In Teaching the Whole Teen, Poliner and Benson effectively explore how the teen learner is unique and how we, as educators, can best support the development of the whole teen. In this work, the authors suggest a conceptual framework referred to as the Resiliency Research Framework as a vision, rather than a checklist of competencies, for the positive development of the whole teen. This framework identifies social competence, problem solving, autonomy and developing aspirations as skills that require ongoing exposure, practice, coaching, demonstration and application. “If you really want to listen patiently, understand perspectives, collaborate on projects, and motivate yourself toward a goal you care about, you’ll be practicing all your life. On the upside, every interaction and event is an opportunity for that practice.” (p.33)
The emphasis of this book, then, is on the experiences and practices that support teens in developing these skills, within the context of caring adults, high expectations with high support, and meaningful participation. These everyday practices are incorporated into teacher language, routines, rituals and instructional moments. Instructional tools, such as handouts, templates for students and planning templates for teachers, are provided throughout the text to support educators as they implement these practices. The authors also provide readings to share with parents and guardians, emphasizing that teaching the whole teen is a shared responsibility. Throughout the text, the authors successfully connect research and practice in such a way that an educator will feel well informed. As an educator, I find these practices, tools and the research to be highly pragmatic and I anticipate returning to this resource time and again for inspiration.
Of particular importance, the authors stress that the school environment matters enormously for whole teen development. As such, I believe this book could be a significant launching point for professional learning communities looking to redesign their approaches to teaching and learning in the hopes of impacting the overall culture of the school.
Photo: Dave Donald
First published in Education Canada, March 2016
Corwin, 2017 ISBN 978-1-5063-3588-9