Category Archives: Continuing Education

Harry Wong’s Secret to Being an Effective Teacher


Harry & Rosemary Wong

Harry & Rosemary Wong

Harry Wong and his wife, Rosemary, are two of the most respected voices in the education industry. Read any of their books and you will discover facile minds filled to the brim with the latest research combined with decades of experience in teaching and helping others teach better. Their best known book, The First Days of School, is so highly lauded that it is required reading in many university education programs. That book, like all of their publications, is loaded with great information and handy advice that is essential to being an effective teacher. However, one piece of advice stands out above the rest as being Harry Wong’s biggest secret to being a better teacher.

One of the things Wong talks about is being prepared. It is essential that teachers and administrators alike have a detailed plan for what will happen in the first few days of a new school year. Explaining and rehearsing routines that will be used throughout the year is essential. As a matter of fact, Wong makes it clear that for most teachers the year can be be won or lost in the first few days, perhaps even the first few minutes of the school year. For that reason, having a well thought out plan that includes as many contingencies as you can conceive is absolutely essential to being an effective teacher. Yet as good as this advice is, it is not Harry Wong’s Secret to being a better teacher.

The Wong’s also stress the importance of classroom management. “Effective teachers,” they tell us, “manage their classrooms; ineffective teachers discipline a classroom.” They go on to describe what an effective classroom should look like and how it should work. They stress the importance of building an environment that is task oriented with an ingrained expectation of superlative performance. Truth is, it’s amazing what can be done when kids are in a positive environment, with an expectation for excellence and an effective teacher who will uphold high standards for them to achieve. But in spite of the fact that they spend nearly 100 pages talking about it, and in spite of the fact that teachers frequently identify classroom management as their number one concern, this is not the Wong’s secret to being a better teacher.

Harry Wong and his wife also talk at length about lesson mastery. To use their words, “If a student cannot demonstrate learning or achievement, the student has not failed- WE have failed the student.” So, if that is the case, what is the key to making sure our students succeed? The Wong’s answer is straight to the point, “To increase learning and achievement, increase the amount of time students are working.” Too many teachers believe that their most significant time is spent lecturing, but research has shown that students learn most when THEY are working, not the teacher. Great teachers lecture just enough to explain to students what needs to be done and then get out of the way so that students can do as much of it as possible. The results from this kind of strategy can be quite profound. Great teachers can teach as much in a year as a lesser teacher teaches in a year and a half, and yet as significant as this difference is, it is not the Wong’s secret to being a better teacher.

That secret, and he mentions it early in both the book and the accompanying CD, is this: “If you dare to teach, you must dare to learn.” Remember, teaching is a profession and just as doctors, lawyers, accountants and architects have to constantly keep themselves abreast of the latest trends in their profession, so do teachers. Yet many teachers lose sight of this truth and discontinue their personal development as soon as they are given their own classrooms. How tragic in light of the fact that our students desperately need us to be at the very top of our game. No matter how challenging it is to stay current with our knowledge base and skills, our kids deserve our best efforts. They are counting on us to help them find their way, not just through school, but through life itself. Don’t let them down, commit now to excellence by being the most knowledgeable and best prepared teacher your students could possibly find. As Samuel Meisels has said, “The highest stake of all is our ability to help children realize their full potential.”

Get your own copy of Harry and Rosemary Wong’s book here: The First Days of School

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Posted by on April 23, 2013 in Continuing Education, Education


Inexpensive Ways to Further Your Education

online college education

Never before has been easier for people to improve their educational prospects that it is today. The number of resources, many of them free, are being offered online at a remarkable rate. You can literally get a quality university education, seeing the same lectures as those attending the university, while you sit comfortably in front of your computer screen in your pajamas.

Among the early leaders in this field is the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) who has been offering free courses for some years now, recently decided to allow free access many of their courses. This is a bit of a good news/bad news scenario. The good news is that you can take all the courses for free, the bad news is you won’t earn a degree for all your hard work. However, if you are more interested in learning the material than in earning the degree, this may be just the tool for you.

Scott Young had already earned a degree in business when he decided he really wanted an education in computer engineering to go with it. He looked at the free courses at MIT, courses notorious for their difficulty, and assembled the right mix for the equivalent of a degree in computer science. While the courses were free, the books were not as he ended up spending about $2,000 on study material. However, he learned that the online format worked well for him and he is now on track to earn a four year degree in computer science in about twelve months.

Speaking of books, Josh Kaufman has developed a learning system that relies heavily on books. After spending nearly $200,000 on a quality MBA, he realized that everything he learned at business school was readily available in books you can pick up at your local Barnes and Noble. He took his concept a step further and assemble a list of books for people who wanted the equivalent of an MBA education and called it the “Personal MBA.” His original list of 60 books has expanded to a list of 99 books, but if Josh is right, and a lot of big names in the business world say he is, then it’s a bargain at about 1/100th the cost of the same education at an Ivy League School. (Note: I have personally read many of the books on the Personal MBA list and can attest to their remarkable quality and depth. Even if you don’t want to pursue the whole virtual degree, the list is a great place to look for your next business book read.)

So what if your aims are a bit more modest; you don’t want the equivalent of a degree, you just want to learn a new skill or two? Again, the options are numerous and among the best is Udemy. They offer thousands of courses in everything from arts and hobbies, education, foreign languages and business. Many, though not all, are free. Still, even the paid courses compare very favorably against the cost of the same course at a university, and they can be studied from the comfort of your home.

Not to be outdone, Harvard recently teamed up with MIT to create edX a joint agreement that would allow students to take courses at both schools free of charge. As news of the partnership has grown, so has the list of schools eager to join the endeavor. The two founding schools have now been joined by Berkley, University of Texas, Georgetown University, University of Toronto, Australian National University and Ecole Ploytechnique Federale de Lausanne. Stanford is also offering similar course as are many other major universities. At a time when the price of a college degree is going up at an alarming rate, the price of a college education has dropped to the cost of books alone.

Is pursuing this kid of education right for you? That depends a great deal on what your aims are. Some careers require time in a classroom with a degree to show for it, but many do not. If your interest is primarily in acquiring the information, then choosing one of these routes may be just the ticket. Most experts agree that while a good teacher can make a significant difference, all real learning is essentially self-learning. Even if you do pay for the brick and mortar education, you can’t expect a lot of hand-holding; you are going to have to learn this stuff yourself. Borrow a page from Scott Young’s career and plot out your own course list for your own virtual degree. You may not have the sheepskin to show for it, but you will have the same quality education.

Can you use this kind of training on your resume? Some of the students who have followed the Personal MBA path have said they have listed it on their resume and it has been effective. They quickly explain that it is not an official university degree and then explain what the program entails. They say the response has been overwhelmingly positive. As a potential employer, you have to respect someone who takes the initiative to read nearly a hundred books on their own to further their education. The same could be said of those who take four year’s worth of courses from MIT in twelve months.



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Posted by on April 16, 2013 in Continuing Education, Education


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