Ponderables to Start the New School Year

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I watched Harry Wong's "I Choose to Care" video and picked up a few ideas worth pondering. This video was shown at the New Teacher Institute, but the target audience is all teachers. If you saw the video and would like to add to my list, click on "Contribute an answer" below.

Practical Matters

1. Don't save all the questions for the end of the chapter/lesson/unit. Scatter questions from beginning to end so that students know what they are supposed to learn.
2. START ON TIME. If you waste 10 minutes at the beginning of the period then you have lost the entire period. No learning will take place after that.
3. Pass papers ACROSS the rows, not back to front. Collect at the ends of the rows. You cannot monitor students when their backs are turned to you.
4. Students assignments should be posted every day in the exact same place so students know where to look and what to do as soon as they walk in the door.
5. Students must know what they must know. Be clear about what students are expected to learn at the beginning of a lesson and remind them throughout the lesson.
6. Keep lessons short. Big ideas/topics can be broken down into smaller ideas and lessons.


1. The one who does the work is the one who learns. Who is doing the work in your classroom, you or the students?
2. Be yourself. Students want to see you, a real person, responding to them and to your subject matter with genuine feeling.
3. Turn kids into leaders by making them responsible -- that means giving them choices and teaching them to make choices. A choice is a conscious decision, and when students choose they usually make the right choice. It's when they choose not to choose (doing what everybody else is doing, doing what they've always done, etc) that they go wrong. (Applies to everyone!)
4. Don't hang out with people who complain, make excuses, blame others for their students' failure. The classroom teacher is the key to student success. Seek out people who listen, share, encourage, and strive to improve.
5. Never get angry. (That's a hard one!)

Obviously a lot of these ideas could be debated -- that's why I called them "ponderables." Just some things to think about, feel free to respond.

-- Michael Gatton (mg143@aol.com), August 30, 2001

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