Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Kids Who Outwit Adults...



   "Kids Who Outwit Adults", by John Seita and Larry Brendtro, is a must read for
    any educator, parent, social worker, therapist or anyone else who works with a
    troubled, hurting child. If you're interested in positive youth development, you
    should read this book.

   Dr. Seita is a remarkable individual. As a young child, he was apprehended by
   the State Social Services Department as a result of his mother's lack of ability to
   care for even his basic needs. Dozens of foster homes and youth care facilities
   later, 17-year-oldd John met a new social worker, Larry Brendtro, and many
   years after  that Dr. John Seita co-wrote "Kids Who Outwit Adults" with the
   same Larry  Brendtro. I have not met another person who can speak so
   eloquently and  genuinely from both ends of the child care spectrum.

Including a foreword by Matt Damon, the book was inspired by the movie written by Damon and fellow actor Ben Affleck, "Good Will Hunting." The book references scenes from the movie to begin each chapter as a mirror reflecting the ideas within the chapters. The book also includes numerous anecdotal references to cases Dr. Seita has dealt with as a professional child advocate, and also from his own personal experiences as a youth in care. Underlying the content of the book is the notion that "private logic" is at the heart of every perception people have, and perhaps especially kids. Dr. Seita states,

It is not so much what happens to people that influences their behavior but the meaning they make of their life experiences. Adler also suggests that children construct their private logic and coping strategies as they make sense out of the following issues:
I am...
Other people are...
The world is...
Therefore...
I am of the belief that every child has a story. How kids finish Alfred Adler's prompting statements above are major indicators of how their story affects their perspective. At the heart of a child's story are the experiences and challenges that form the person educators see in front of them every day at school. We make many assumptions about students based on what we see; the lens we look through will influence (I would argue more than any other element of our interaction with kids in school) our practice, our attitude and our reaction to every child we encounter as educators. We must not take this issue lightly.

Our perceptions of students are more powerful than most have given the time to consider. Physical appearances, mannerisms, language, attitude, behavior; these are all contextual elements of every child, but to those most disadvantaged emotionally, physically, psychologically and financially, the variables affecting their context are multiplied exponentially... they simply have bigger fish to fry when compared to the typical challenges we present to them as part of a regular school day; their hearts and their minds are not tuned in to school.

Consider the young student who hasn't eaten for days and is used to not eating nutritious food on a regular basis. Consider the child who has never known a loving relationship with a trusted adult in their entire life. Consider the child who has been routinely abused in any number of ways since birth... to these kids from a contextual perspective, we are the strange ones. They don't "live" in our world, they live in theirs, and it's all they've ever known. We need to be vigilant to recognize these kids, and we need to understand that it is grossly unfair to judge them by a standard that doesn't recognize the unique nature of their background... their story.

If we make it our business as teachers to learn kid's stories, our efforts will prove invaluable as far as understanding why for some kids, the math test is not the most important thing on their mind on any given day... then we can begin to put first things first; helping kids deal with their issues on the way to establishing human connections that will improve our ability to teach and their ability to learn.

Learn kid's stories.
Shelfari: Book reviews on your book blog

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