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Anticipating getting stuck

51fnKYJ7AjL._SX374_BO1,204,203,200_.jpgThis summer, I feel like I’m doing a WHOLE LOT of professional learning. And a good part of that has been through book clubs and the like…

One of the books I read through the Jossey-Bass Teacher Ambassador Program (they give me free books if I review them) was called Turnaround Tools for the Teenage Brain by Eric Jensen and Carole Snider.

I was excited about reading this book because I teach at-risk teens. We are grappling with the issue of English Learners deciding that high school in the United States just isn’t for them.

And all of the mindset stuff that the district focuses on, all the proficiency-based learning lessons they want us to teach… none of that will do anything toward keeping these students at school.

Most of my students are former refugees. And they need immediate relevancy. The problem is that our entire school system is based on future payoffs. Pair that with the fact that all teens tend to need immediate gratification and you have a recipe for disaster. They need money, so they leave school to work. They don’t see any future but getting married and having children, and so they see no need to climb through the algebra/chemistry/health hoop if all they are going to do is something they can do right now by eloping.

So I need all the tools I can get to turnaround these teenage brains.

What I love love love about this book is that it is like having coffee with a trusted colleague who is giving great advice. They know their stuff. And I think their message has merit. Every chapter gives advice on what turns teachers can take to make specific headway motivating students to be the best they can be.

And it really comes down to us, and to knowing students and teaching them the way they need to be taught.

“If you don’t know where students are today, you’re teaching in the dark. When you’re in the dark, your students lose interest and effort drops.” (p. 78)

I am becoming much more aware of how much time I waste in class. I never have enough time. And maybe that’s on me.

I am a true believer that students can’t learn unless you know them and they know that you care. This is really the first book I have read that pulls that thread through the entire book. We are social creatures. And teenagers need the love. All of it.

Though I felt sometimes like the book was preaching to the choir, the authors did surprise me sometimes with something I hadn’t considered before or hadn’t thought about deeply. Reflection on my own practice is something I don’t do enough. And this book helped me motivate myself to move on that path.

Exactly what I needed just a couple weeks before I’ll be meeting my students at the door…



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