These kids encompass a group who are essentially challenged by poor executive functioning. They struggle to delay gratification, to be still, to listen, to filter out distractions, to process new information, to plan, persist, adapt to change and self-regulate emotion and behaviour. Poor executive function is associated with a number of developmental problems, psychological disorders, disabilities and difficulties. Teaching Tough Kids takes a particularly close focus on students identified with Learning Disability, Attention Deficit Disorder, Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and Asperger Syndrome. In recent times, another group of students with executive functioning difficulties have emerged in schools. These are the kids who have endured neglect or too much stress and uncertainty in their lives and as a result display classic symptoms of hyperactivity, hyper vigilance and impulsivity.
Teaching Tough Kids offers a refreshing collection of everyday ideas to help educators find success. Filled with inspirational case studies, this book focuses on building improved relationships, structures and behaviours, rather than seeing the student as 'the problem' that must be fixed.
He writes in accessible, conversational style to suit a wide readership, but his ideas are firmly based in sound academic research, as well as the experience of himself and colleagues working with such 'tough kids'. The theory is illustrated with numerous case study vignettes, representing a wide range of troubled and troubling behaviours - the surface manifestation of emotional and mental states where 'executive function' is poor, for many and complex reasons.
Mark is committed to the belief that educators, himself included, 'have the capacity to influence transformation within students'. More than wishful thinking, this belief is supported by research that identifies teachers as one of the most influential variables in student performance - more powerful than the influence of home, peers and the school as a whole. He encourages educators to engage in self-reflection, and provides some tools for doing this effectively, recognizing that our own behaviours can be part of the problem or the solution to the challenging attitudes and behaviours of students.
There is a chapter devoted to explaining restorative approaches, co-authored with Bill Hansberry, a practitioner in this area across a number of schools. This provides an alternative process to the punitive cycle that often dominates behaviour management approaches in schools. Subsequent chapters focus on understanding the underlying factors and providing strategies to improve concentration, task completion, organization and memory. He then addresses the really difficult area of oppositional styled behaviours - approaches to working out what underlies and triggers the behaviours, and designing effective plans for improvement.
Another chapter explores the particular needs of students with Asperger's syndrome, and considerations for developing improved social and emotional connections that are essential for improving their behaviour.
Finally, and not surprisingly from such a relational author, is an explanation of the benefits of mentorship, and how such a program can be implemented.
Teaching Tough Kids is an invaluable resource for teachers and others who work with young people whose behaviour challenges their patience and personal resources. It has the potential to empower both the teachers and their students with more productive, proactive ways of thinking and behaving that make real learning and more positive living possible.
Teaching Tough Kids has just taken out best book of the year at the international 'National Association for Special Educational Needs' book award in London. The nasen judging panel unanimously chose it as the winner and wrote:
This is an Australian Book.
In a truly inclusive way the forward is written by one of the 'tough kids' - she says: 'Dealing with us is never easy. We tough kids can be gruelling work, but we can be inspirational too. We can annoy you and delight you. We can give you the worst or best teaching years of your life, but if you choose to let us in we will touch you and leave our gentle footprints on your heart forever and you will never be the same'.
The author writes in a very accessible style from a wealth of experience.
The book starts from the premise that teachers can make a big difference. It is full of useful tips and practical ideas.
Teaching Tough Kids is an invaluable resource for teachers who work with young people whose behaviour challenges their patience and personal resources. It has the potential to empower both the teachers and their students with more productive ways of thinking and behaving that make real learning and more positive living possible.
The panel views Teaching Tough Kids as thoroughly innovative and inspirational.