The leading experts on parent-child communication show parents and teachers how to motivate kids to learn and succeed in school.
Using the unique communication strategies, down-to-earth dialogues, and delightful cartoons that are the hallmark of their multimillion-copy bestseller How to Talk So Kids Will Listen & Listen So Kids Will Talk, Adele Faber and Elaine Mazlish show parents and teachers how to help children handle the everyday problems that interfere with learning.
This breakthrough book demonstrates how parents and teachers can join forces to inspire kids to be self-directed, self-disciplined, and responsive to the wonders of learning.
A communications primer for parents on encouraging their child's learning ability. (Sept.)
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September 02, 1996
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Excerpt from How To Talk So Kids Can Learn by Adele Faber
How to Deal with Feelings That Interfere with Learning
It was the memories of my own teachers -- both those I loved and those I hated -- that made me decide to become one.
I had a long, mental list of all the mean things I would never say or do to my students and a clear vision of how infinitely patient and understanding I would be. All during my education courses in college, I held on to my conviction that I could teach kids in a way that would make them want to learn.
My first day as a "real" teacher came as a shock. As much as I had planned and prepared, I was totally unprepared for these thirty-two sixth graders. Thirty-two kids with loud voices, high energy, and powerful wants and needs. Halfway through the morning the first rumblings began: "Who stole my pencil?!"..."Get out of my face!"..."Shut up. I'm tryin' to listen to the teacher!"
I pretended not to hear and went on with the lesson, but the eruptions continued: "Why do I have to sit next to him?"..."I don't understand what we're supposed to do."..."He punched me!"..."She started it!"
My head began to pound The noise level in the room continued to rise. Words of "patience and understanding" died on my lips. This class needed a teacher who was in charge and in control. I heard myself saying:
"Cut it out. Nobody stole your pencil."
"You have to sit next to him because I said so."
"I don't care who started it. I want it ended. Now!"
"What do you mean you don't understand? I just explained it."
"I can't believe this class. You're acting like first graders. Will you please sit still!"
One boy ignored me. He left his seat, walked over to the sharpener, and stood there grinding his pencil to a nub. In my firmest voice I ordered, "That's enough! Sit down right now!"
"You can't make me do nothin'," he said.
"We'll talk about this after school."
"I can't stay. I ride the bus."
"Then I'll need to call your parents to get this settled."
"You can't call my parents. We don't got no phone."
By three o'clock I was exhausted. The kids burst out of the classroom and spilled out onto the streets. More power to them. They were their parents' responsibility now. I'd done my time.
I slumped in my chair and stared at the empty desks. What went wrong? Why wouldn't they listen? What did I have to do to get through to these kids?
All during those first few months of teaching, the pattern was the same. I'd start each morning with high hopes and leave every afternoon feeling overwhelmed by the drudgery and tedium of having to drag my class through the required curriculum. But worse than anything, I was turning into the kind of teacher I never wanted to be -- angry, bossy, and belittling. And my students were becoming increasingly sullen and defiant. As the term wore on, I found myself wondering how long I could last.
Jane Davis, the teacher next door, came to my rescue. The day after I poured my heart out to her, she stopped by my room and handed me her worn copy of How to Talk So Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk. "I don't know if this will help," she said, "but the skills in this book saved my sanity with my own kids at home. And they sure make a difference in my classroom!"
I thanked her, put the book in my briefcase, and forgot about it. A week later I was lying in bed nursing a cold. Idly I reached for the book and opened it. The italicized words on the first page jumped out at me.
Direct connection between how kids feel and how they behave.
When kids feel right, they'll behave right.
How do we help them to feel right?
By accepting their feelings!
I lay back on my pillow and closed my eyes. Did I accept my students' feelings? In my head I replayed some of the exchanges I'd had with the kids that week:
Student: I can't write.
Me: That's not true.
Student: But I can't think of anything to write about.
Me: Yes, you can! Just quit complaining and start writing.
Student: I hate history. Who cares what happened a hundred years ago?
Me: You should care. It's important to know your country's history.
Student: It's boring.
Me: No, it isn't! If you paid attention, you'd find it interesting.
It was ironic. I was the one who was always preaching to the children about the right of each individual to his or her opinions and feelings. Yet in practice, whenever the kids expressed their feelings, I dismissed them. Argued with them. My underlying message was "You're wrong to feel what you feel. Listen to me instead."
I sat up in bed and tried to remember. Did my teachers ever do that to me? There was that one time in high school when I was stricken over my first failing grade and my math teacher tried to give me a pep talk: "There's nothing to be upset about, Liz. It's not that you lack ability in geometry. You just haven't applied yourself.