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And the Emotional Underlife of Learning

By Thomas Newkirk

In this groundbreaking exploration, Tom Newkirk takes on the "true enemy of learning"--students' (and teachers') fear of embarrassment. How can our fear of embarrassment affect how we learn, how we teach, and how we live?


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"Why has no one written about this subject before? Every teacher should read this book." Michael G. Thompson, coauthor of Raising Cain

Embarrassment.  None of us escape it.  Especially as kids, in school.  How might our fear of failure, of not living up to expectations, be holding us back?  How can our fear of embarrassment affect how we learn, how we teach, and how we live?

Tom Newkirk argues that this “emotional underlife,” this subterranean domain of emotion, failure, and embarrassment, keeps too many students and teachers silent, hesitant, and afraid. “I am absolutely convinced,” Tom writes, “that embarrassment is not only the true enemy of learning, but of so many other actions we could take to better ourselves.”

In this groundbreaking exploration, Newkirk offers practices and strategies that help kids and teachers alike develop a more resilient approach to embarrassment.  “I contend that if we can take on a topic like embarrassment and shame, we can come to a richer, more honest, more enabling sense of who we are and what we can do,” he explains.  “So let’s do battle. Let’s name and identify the enemy that can haunt our days, disturb our sleep, put barriers up to learning, and drain joy from our lives—and maybe we can also learn how to rearrange some things in our own head so that we can be more generous toward ourselves.”

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