Only Someone who has maintained an attentive heart throughout many years in the urban educational arena could write with this degree of insight, compassion and humor about the real challenges faced by teachers, students, and parents alike...... I pick up this book whenever I feel alone in my struggle to understand what I am actually doing as an urban school teacher in an age of violent disregard for any kind of gracious interaction or sincere effort. Also, I get to laugh out loud.
Mona Callan
Art Teacher-22 years

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Transform the school, transform society.

Schools Should Save the Child First

Schools Should Save the Child First

Gadsden County Times 

During my non-teaching job I work as a courier and I service prisons and hospitals. On a daily basis I get to see hundreds upon hundreds of young men whose life, if you want to call it that, exists of languishing behind a barbed wire cage. What an enormous waste of life, potential for good and taxpayer money, not to mention the damage and horror unleashed on people and society by crime. The real tragedy is that much of this could be prevented if schools were set up properly to deal with anti-social behavior. These men were all children once.

The truth is, emotional and behavioral problems don’t just all of a sudden crop up in adulthood. Any good teacher can easily tell you the children who are headed for trouble as an adult, but if schools aren’t equipped to do anything but punish bad behavior, society seems to be shocked every time these children grow up to do bad things. “I just knew that boy was going to end up in jail,” is not in the least bit helpful and begs the question “Why didn’t you do something about it way back when?” And something, indeed, can and should be done.

First and foremost, public schools need to realize that their core mission is not just academics, but to help create a “good” child, one that has a positive self-view, as well as a positiveview of society and life in general. This is especially important for children that come from stressed backgrounds which may include poverty, violence, anger, hate, hopelessness, etc. Many children have family members or friends that have already been in jail. A child does not choose the environment in which they are raised, but a school should be very aware of it and move, in a loving, firm and positive way to mitigate negative experiences.

Second, the school has got to get out of the punishment mindset and into one of “I am going to save this child in spite of himself.” A perfect example is Luis Armstrong, known to the elderly as not just one of the best entertainers ever, but also the sweetest man that you could ever meet. In fact, when he was a teen, he was a thug and was caught, pistol in hand, chasing a man down the street by the police. Instead of jailing him, the police released him to an African American preacher who ran a school for wayward boys, and the rest is history.

How to build a good child? Every school should have a homeroom period, where a teacher literally “owns” those students. That period should not be academic, but a period where positive contact is made with parents on a daily basis, with praise especially targeted to those who aren’t doing so well. Many schools are too large and impersonal and many children get lost in them, emotional and personal needs unmet.

Children need to be taught at their academic success level, regardless their age.  There is no sense giving children work that they are incapable of doing, fueling a sense of anger, frustration and failure by beating them over the head with negative experiences. A series of positive experiences are needed to build self-confidence and self-worth, which will expand into increased academic success. This is crucial for children who get a lot of negative experiences either at home or in their community.

When children exhibit behavior problems, instead of isolating them, which further fuels a sense of alienation from not just the school, but their peers, there should be a cadre of either trained teacher’s aides or designated parent surrogates from the community who will sit next to that child, in class, for two straight days, helping them with their work and praising good behavior.  Praise phone calls go home when the child does well. Very few children will act out with an adult at their elbow, most will do almost anything to avoid the embarrassment, and some simply do need the positive individual attention.

Positive after school programs run by trained adults, such as Habitat for Humanity, are attached to schools so that children who misbehave can earn redemption and self-worth through service to those less fortunate, learn real skills and get praised for it. If you put a child in a position of doing good works and they get the positive adult attention that they are secretly craving, it will internally transform a child, every single time.

There should be things at school that a child looks forward to. Bring back the music, art, home economics, industrial arts, drama, recess etc. After school programs should be a variety of clubs, whether art, weight lifting, chess, choir, business, robotics, whatever. All of this promotes positive  group feelings and fights the alienation that a lot of children experience.

In short, a greatly expanded view of a school’s mission will help children become successful adults much more than one whose sole mission is the sterile, cold, uncaring one found in test-obsessed schools.


I love the phrase "school-based management." It implies that teachers have a say over something. The word teacher doesn't appear in the phrase, however, so you're not quite sure.
Professor Johnson Unhinged - Section on Teaching

7 Minute Lecture Series


01. Introduction
(7 minute Lectures)

02. How to Create a Dropout
(Positive Behavior Shaping)

03. The Phone Call
(Reward Effort)