THE TEACHER IS THE KEY
Volume 10 Number 4.
Ken Weber currently chairs the department of special education at the University of Toronto, and he has taught at both the elementary and secondary levels. He is a prolific producer of both books (e.g., Yes, They Can?) and research articles, usually focusing on the adolescent with learning difficulties. This book, the first in a series edited by Weber, is intended as a practical guide for teachers of such adolescents, but it would be valuable reading for any teacher, or indeed for any educator.
Several things stand out about this book. As usual, Weber's writing is clear, concise, and downright entertaining. The reader is aware from the outset that the author knows these children, not just the specific children described in the many (maybe too many) brief case histories sprinkled throughout the book, but all of the angry, frustrated adolescents sitting in our classrooms day after day, absorbing precious little. These children, to quote Weber, "can't or won't play the game of school." One is also aware that the author knows how to reach these children. His purpose is to pass along some of that knowledge.
Most of what is in this book is very good, but some of the chapters are excellent. Specifically, Chapters Six and Seven, which cover the structuring of teacher-directed and group-discussion lessons, are invaluable. Chapter Four describes Weber's very useful "SETSEM" teaching model, which is, despite some nasty comments about behaviourists early in the book, a variation of the Precision Teaching approach, which, of course, sprang full grown from the breast of behaviour modification.
The only weak chapters, in my opinion are the final two, Eight and Nine. The former discusses the teaching of thinking strategies and owes much of its approach to that of Reuven Feuerstein's Instrumental Enrichment. The treatment of the problem is too brief, however, and does not lay sufficient theoretical groundwork. Many readers will mistakenly view Chapter Eight, therefore, as a simple collection of games to exercise mental muscles, much the way we tended to view old-fashioned poetry memory work. The ninth and final chapter addresses the issue of classroom management and basically asserts that if the teacher is teaching the material correctly and effectively behaviour problems will practically disappear. This is naive at best. One cannot help feeling that Weber is one of those charismatic, dynamic individuals who has never encountered a behaviour problem he could not overcome simply by virtue of his enthusiasm and personality. To assume that all teachers are as gifted gives a new dimension to the concept of optimism. In fact, Weber makes this same mistake in several areas of the book, always displaying amazing faith in the ability of the average teacher to observe, analyse, deduce, etc. An error made, I suppose, on the side of the angels.
Every teacher should read this book. It is more than a handy guide or reference book. It is also a pep talk that will leave you feeling proud of your profession and slightly in awe of the central importance of the job you do. And rightly so.
Glenn DiPasquale, York County Board of Education, Newmarket, ON.
1971-1979 | 1980-1985 | 1986-1990 | 1991-1995
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