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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Reclaiming Youth

During my unscheduled hiatus from blogging, I had the opportunity (or rather, coercion) to do some paper reading. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that some of my required course readings are actually enjoyable. Of course, those are the ones that I finished first, and now I have to get back to the drudge. But first, I thought I'd share the joy with y'all.

My number one reccommended book of the semester is Reclaiming Youth at Risk (pictured at left) by Brendtro, Brokenleg, and Van Bockern (who graciously help uphold my tradition of reading works by people who belong in the performing arts.) This small, slim volume gets right to the point, completely bypassing current mainstream behavior management practices and presenting a strength-based model that actually makes sense. It's largely based on a Native American "Circle of Courage" which outlines four basic elements that a person needs in order to be well-adjusted (belonging, mastery, independence, and generosity). The idealized waxing about Native American society has to be taken with a grain of salt, but a little common sense will reveal that there is a lot of wisdom between these lines. The CoC model may seem impractical at first just because of its differentness, but I suggest reading it a second time with some specific individuals in mind -- you may be surprised to find how simple it is to create positive, respectful interventions for kids who have been failed by the system. Whether you're a teacher, parent, or just a friend -- Read it. (I'm done with my copy for now...)

Stay tuned for more reviews... but first, I need to do some more reading...


starr said...

I can't think of too many behavior management/intervention books I've read that were that great, but I can really recommend "The Cornerstone" by Angela Powell (sort of a teaching 101 book with one of the most realistic chapters on managing behaviors in the classroom, especially with at-risk students).
Also, it's been several years since I've read it, so don't remember if I thought it was good, but I know I picked it and read just because I loved the title so much: "Get Out of My Life, Mom--But First Will You Take Me and Cheryl to the Mall?" (for dealing with teenagers, if it wasn't already evident from the title).

Bas~Melech said...

Starr - did you know that Angela has a website, too? - I found it very helpful before the book came out. Now that you've endorsed the book, I'm eager to read it too!

Anyway, this is not that kind of behavior management book. From what I've heard, The Cornerstone is more geared towards practical, classroom-based behavior management, and this is more about understanding what makes people tick and helping to build them up.

starr said...

Yeah, I discovered Ms. Powell's website two or three years ago. It really had a great impact on me as a teacher--not my teaching style-- which has evolved on its own-- but in regards to organization, managing paperwork, and learning to get back to basics when setting up a classroom. (My sister rolled her eyes at me when I said I found it inspirational, but then she tends to tune out when I start talking about teaching and related topics. So it's nice to find somebody to share a mutual appreciation for Ms. Powell!)
You're right, her book is more of a manual (but the best one I've ever read, way better than Harry Wong's book, which I never found to live up to all the raving it's garnered).
Theoretical type of books fascinate me, too, when they are well written. If I come across the book you've mentioned I will definitely check it out.

The Child Inside said...

I think teachers just need to pay more attention to their students as people instead of focusing so hard on controlling them. Classroom management is silly and dehumanizing, which is why the books about it don't work.

starr said...

I don't see the term/idea of classroom managment as being dehumanizing. To me, it means being organized and structured, having routines set up in place so the kids know what to do and what is expected of them. To me, that *is* treating them like humans--when I come in to my job every day I need to know what the expectations are for me, how I get the materials I need, how I complete my required paperwork, how I request help to complete it, if necessary, etc.

On the other hand, sometimes you need to be prepared to difuse volatile situations and having a back-up plan is necessary. Just this year I've had some very unpredictable students (think diagnoses of oppositional defiance disorder, emotionally disturbed, as well as undiagnosed but pretty obvious anger management issues, etc). It's not quite as simple as you make it out--you do need a balance of both to be a good and effective teacher.

Angela said...

It's so good to hear that you all are finding The Cornerstone to be practical, informative, and yes, inspirational! What good is practical information if the author doesn't inspire you to implement it, right? I stumbled across this blog by accident, and am thrilled to know that what I've written is really helping teachers. Thanks for the props. :-)