The book is organized more like a magazine than a text, with numerous sidebars with tangential information and testimonials from teachers who felt relieved from some of the suggestions that Wong provided. As previously stated, perhaps this book would be best for elementary school teachers.
I can't give it more than two stars because it is, like Harry Wong, somewhat short minded in its process.
- How to use a predictable daily routine to get students to begin working right away and minimize transition time.
Particularly irritating to me was how much of the "ALL students can succeed!" message was based in the idea that success would automatically come if the teacher was effective.
Some of the stuff in here is good, solid advice, mostly in the middle three chapters (classroom management, lesson mastery, and something else I can't remember). A lot of the advice in the middle chapters, though, is more suited to teachers of younger kids (K-8, maybe even K-5) than high schoolers. (To be fair, the Wongs don't recommend reading the book cover-to-cover, like I did. They intend for it to be used as a manual, pulled out and referenced when a teacher is having a specific problem.) If you're a new teacher, borrow this from someone and read the middle chapters alongside Tools for Teaching.
Wong's emphasis on previewing procedures, setting the tone, and making effective use of class time is correct. I attended the IU school of education in the late '90s, and I speculate that they did not use Wong's book because it was already old-school by that point. Keene recommends a classroom that is always buzzing with low-level chatter and features lots of nooks and alcoves for students to work in. Keene has some good ideas, but only Wong can give you the practical advice to make them work. Wong points out that this can be kind of a trivial activity because many rules are already set by the school or the teacher. Personally, I modify the RC beginning of year activity to having the students brainstorm what their classmates can do to help them learn. Wong has a lot of opinions, and the only one I would call flagrantly wrong is his use of please and thank you. I strongly agree with the Responsive Classroom take on these words, as explained in The Power of Our Words: Teacher Language That Helps Children Learn. Harry Wong gets right down to business with lots of chapter headings, subheadings, and short, direct paragraphs. Harry Wong puts the most practical things in the center and makes them easy to find. I got through about 200 pages of Wong's book in one afternoon, and I have the formatting to thank for it. I think a lot of the lesson planning and positive mindset portions is either common-sense or gets learned quickly by new teachers.
I'm drafting up a lawsuit against my teaching college for not exposing me to this book.
It's not meant to be "the solution" for every situation that arises in the first few days of school. I would recommend this book to any teacher who knows the power of reflection.
Wong is an author, a speaker, and a publisher on the subject of education. He has authored over 30 publications, often coauthoring with his wife Rosemary Wong, which he did on his best known work, The First Days of School. Harry Wong is a former secondary science classroom teacher. Dr. Wong has been awarded the Horace Mann Outstanding Educator Award, Upton Sinclair Award, Outstanding Secondary Teacher Award, the Science Teacher Achievement Recognition Award, the Outstanding Biology Teacher Award, and the Valley Forge Teacher's Medal.