Thursday, August 2, 2012

harry wong

Today we had a new teacher orientation session about what to do the first day and week of school, based on the work of educator, Harry Wong.  Part of our session was watching him present (on video) and I found him both helpful and inspiring.  Here are some of his ideas that stuck out to me the most:

“The only difference between an effective and an ineffective teacher is that the ineffective teacher isn’t doing what the effective teacher is doing.”   [sounds obvious but apparently something we're missing]

In his opinion, the number one problem in classrooms today is the lack of procedures and routines.  He specifically noted that it is not lack of discipline.  

He differentiated between discipline and procedures.  Discipline concerns how students behave and has penalties/rewards.  Procedures concern how things are done and do NOT have penalties/ rewards.

His argument for emphasizing procedures is... people learn by doing.  Procedures concern how things are done.  Procedures, therefore, are necessary for learning.  The point of teaching is getting students to DO things.  The students should be doing more work than the teacher (because the students are the ones who should be learning... and people who are working are learning), and the only way that students can learn and work successfully in a classroom is if there are routines in place.  Whew.  If you feel like I'm talking in circles, I probably am.  Reread.  It makes sense.

Procedures are good for everything including (but not limited to) turning in work, giving information to the teacher, walking in the room, walking out of the room, lining up, walking in the hall, cleaning up, sharpening pencils, getting students' attention, if a visitor walks in the room, if the phone rings, speaking inside, speaking outside, if they have to go to the bathroom or get a drink, if they come back to the room from the hall, if they are called to the office, if a message is delivered to the classroom, getting books, getting material, emergencies, if they finish work early, if they are absent, if there is a knock on the door, if they are working with groups... etc. 

In order to help procedures become routines for the students, you must clearly explain the procedure, make sure they understand it, practice it, and rehearse it over and over.  

He summarized his procedures spiel by saying some teachers complain that you don't do much learning the first day or week of class. His response is - spend the first day teaching and the rest of the year zookeeping/ chasing kids around.  Spend the first week on procedure and spend the rest of the year learning.  

If you have ever set foot in an elementary school, you can imagine how this is true.

What helpful procedure do you use?!