It Was Something Close to a Miracle
|by Harry & Rosemary Wong
Special to the Gazette
September 1, 2008
“I had been a teacher for exactly three weeks and never felt so ineffective and totally out of control in my life,” wrote Stacy Hennessee, a first-year lateral entry teacher who had spent only three weeks teaching Business Education/Computer Technology as this story begins.
It was only September and already Stacy’s dream was being crushed.
Stacy grew up in a small furniture town in western North Carolina with mostly blue-collar workers and very few college-educated people. Naturally, teachers were held in very high esteem.
“I decided at a very early age that I wanted to be like my teachers.”
However, after high school, he did not have the means to go to college and, like all of his family before him, he went to work in one of the local furniture factories.
As fate would have it, his company decided to send some of the younger employees to college.
And Stacy was chosen!
There was only one catch—he had to get a degree in either business or engineering. Stacy chose Business Administration and Economics.
Teaching would have to wait.
Stacy went on to manage several large furniture plants and eventually started an importing company where he had a great deal of success.
“The problem was that my dream had always been to be a teacher and I never abandoned that dream.”
Fortunately for Stacy, he reached a point in his career where he was in a position to take the leap. He enrolled in a lateral entry (alternative certification) program at Davidson Community College in Lexington, North Carolina, and became a teacher at Lexington Middle School.
Stacy had left a 30-year career in the corporate world to fulfill his dream of becoming a teacher and now he, like many of America’s teachers, was out of control in his own classroom. That is, until, three weeks into teaching.
The principal at Lexington Middle School, Patti Kroh, encouraged all of her new teachers to attend a workshop sponsored by the North Carolina Model Teacher Education Consortium (http://ncmtec.northcarolina.edu/). The speakers were Harry Wong and Chelonnda Seroyer.
“As I listened, the proverbial light bulb went on. I was so excited I could hardly wait to go home and get to work on procedures that I thought would help.
What I didn’t expect was something close to a miracle!”
When he managed furniture plants and his own import company, procedures were used everywhere. All businesses, military, sports teams, and churches are run on procedures, but procedures were never mentioned in his teacher training.
However, that all changed at the workshop.
His Bellwork Starts in the Hallway
Starting class every day was one of Stacy’s major frustrations. Time was lost just trying to get his students started with class work, and he had to practically yell to get their attention.
In his Title 1 school students must line up in the hallway before entering the classroom. Stacy recognized this as dead time that could be made useful with a beginning procedure. He began giving each student a slip of paper with the warm-up exercise and clear instructions on what they were to do when entering the classroom.
explained the procedure, practiced it, and checked for understanding.
He explained that this was not a punishment but a way to make their classroom
more efficient. (A full explanation of how to teach a procedure can be
found in The First Days of School, Chapter 20.)
“Without fail, EVERY student went straight to their computer terminal and began to do the assignment.”
He then introduced the procedure of raising his hand to quiet the classroom. He explained and thoroughly practiced the procedure as Harry and Chelonnda had explained at the workshop.
It worked! Another miracle.
The First Unannounced Observation
That day provided another first for Stacy—his first unannounced observation. How fortunate that the procedures had been explained before the arrival of the assistant principal.
The assistant principal wrote this on the evaluation form:
(*NC DESK is the practice test used to prepare for the required computer proficiency test that all students in North Carolina must pass before graduation from high school.)
Stacy went home so happy and wishing he didn’t have a weekend to wait until the next day in class.
Another Observation—State Officials
Lexington Middle School is part of the Schools to Watch program. In an effort to improve schools, state-level education officials perform random classroom visits and report back to the district administrators. Click here to learn more about Schools to Watch.
As Stacy was getting the students started with learning a new software application, his classroom had another unannounced visit— this time from the state officials!
The structure in his classroom became even more important for his school when state officials came for a visit. Ohh . . .
But it was no problem for Stacy. By semester break in February, Stacy had reread The First Days of School, articles from teachers.net, and his notes from the workshop.
“My classroom was a truly delightful and wonderful place to teach.”
Needless to say, the class flowed smoothly, there was academic engaged time, and the students were working together. To make it even better, Stacy had integrated classroom expectations, software applications, and responsibility training all in one lesson—and the state official was there to see it!
Building Responsible Students
Stacy had realized that in a Title 1 “low income” school many children lack positive role models.
“It has always been my belief that in order for an individual to achieve success, they must first learn responsible behavior.”
Together with colleague, Robin Dezego, Stacy developed a great way to teach PowerPoint applications. They combined teaching PowerPoint while teaching a higher level life skill of the “Totally Responsible Person.” This established their classroom expectations of how to be a
TOTALLY RESPONSIBLE PERSON!
By combining classroom expectations with the PowerPoint training, Stacy got another miracle!
“This training has proved to be synergistic for both our students and their educators.”
To see the “Totally Responsible Person” presentation, click here.
But what happened with one of the state observers was even more amazing.
To Stacy’s surprise, one of the observers returned at the end of the day to request a copy of the presentation and told the principal that he had been very impressed with the quality of instruction and participation he had witnessed in Stacy’s classroom.
The visit would be featured in his report to state-level administrators as “the type of classroom that we should strive for.”
And this is about a teacher in his first year of teaching.
The kicker for Stacy was that, “These were the same seventh-grade boys who had me ready to turn tail and run in September, abandoning my lifelong dream of being a teacher.”
He Was Steadfast to His Dream
Stacy later decided to extend his lesson on being a Totally Responsible Person by having students develop their own brand names.
He first teaches them about brand names and their value. The students begin to see that each person has a brand, some positive and some negative. The students are taught that they are responsible for their own brand and that responsible behavior is a way to build a premium into their individual brands.
Click here to see Stacy’s “Building a Premium Brand” lesson.
Stacy says, “I can’t tell you how many students told me that they had the best class of the year and that they had never seen me smile so much.”
From furniture plant management to importing store owner, Stacy Hennessee never lost sight of his dream to be a teacher. But he nearly lost his dream when his first days of school as a teacher were run without procedures.
applying the strategy of classroom management with procedures, Stacy says,
“Teaching has been everything that I hoped that it would be!
This Time, His Plan and His Success
Stacy’s second year of teaching started on August 25. He was ready with something he did not have when he started his first year, which is why his class and his life was so ineffective and totally out of control.
Stacy started his second year of teaching with a first day of school classroom management plan or script.
He says, “My second year started off without a hitch. The first day script was magic. I left nothing to chance in preparing for the big event. My procedures were posted, I rehearsed the script until I had it exactly the way I wanted it and the students responded just as I had hoped they would.
“I look forward to what I know will be a wonderful year! I will never again start the school year off without a ‘First Day Script’.”
Click here to see his first day of school script.
Believe in “Miracles”
Stacy refers to all of the wonderful things that happen in his classroom as “miracles.”
They are not really miracles.
They are outcomes of good classroom management and constructive lesson planning.
His students are engaged in how the classroom is run as well as in the lessons presented.
This same miracle can be yours. All you have to do is believe in your ability to do it, and just do it!
For a printable version of this article click here.
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