The First Days of School

As a child, was the first day of school a time of nervous excitement?, or maybe a day that was dreaded all summer long?… well, many teachers tend to feel the same way. Not because they hate being there, but because they want everything to be perfect and know the importance of making that all-important first impression. With the school year already begun, perhaps this post is a little bit late, but it should still be helpful for many. Today’s post reviews The First Days of School: How to Be an Effective Teacher by Harry K. and Rosemary T. Wong – a book that TeacherJay likes to read every summer as a reminder of how to be the most effective teacher possible; and he gives out a gold star.

This book is a perennial read for TeacherJay and was clearly written by teachers for teachers. The book reads less like a typical non-fiction and more like a collection of small tips and examples. It’s oddly shaped and that does make it difficult to hold, but it makes it feel more like watching a presentation than reading a book. The book is broken into 5 Units:

  • The Teacher
  • Positive Expectations
  • Classroom Management
  • Lesson Mastery
  • The Professional

Focusing first on what makes a teacher effective, the book introduces the concept that the teacher’s role is to facilitate learning and teachers are most happy when they are doing that. Several pointers are given to help any teacher become/remain effective at all times, from the very first moment of the school year.

The second unit on keeping high expectations for all students is an important one as students will tend to live up to the reasonable expectations of them from parents and teachers. Examples and non-examples are given for teachers on how to phrase things to students to encourage students to have a more positive attitude towards learning.

Perhaps the section that can be put to immediate good use is the third one on Classroom Management. More than just how to deal with discipline problems or turn students into robots, Wong gives many examples and ideas on how to make a classroom orderly so that less time is spent on the administrative aspects of school, such as taking attendance or those dreaded transition times, and more focus can be put on actual learning time. Children, especially young children, have a desire to please adults and to follow the rules if they are explained to them and the book also includes a guide on how to develop a discipline plan.

Lesson Mastery is something all good teachers should be striving for with their students and is possible even with the ridiculous pressure that is placed on standardized tests that do not truly assess mastery. The fourth section of the book includes some strategies to get students to do their work, to enjoy it, and to feel a sense of satisfaction in their own achievements.

Finally, the last section of the book looks at teachers as professionals. The main message here is that if teachers want to be treated as the professionals that they are and receive the respect they deserve, then they should act like professionals. This means staying current in the field, reading research, being excited about additional training. The best teachers are ones that truly love learning and continue learning and refining their craft.

TeacherJay encourages all teachers to pick up a copy of this book. It is divided into quick segments that can be read at any spare moment in the classroom. Wong’s advice are deeper than just the gimmicks of basic classroom management such as turning lights on and off to quiet a room full of noisy students – they are meant to remind teachers of why they do the job they do and to bring those noble philosophies back into their daily teaching. For their continued efforts to make that limited amount of time in the classroom as effective as possible, TeacherJay is awarding a Gold Star to Harry K. Wong & Rosemary K. Wong.


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