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Harry Wong Addresses National Conference

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Curriculum CenterEducation World is at the National Middle School Association convention, being held through Saturday in St. Louis. On Thursday night, Harry K. Wong addressed a general session of the conference. In his keynote address, Wong made a case for the importance of good classroom management as a key to student achievement.

ST. LOUIS (November 2) -- Noted educator Harry K. Wong, author of The First Days of School, praised the efforts of middle level educators in attendance at a general session of the National Middle School Association conference being held through Saturday in St. Louis. Wong recalled his brief experiences as a middle school classroom teacher and expressed admiration for teachers who teach students he referred to as "hormones on feet."

Read More About It!

Read an Education World
e-interview with Harry K. Wong. The e-interview first appeared on Education World last year.
Wong cited a number of studies to support his contention that teachers -- not instructional fads or programs -- are the keys to student achievement in middle school. Good teachers who possess strong classroom management skills, design lessons that help students achieve mastery, and have positive expectations of student achievement are the essential ingredients to achievement, Wong told more than 4,000 educators.

Wong, an expert in classroom management -- his The First Days of School has sold more than 1.25 million copies -- made the case for establishing classroom routines and procedures that ensure that students know what is expected of them. Those routines and procedures need to be set in place from the very first day of the school year, Wong told the educators. "You botch up the first day, and you're dead meat the rest of the year," said Wong, adding that "students just want some consistency."

Don't Laugh at Me: Kids' Sensitivity Program

Harry Wong's appearance in the first general session of the conference followed an appearance by Peter Yarrow, one-third of the folk music group Peter, Paul, and Mary. Yarrow was at the conference to promote Don't Laugh at Me, a curriculum he has developed in cooperation with NMSA and other educator organizations. As part of a pilot program, Yarrow provided free curriculum materials to convention attendees.
Teachers who greet students each morning with "bell work," activities that students sit down to do as soon as they enter the classroom, are establishing a consistent procedure that will pay big dividends when it comes to achievement. "The number one problem in our schools is not discipline; it's a lack of procedures," added Wong. "Effective teachers manage their classrooms with procedures and routines. Ineffective teachers manage their classrooms with threats and punishments.

"Effective teachers can be defined with a single word," Wong told the convention crowd. "Effective teachers steal!" Teachers who beg, borrow, and steal good techniques are teachers whose students will achieve, he added, noting that he is "the biggest burglar in the education field"!

Wong proposed that school systems promote effective teaching and student achievement by providing new teachers -- teachers in their first and second years in the classroom -- with structured training programs that teach good classroom management skills. Mentoring programs can be good, he added, but they cannot replace comprehensive training programs. Would you rather travel in an airplane with a pilot who had undergone a consistent and rigorous training program or with one who might need to call on a mentor if a sticky situation presents itself? Wong asked.

Gary Hopkins
Education World® Editor-in-Chief
Copyright © 2000 Education World

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11/06/2000