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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 is an insightful, hopeful, and very practical resource for teachers, parents and schools. The book stays rooted in the day-to-day practice of teaching the whole teen, and it articulates in very doable ways suggestions for how to better support teenagers in their development. It’s accessible, inspiring, and a valuable read for all educators." 

Jennifer Abrams, Educational Consultant
Author of Having Hard Conversations & The Multi-Generational Workplace

"This rich treasure-trove of inventive, concrete and well-grounded ideas offers a gift to our profession and to all who would strengthen the quality of life and learning for young people and adults under the roof of the schoolhouse."

Roland S. Barth, Educator

"An important contribution to the field of SEL with a much-needed focus on teens in middle and high schools - this book highlights the importance of relationships to cognitive and social growth, explicitly teaching SEL skills, and the role of adults as models. Combining research and best practices from multiple disciplines, Poliner and Benson deliver accessible, hands-on tips and tools for educators and educational leaders. Through discussion of theory and helpful anecdotes from a wide range of school settings, this book provides an SEL guide that is culturally relevant for all teen and adult populations. Students and educators will benefit from the holistic approach and practical guidance presented in this book."

Nova Biro, Co-Director
Open Circle

"As a former elementary school principal first in a K-5 setting and then K-8, this book would have been an excellent and valuable resource for understanding teenagers and middle school students.
I found so many practical strategies that I could have used with the students in the K-8 setting and shared with staff that had taught in a K-5 setting and also had to transition."

Gustava Cooper-Baker, Principal

"I sincerely feel that new and veteran teachers will benefit from reading and discussing this book. Readers are guaranteed to reflect upon current practice and be introduced to countless teaching strategies that will improve the educational experience of their students."

David G. Daniels, High School Principal
Susquehanna Valley Senior High School

"Hallelujah! Benson and Poliner have written a book that many educators have been searching for - one that illuminates a pathway to develop important social and emotional skills that all adolescents need to master. There is much available in this domain that focuses on the needs of young children but fewer substantive resources for secondary educators (and parents!) interested in balancing academic accountability with vital skill development in self-efficacy, civic responsibility, and resiliency. These authors demonstrate a deep understanding of adolescent development and use that knowledge to illuminate pathways to strengthen important youth competencies. The authors frame their insights and practical strategies through a lens that is cognizant of the needs of the wide range of diverse learners that populate our modern-day middle and high schools. The book is also filled with thoughtfully crafted teaching lessons that can help educators infuse youth development into classroom work without compromising academic rigor. Additionally, there are pragmatic supports for principals who want to facilitate faculty discussions and parents who want to bring these lessons home. This book is rich with both insights and practical guidance for how we can help teens to become sharp thinkers and caring and contributing citizens."

John D'Auria, President

"Poliner and Benson empower our school communities to lay the foundations, practices, spaces, and rituals to educate the 'whole child.' They walk us through the various lenses students bring with them each day to school--the social, emotional, physical, cognitive, etc.--and how those lenses interact with the cultures and practices in our communities. They provide us ways to foster the positive relationships that lead to students who are resilient and self-aware and ultimately better prepared to navigate the complexities before them. Understanding schools and their leaders, the authors offer practical and accessible tools that can really make a difference. This useful resource will quickly become a go-to guide for planning conversations, faculty meetings, parent education, and self-examining and rethinking our schools."

Roberto D'erizans, Middle School Principal
Graded - The American School of São Paolo (Brazil)

"Teaching the Whole Teen is a gem of a book, one that sparkles with brilliant insights, guidance and invaluable practical resources to support “everyday practices that promote success and resilience in school and life.” Poliner and Benson tap into evidence-based research within the fields of education, psychology (adolescent development), and social neuroscience to compellingly present why and how caring “whole school” environments, anchored by relational trust, can most optimally cultivate adolescents’ positive learning and development in secondary schools. In paying attention to the vital importance of systematically supporting novice teachers’ development of social-emotional skills and stress resilience, the authors attend to practice that is too often de-prioritized in schools. As they rightly assert, “how we support [novice teachers] to persevere and thrive will mirror our success, or failure, to do the same for whole teens.” This book should be required reading for all involved in educator preparation and induction programs, including middle and high school leaders!"

Deborah Donahue-Keegan, Ed.D., Lecturer at Tufts University Department of Education
Co-Director of Massachusetts Consortium for Social-Emotional Learning in Teacher Education

“It is an honor to learn from the wonderful and important beliefs and strategies presented in this book. I will be incorporating many of the ideas in my teaching.”

Lyman Goding, Retired Principal
Plymouth Community Intermediate School Bridgewater State College

"At last we have a courageously written book that focuses on the needs of teens, versus the needs of the school systems. While this concept appears like revolutionary thinking, it is not. This is simply common sense whose time has come. The ideas and concepts advanced in this book promise to engage and motivate all students by strengthening their LOCUS of control, and quality of life."

Jim Grant, Author, Consultant, Founder
Staff Development for Educators (SDE)

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