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Teaching the Whole Teen

Teaching the Whole Teen
Everyday Practices That Promote Success and Resilience in School and Life

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August 2016 | 288 pages | Corwin

How can you help teens thrive now and for life? Support them as whole learners.

Developing independence and shared responsibility. Collaborating and communicating effectively. Establishing valuable work habits. Harnessing emotions. Finding motivation. We all want teens to acquire these vital skills and engage meaningfully in academics. In this insightful and culturally responsive guide, Poliner and Benson integrate these lifelong skills into daily practices through

  • Practical applications for diverse populations in every class, advisory, team, or club
  • The latest research on best practices from adolescent psychology, neuroscience, mental health, and school climate
  • Tools for teachers, administrators, counselors, and parents to help teens succeed now and later in school, home, workplace, and community.

Teaching the Whole Teen supports adolescents and adults within the school to thrive.

Check out this interview with BlogTalkRadio!

"This treasure-trove of inventive, concrete ideas offers a gift to our profession."
Roland Barth, Educator

“…the book to turn to when you are working with teens, when you desperately need help, when seeking solace.”
John Hattie, Professor & Director, Melbourne Education Research Institute
University of Melbourne

"…explicitly addresses the unique needs of students of color, students from poverty, and immigrant students in ways that other books don't; should be read by every middle and high school educator."
Zaretta Hammond, Educational Consultant

“…manifests the best thinking in modern education”
Rick Wormeli, Teacher, Writer, Education Consultant

"What a treat to read! Every principal will benefit from reading it."
Thomas Hoerr, Emeritus Head
New City School, St. Louis, MO

About the Authors
Part I. Seeing the Whole Teen
Chapter 1. The Whole Teen Comes Into the School
Chapter 2. The Whole Teen Comes Into a Dominant Culture
Part II. Everyday Practices
Chapter 3. Connecting to Adults and Peers, Not Just to Academics
Chapter 4. Creating a Culture of Shared Responsibility, Not Just Obeying
Chapter 5. Learning Collaboratively, Not Just Nearby
Chapter 6. Communicating Effectively, Not Just Mumbling, Exploding, Avoiding, or Texting
Chapter 7. Managing Work and Developing a Work Ethic, Not Just Passing or Cramming
Chapter 8. Developing Emotional Skillfulness Proactively, Not Just Reactively
Chapter 9. Becoming More Independent, Not Just Alone
Chapter 10. Connecting Lessons to Life, Not Just to Tests
Part III. The Whole School Surrounds the Whole Teen
Chapter 11. Leaders Set the Tone for Themselves and Others
Chapter 12. Schoolwide Structures, Practices, and Policies That Support the Whole Teen
Chapter 13. Faculty Culture That Supports the Whole Teen
Chapter 14. The Novice Teacher Comes Into the School
Appendix: Formats and Facilitation Tools


"Teaching the Whole Teen  provides educators and administrators a comprehensive resource for teaching our diverse student population. The authors cohesively weave together the various principles of working with a myriad of diverse student populations including those that are often overlooked by other authors and educational researchers. Educators who are interested in elevating their practice and increasing authentic student engagement from theory into action should read this book."

Lisa Graham, MA, NBCT - Director, Special Education
Berkeley Unified School District

"If you think Teaching the Whole Teen is just another book about how to communicate with teenagers, then think again. Poliner and Benson have written a manual for how to provide social-emotional support in culturally responsive ways. It explicitly addresses the unique needs of students of color, students from poverty, and immigrant students in ways that other books don't. It is full of practice tools and clear guidance. This book should be read by every middle and high school educator."

Zaretta Hammond, Educational Consultant

"Finally, we have a book that applies the 'whole child' concept to the turbulent teenage years. In Teaching the Whole Teen, Rachel Poliner and Jeffrey Benson provide high school principals and teachers with a hands-on guide that applies the lessons of neuroscience and social-emotional learning to support healthy adolescent development and maximize learning."

