Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Good Influence: Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood by Daniel R. Heischman
Good Influence: Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood
by Daniel R. Heischman
First, a disclaimer, this book was purchased for me by my employer, and it was my required summer reading. It will be the basis of teacher discussion and development at the start of the new school year.
The author, Heischman, is an Episcopal priest who has been a Dean of Students, Headmaster, and Chaplain at a number of private Episcopal secondary schools and colleges. The thesis of the book is that teachers have a special responsibility to their students to be "grown ups" so that they can guide and model behavior and choices for their students.
By "grown up," he does not mean simply being an adult. He makes the distinction that teachers are adults, but that not all adults are grown ups. That point actually makes a great deal of sense to me. I've seen too many teachers go overboard to make friends with students, only to lose their students' respect and the ability to control a classroom.
The same can be said of some parents. In my twenty plus year teaching career, I've seen a real shift in how parents perceive their role. Many, but by all means not all, parents seem to value their children's happiness above all else, and they think their job is to clear the path for their children. Unfortunately, this results in questioning school and teacher decisions and not allowing students the room to make choices and solve their own problems. In this case, Heischman would argue that a "grown up" needs to help facilitate student choice, and even student lack of success so that they can truly understand what it means to work hard toward a goal.
The point is well made, and one that I deal with all the time, even in elementary school. It is a short book, but the author, unfortunately repeats himself and belabors some of his points. I would have appreciated some more models, outside of his own experiences, to help guide me as I work with parents and students.
Overall, it was thought-provoking, but left me wanting more substance. Some of my anti-non fiction bias may be coming through on this one. Overall, I'd give it 3 1/2 stars. I'd love to hear what you think of his idea of "grown ups." I know there are a number of teen bloggers out there. What do you think - should the teacher be your friend?