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Thompson: J.K. Rowling Explains Defiant Kids & School Improvement

In a recent interviewNPR’s Steve Inskeep starts the interview with novelist J.K. Rowling with a passage from her new book  A Casual Vacancy that caught my attention right away: 


“Misbehaving kids are sent to a guidance counselor who wearily reflects, quote, ‘many of them were devoid of work-a-day morals. They lied, misbehaved and cheated routinely. And yet their fury when wrongly accused was limitless and genuine.’"

The former school teacher who gave us “Harry Potter” explained how “damaged” people “often meet the world with a kind of defiance.” As American teachers can also attest, students in the toughest schools can exhibit a “very routinely cavalier relationship with the truth.”  And, when at-risk kids are “actually unjustly accused they'll dig in.”  The already complicated challenge of creating orderly learning environments then becomes even more challenging.  But, we can’t forget Rowling’s reminder that even the most frustrating of students’ responses to even the most reasonable rules are legacies of fear, of being treated like a statistic, of being voiceless, and of being seen as a ”problem.” Teenagers are “truth seekers,” and “they crave the big picture. ... They often go to the heart of things.”

That is why the first rule of education reform, I believe, should be to listen to the kids and they will teach you how to teach them.  Stop treating human beings as numbers, and we can build on students' (often maddening) moral consciousness to create school cultures worthy of a democracy.-JT(@drjohnthompson) Image via.


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Did you ever ask the kids if was OK to show them "The Office" during class time, or what they thought of your proposal to boot out kids who miss two straight weeks of school? Or did you arrive at these innovations by listening to the kids?

Where did that come from? Why would you think I showed "The Office" to my class? I've barely watched it myself. What have I ever written (or sad) that implies booting kids who miss two weeks? How would that even be legal?

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