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The Children You Teach

Using a Developmental Framework in the Classroom

The Children You Teach is a book of stories about students and teachers. But it is also a book about children’s development. Each chapter tells the true story of a child or teacher facing a dilemma. Weaving in research from psychological science, Susan Engel shows how to look at children through a developmental lens, which can change what happens in the classroom, and transform the craft of teaching.

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The Children You Teach is a book of stories about students and teachers. But it is also a book about children’s development. Each chapter tells the true story of a child or teacher facing a dilemma. Weaving in research from psychological science, Susan Engel shows how to look at children through a developmental lens, which can change what happens in the classroom, and transform the craft of teaching.

Drawing on her many years as a developmental scientist and classroom teacher, Susan applies theories and studies from developmental psychology to the lives of real children. She summarizes the research and data to help teachers understand the way children think, and then shows how teachers can use that knowledge in the classroom.

No plan book or curriculum guide can replace the power and usefulness of thinking about children from a developmental perspective. You can take concrete steps to make child development integral to your daily work with children. Learn to think differently about the children you teach and let your insights guide you as you help them grow.

 

(click any section below to continue reading)

Susan Engel on the Heinemann Podcast

In Depth

This book is a collection of stories about real children and teachers. But it is also about children’s development. Each chapter tells a story about one particular child, teacher, or classroom dilemma. No child can be understood just by thinking about one issue at a time (for instance, moral development or friendship). No classroom challenge can be solved only by looking at how mathematical knowledge is acquired, or by tracing the steps that lead to literacy. So, each chapter integrates several topics, which, when put together, can illuminate the classroom or the child. 

The chapters are not similar to one another. Some are short; some are long. Some cover many different topics in developmental science and others zero in on just a few. Some have happy endings. A few do not. Some highlight the impressive ingenuity and insight of teachers, and others describe the missteps even the best teachers can make. Any teacher reading this book will identify with some of the teaching practices and might be put off by others, thinking, “I would never do that.” I have described a wide range of actual teachers and approaches, not just the best ones. I think that conveys a more realistic picture of real teachers and real schools. You may encounter suggestions for approaches you’ve already been following for years, perhaps without knowing the developmental science that explains why they work. My goal here is not to romanticize or demonize teachers, but to provide a clear-eyed look at how the practice of good teaching can and should be based on a rich understanding of what goes on in classrooms and how children develop. 

In the table of contents, along with each chapter title I mention the topics in developmental psychology that you will encounter in that story. You can read just the chapter that speaks to the issues you are concerned with. But if you read all of the chapters, I hope you will end up with more than the sum of the parts. Taken together, they are written to show how looking at children through a developmental lens can change what happens in the classroom and can transform the craft of teaching, making it better for everyone involved. 

At the end of the book, I have included a user’s manual. It lays out the ideas and suggestions contained in the preceding chapters, offering concrete methods for using a developmental framework to guide your teaching. This book is nothing like most of the practical guides teachers are often encouraged to use. I’ve included very few lists and fewer instructions. But my hope is that it will be one of the most practical and useful books you’ll come across for your work as a teacher. Feel free to look at the Epilogue first, if it will make each story more helpful to you. Once you have finished the book, I hope you will look at and interact with your students and classroom in a new way. But what I hope most is that it will help you to think differently about the children you teach.

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