Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Good Influence: Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood by Daniel R. Heischman

Product Details
Good Influence:  Teaching the Wisdom of Adulthood
by Daniel R. Heischman

146 pages

February 2010

Nonfiction



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? 

2 comments:

Kate said...

This sounds like it had the potential to be a great book! I completely understand the concept of teachers and being grown up. I was a high school teacher for a short bit... and you cannot be their friend, but you can be someone that they can turn to if needs be. I am sure you have seen quite a change in the students... do you see the lack of respect for adults at the elementary level?

BookGal said...

Kate - The concept is good just not the execution. I do see lack of respect for adults in elementary school kids. I have to remind them how to address adults - I don't let them use first names - when parents are in the room. I also have to work on the kids constantly interrupting adult conversations. Thanks for visiting.