Impressive... He listens.
This is the creative process, the stuff of art... Has exuberantly blazed new trails in education.
- Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Bernie Schein is a fire-carrier and a bliss-follower. He has altered almost every life he has touched with his light.
- Anne Rivers Siddon, author of Off Season
My Teaching Philosophy
What you see with the pre- and early teen is what you get, which is why parents and teachers throw up their hands in despair, fantasizing wildly about leaves-of absences from parenting and furloughs from teaching. Even therapists shun them, making tracks for the back door at their approach.What you see, however, and what you get, is not really them, not who they truly are which once discovered, reveals them to be far more creative, intelligent and loving than conventional wisdom allows.
Myths abound: they won't "open up"; not true, they're dying to. They want to "separate" from their parents; not true, they crave intimacy with them. They are close only with their friends; not true, they're too busy trying to out-do and impress them.
By now, life's ritual family problems, social problems, identity issues, perceived failures of ambition-most normal, some less so-have threatened and frightened them;. To a degree, innocence has been lost. Despite appearances to the contrary, their guard is up. It is because the daring eager child they once were is so removed from their psyches that they no longer know who they are, which at this point is little more than a gaggle of defense mechanisms, a rookery of symptoms. They have lost their identity, and thus the source of their inspiration, which itself catapults love, creativity and intelligence over a thousand classrooms, curricula and standardized tests (the latter of which Leaves Every Child Behind, whether or not they do well on them).
So the primary, fundamental question, is not, as conventional educators would have it, What do our kids need to know? Rather it is Who are they? How might we help bring them out? Socially, Emotionally, creatively, intellectually? Contrary to conventional Western thought, the answer is as old as art: Emotion, True Emotion. Once they discover what they truly feel, they discover themselves, who they really are and what they really want. From the Truth of feelings, reason can prevail. The result: intimacy, wisdom, and work that will knock your socks off.
From the Introduction by Pat Conroy, Best-Selling Author of The
Water is Wide
"Bernie is one of the funniest men I've ever met, one of the greatest teachers I've ever watched, one of the best writing teachers I've ever met... has proved invaluable to me over the course of a long career... reads my work with tenderness, devotion and an all-seeing critical eye. Judicious. But his true genius lies in his ability to praise. No one can praise you like Bernie Schein. No one.
No one can teach a book better than Bernie Schein. In his writing class he was masterful... would coax stories from his kids that were the finest things ever written by seventh graders... he did it by complete immersion into the emotional and spiritual life of any child who walked into his classroom.
...charismatic, wide-eyed and controversial. The great men always are, and Bernie Schein is the best I've ever seen.
If Holden Caulfield Were in My Classroom is astonishing and original... does not tell you how to teach, but tells you how to live, how to feel deeply, how to enrich your time on earth.
...part philosophy, part self-help guide, a text of revelation, and an ode to the beauty of law and the wisdom of justice.
I was a frequent visitor to Bernie's classes. I know every kid that he writes about. I read their stories. They were lucky to encounter as very young people a man on fire.
Bernie Schein has been a life-changing force in my life. Now, with this book, he
can be one in yours."
For Parents: A Workshop to Go with If Holden Caulfield Were in My Classroom
Are your kids open to reading, writing, strong, healthy relationships in
which they can truly discover, develop and express who they really are? Kids'
relationships with parents, as we know, carry over into those with siblings, peers,
teachers and coaches, and vice-versa. Yet when they need you, rarely do they express it openly and honestly and directly. They rarely, at this age, walk up to you and volunteer,
"Hi Dad, I'm screwed up. Can you help me?" (In fact the reason conventional therapy often fails them is that they expect the therapist to read their minds, just like they do you. Passivity to them is indifference.)
