight.  I tried it a few times, but it didn’t really work when I did it.

          “Just in case,” Pete said.

          This made me wonder what the students would be like.  Were they dangerous?  Would they wear leather jackets?  Were they the kind of kids with hard exterior shells, but crack them a little and they were hidden geniuses.  What would they think of me?

          Finally, I had to tell my family.  They were less supportive.

          “Are you crazy?” said Jon, my brother, a twenty-seven year old stock broker who lived in a mini-mansion in the New York suburbs.  “Don’t you know what happened to Jonathan Levin?  Is that what you want to happen to you?” he asked.

          Jonathan Levin was the wealthy son of then Time Warner Chair Gerald Levin.  He had eschewed his family fortune and fame to become a beloved English teacher in an underprivileged school in the Bronx, and he paid the ultimate price for it.  In 1997, two of his students arrived high on drugs at his Upper West Side Manhattan apartment, robbed him, and shot him to death.

          “That’s not going to happen,” I said uncertainly.

          “Why do you have to do that?  Do what your friends are doing,” he said.

          Most of my friends were setting off for well-paying jobs with Internet start-ups or glamorous new magazines or in bureaus of The Wall Street Journal or The New York Times.  Why didn’t I want to do that too?  I didn’t know.  I wanted to “make a difference in a child’s life,” as the Philadelphia Department of Education recruitment posters promised.  I felt like the failing inner city schools were an injustice that I should stand against, not only with words but with real action.  Especially these days, as the economy boomed and people in their 20s were becoming Internet millionaires overnight.  In the newspaper the other day, I read that some rich Wall Street guy rang up a $200,000 tab at a restaurant and left the waiter a $40,000 tip.  Yet, in the same city there were children who lacked textbooks.  Something was wrong with this.  Once inside the schools, I would understand the problems and then find solutions.  I could take those solutions to politicians and make a change in schools across the nation.

          “Go into advertising, real estate, finance,” Jon was saying.  “You’re crazy. It’s the ghetto.  It’s dangerous.”

          I didn’t say anything.  I couldn’t articulate my beliefs, but I knew I had to finally find answers to the questions that had burned in my brain for years: Why were inner city schools failing?  Why didn’t anyone do anything to improve them?  I couldn’t stand up to my brother.  He filled the silence.

          “Oh, man, wait until dad hears this one,” he laughed.  “Dude, I’m going to earn your annual salary in one day.”

Did She Answer the Two Questions?

Christina’s excerpt is only the beginning of her quest to answer her two questions.

          Why are American inner-city public schools failing?
          Can one young, motivated person make a difference?

You can discover for yourself how she answers these questions in The Emergency Teacher, (www.The

Lessons Learned

Christina entered into teaching not for the money, but for the dream—the dream of making a difference in the life of a child.

Even though you don’t know the outcome of her story, we’ve given you enough hints to know that Christina did not return for a second year of teaching.  She left broken, crestfallen, and frustrated with the dismal year she endured. But, these emotions were not for herself, but for her students.  She had failed them miserably—she felt.

To Christina and the many teachers who relate to her journey, we say, stay steadfast to your dreams.  Give each student your all, for you may never know if you’ve succeeded with that child.  It may be years, even decades, later that one of your students will think back to you and recognize what you meant in his or her life.  Eyes will wistfully close and silent thank yous with be etched in the mind as that former student transforms into that better person you so diligently wanted all of your students to be.

You have the capacity to touch the life of every child who sits in your classroom waiting for the bell to ring.  Never lose that dream.  It’s the reality all children deserve.

Footnote:  We often talked of publishing Christina’s book, but if we did we would convert it into a series of case studies to be used in preservice and new teacher induction programs to help beginning teachers.  If you are a college professor, a staff developer, or a teacher-leader and you do this, please share your “teacher’s guide” with us so that we can share it with others.

So many of us will profit from our giving to help others.

For a printable version of this article click here.

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