Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Book Review: Relating to Adolescents

Several months ago, in an electronic newsletter published by the Klingenstein Center, I read about Relating to Adolescents: Educators in a Teenage World by Susan Eva Porter. The book sounded like a worthwhile read, so I ordered a copy from Amazon. I'm glad I did.

Dr. Porter, an experienced teacher and clinician, makes a strong case that adults in schools need to act with intentionality when dealing with adolescents—a claim that may sound obvious but which bears repeating at regular intervals. In the introduction, she reminds the reader that "teenagers need us to practice certain skills that allow us to keep our roles clear, to maintain the boundaries between us, and to keep our cool when the energy of adolescence swirls around us." To illustrate her points about adult behavior, she provides myriad case studies, which enable the reader to grasp the importance of her claims with ease.

I so enjoyed Porter's practical approach that I selected an excerpt from her text as the basis for a session of a Professional Learning Community that I led earlier this school year. In the selection, from a chapter entitled "The Eightfold Path of Adult Self-Care," Porter takes the practices of the traditional Buddhist Eightfold Path and appropriates them for the contemporary educator. For example, in explaining the importance of "Right Intention," Porter notes that "teenage thoughts and emotions are all over the map, and they spread like wildfire.... To take care of ourselves, then, we should understand not only how to track our own thoughts and moods but also how to separate our internal processes from those of our students." Shes goes on to provide case studies and questions for the reader's consideration.

The participants in the PLC and I greatly enjoyed reading and discussing the selection from Porter's book. It sparked a tremendous amount of self-reflection while affirming some common practices as well. Porter writes to the educator in a practical, clear voice, and her book makes for an excellent read.

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