Summer vacation officially begins in just over a week and I have to admit I’ve already started initial preparations. The first ‘cottage mix’ is ready to go (heavy on the chill out tunes of Ron Sexsmith, Hayden, Jim Bryson, Brett Dennen, etc…) and my summer reading list is coming together, thanks to suggestions from friends and colleagues. Actually, the title of this post is taken from a book recommended to me by the social worker attached to our school. In fact, when I got my hands on a copy, I couldn’t wait for summer to crack it open and have a look. And, as it turns out, it struck a chord with me and pulled me in.
Lost at School
Lost at School: Why Our Kids with Behavioral Challenges Are Falling Through the Cracks and How We Can Help Them by Ross Greene, PhD, addresses an issue that has been on my mind for quite some time. Working with an incredible group of educators over the past few years I have seen and experienced the rewards of finding the keys to supporting struggling students who begin to meet with success. I have also worked closely with staff who grapple earnestly with how to support students for whom the keys to success seem lost. We meet around student work, share observations, offer support to one another, try different approaches, and then repeat yet sometimes we are left feeling confused and stuck. As difficult as these moments are, I am always awed and inspired by the relentless determination of my colleagues. I figure if you’ve shed tears of frustration, as well as tears of joy for your students, you are truly a teacher who believes in your students.
Bt contrast, the “kids who do well if they can” philosophy carries the assumption that if a kid could do well he would do well. If he’s not doing well, he must be lacking the skills needed to respond to life’s challenges in an adaptive way. What’s the most important role an adult can play in the life of such a kid? First, assume he’s already motivated, already knows right from wrong, and has already been punished enough. Then, figure out what thinking skills he’s lacking so you know what thinking skills to teach.“(11)
… diagnoses don’t give us any information about the cognitive skills a kid may be lacking. In other words, “bipolar disorder” provides no information about the specific skills a kid is lacking. Nor does “fetal alcohol syndrome” or “lead poisoned” or “brain injured” or “Asperger’s disorder” or “ADHD” or “oppositional defiant disorder” or “antisocial” or “sociopath”. All too often adults get caught up in the quest for the right diagnosis, assuming that a diagnosis will help them to know what to do next. The reality is that diagnoses aren’t especially useful for understanding kids with behavioral challenges or for helping adults know what to do next.”(15)