James Harvey, Executive Director
National Superintendents Roundtable

“Teaching and raising teens can be both fun and fiery! Poliner and Benson use the latest research to inform educators and parents about how to teach the teen, basing their work on the “whole person,” and teens do change and become interesting people! This is the book to turn to when you are working with students during the teen years, when you desperately need help now, and when you are seeking solace.”

John Hattie, Professor of Education & Director of the Melbourne Education Research Institute
University of Melbourne

"What a treat to read! Poliner and Benson have created a treasure-trove of insights and strategies to improve teaching and leading. Their work is pragmatic and based on an appreciation and understanding of how teenagers learn and schools function. I was particularly struck by the specific strategies for principals. They are designed to facilitate both student and teacher growth. This book is interesting, informative, and insightful.

The authors recognize that successful change doesn’t come from mandates. Rather, meaningful change is an organic process that is only effective when we approach problems through collaboration and with respect. Every principal, regardless of the kind of school that she leads or his years of experience, will benefit from reading it."

Thomas R. Hoerr, PhD, Emeritus Head
New City School in St. Louis, MO

In Teaching the Whole Teen, Rachel Poliner and Jeffrey Benson lay out a treasure trove of insights and reminders about what makes adolescents tick, and what that means for those who work with them each day. As our schools regain a sense of the primacy of social-emotional development, educators at any level will appreciate these tools, tips and helpful prompts to bring out the best in relationships for learning for all students. There’s plenty here as well for parents, counselors and district leaders from two people with a deep sense of schools and the inextricable bond between growing and learning.

Larry Myatt, President of Education Resources Consortium & Founding Principal
Fenway High School, Boston

"In their book Teaching the Whole Teen, Poliner and Benson provide the reader with practical applications that support student success in and outside the classroom. Grounded in solid research and contemporary thinking, their book reminds us that we are not only responsible for educating the minds of students, but we also have the opportunity to establish the conditions necessary for them to reach their fullest social and personal potential. Let there be no doubt, we have the ability to make a real difference in the lives of young people and this book provides a solid framework to lead the way."

Russell J. Quaglia, President & Founder
Quaglia Institute For Student Aspirations

"Implementing SEL skills into the secondary grades can feel contrived and artificial, and many secondary teachers don’t feel adequately trained or equipped to teach these skills. Finally the mountains of brain research that all teachers need to know and use have been put into a very useful and easy-to-read guide. Teaching the Whole Teen creates authentic ways to teach SEL skills that secondary curriculum almost always lacks. Rachel Poliner and Jeffery Benson have put together the perfect guide to teach secondary students the skills they need for life!"

Andrea Ramirez, School Improvement Facilitator
James Bowie High School

"Those of us striving to help educators re-envision family engagement as a partnership between home and school have been given a powerful gift in Teaching the Whole Teen. The authors’ suggestions of complementary strategies for school and home speak to the importance of adults working together to support youth, and provide tools for how to get there.

As both a parent of a teen and a school-family engagement professional, I was thrilled to find Teaching the Whole Teen. The roles that educators and families play in supporting the development of young people in every aspect of their lives can be either integrated and supportive or in conflict and disruptive. This book provides educators with strategies to ensure that students are encouraged to bring their cultures and communities into the classroom in order to be truly known and supported in school and to make the most of their educational experiences.

By providing strategies for all of the adults in a young person’s life, both at home and at school, Teaching the Whole Teen makes it clear that we all have a role to play in supporting students’ personal and academic growth. The examples and strategies in this book will transform classrooms and welcome families into schools to build cohesive communities with the shared goal of helping youth become their best selves – for life."

Ann M. Walsh, Chief of Family Engagement

"Teaching the Whole Teen is a wonderfully practical guide for educators who aspire to promote the social, emotional, and academic competence of middle- and high-school students. It offers compelling strategies for engaging, motivating, and inspiring young people (the “what” and “how”) and rationales for applying them (the “why”). This important book should be used in pre-service and in-service professional learning for teachers, administrators, and counselors. It will help them in their quest to educate knowledgeable, responsible, caring, and contributing young people.”

Roger P. Weissberg, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor of Psychology and Education
University of Illinois at Chicago

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