No, they usually express their emotional needs passively-aggressively, through picking arguments over trivialities, poor school performance, provocative attire, blame, sarcasm, sullenness, withdrawal, negativity, The Silent Treatment, putting you down, "playing the victim", guilt-tripping, scapegoating siblings, pissing you off in a thousand little ways that push your buttons--dirty towels all over the bathroom floor, bread crumbs wherever the television or computer is located, peanut butter and jelly left out and open on kitchen counters, holding off chores just long enough for you to yell at them (then blaming you for yelling)-- and of course the dreaded usual suspects: cutting, anorexia, bulimia, drinking, smoking, drugs, suicide threats, violence, theft, etc.
It's possible the only thing you're doing wrong basically is failing to see them as who they truly are, which is impossible, since don't they as yet don't see themselves as they truly are.
Yet their issues are (or were) ours: identity crises, failures of ambition (a bad grade, not making the basketball team or getting a part in school musical), sexuality, friendship, romance, unrequited love, mistaking "popularity" for intimacy (as we do social status), sibling rivalry, moving/relocating too often, divorced parents, stepparents, inattention from parents who work all the time, shyness, peer pressure, parental pressure, exposure to abuse, neglect, abandonment, bullying. All of us, at one point or
another in our childhoods, have suffered humiliation and rejection, whether real or perceived. Sadly and inevitably, it's a natural part of growing up. For example, sibling rivalry, certainly in most normal healthy families, is inevitable; that, however, makes it no less traumatic. It could be the reason that ten years later the older kid is always
"too busy" to play catch or go camping with his dad. If Dad's a mathematician, it could be the reason the kids always falls just short of excellence in his math class. If Dad, on the other hand, is an avid reader, the kid might be a compulsive television watcher, and so on...
What's important is the kid usually doesn't realize what he's doing or why he's doing it. This is where he needs help. Neither does his dad (or Mom). They're too busy fighting off the symptoms, as well as their guilt and frustration. This is where they need help. In fact, this is probably where just about everyone needs it. There's so much love and devotion here, however ironically expressed, and everyone's so involved with each other they can't see their way out. So it is with almost every trauma, those natural and inevitable (and essential for the child's maturity) and those, like abuse and neglect, which are not.
Each, however, is a notch in the belt of Lost Innocence, making the child
more guarded and self-conscious, less willing to truly risk himself, to be open truly to people and learning, despite the attitude of indifference or bravado or even glad-handing or overzealousness he presents to the world. Even overachieving, as we now know, if done for the wrong reason--as a substitute for intimacy, for example--will catch up with him only to leave him stranded.
So who is he, deep down? To find out, as parents we must look back at our own childhoods, at the memories and events that shaped us and made us who we are today, at the way we behave and why we behave the way we do. Otherwise, we add to the child's fears by projecting ours onto him. What really are our strengths and weaknesses? Were we really such hot stuff as kids? Are we now? Did we express Truth openly and directly to Strength and Power? To our parents? Do we now? If not, were we shamed, or just taught otherwise? Have we treated our kids similarly? If our kids are afraid to get mad at us openly and honestly, how can we expect them to be other than passive-aggressive?
Do we expect too much from our kids, perhaps to compensate for our own deficiencies, or too little? Do we truly know our kids? Can we, if we're vague (or in denial) as to who we really are? Remember, even with a cognitive issue like learning disabilities or A. D. D., the denial of it, on the parent's (or child's) part, is much more difficult to deal with than the disability or attention deficit itself. So is it them we're concerned with, ourselves, both? A natural confusion, but let's clarify.
So the purpose of If Holden Caulfield Were in My Classroom, as well as this workshop, is to help you remember, to enable your mind to unreel like a tape recorder, to see yourselves as you truly were, so you can see your kids as they truly are.
Otherwise, your own fears obfuscate your view, just as theirs do their views. Recognition of who they truly are is what brings them out, just as it's what
brings you out. The result is intimacy, the wisdom that comes from it, a lack
of self-consciousness, an openness to learning and discovery, and an eagerness
to express oneself truly, with courage, humor, sensitivity and insight.
To see the world as it is, and to express what you see, results in a potentially better world for all of us, not only for you and your kids, but for your grandkids...