This review is a compensated post funded by the author. All opinions are ours alone.
Dan Henderson first approached us a few months ago to read and review his new book That’s Special – A Survival Guide to Teaching. The name is the first thing that intrigued us, as thoughts of Saturday Night Live’s The Church Lady initially came to mind. We kind of laughed that off until we spoke further with Dan and realized that the title was actually inspired by that famous quote!
Now close your eyes and place yourself in your classroom, perhaps in your first few years of teaching, surrounded by some, shall we say…interesting or even surprising behaviors. Now isn’t that special?!! Understand the title now? 🙂
Dan also immediately warned us that his book was “edgy”. We weren’t quite sure what he meant by that, but after just a few chapters we understood completely. This book is not for the easily offended. It is for the realistic teacher who understands what it could mean to teach in tough surroundings, with very little training on how to deal with students who exhibit tough behaviors.
Before we go on, we feel the need to share just a few of the things Dan told us about himself and the book:
- The stories are from his years working in a Title 1 school where teachers were not given adequate training.
- He says he did not hold back about what happened to him. He agrees that, yes, the stories are outrageous, but someone needed to tell the truth of how challenging teaching can be at times.
- The core message of his book is to support new teachers with humor while giving practical teaching tools. Through humor, he wanted to let new teachers know to persevere (if they are in similar environments).
He also shared this with us, which we feel will help you to get to know Dan a little better: “My ultimate goal is to give 10% back or more to the Boys and Girls Club of America or programs that support young teachers. We need more mentors in my schools. Can I get a hallelujah!? Getting off my soapbox, I welcome you to my brain, proceed with caution. I promise you will come out the other side of the book unscathed.” Though we have never met him in person, can’t you just sense his personality from that?! 🙂
Now for the review…
This is not your everyday “how to” for teachers. Though many of those offer a lot, we found that this book also offered good advice, but was presented in a much different format than others we have read. Each chapter begins with a scenario and what reads like a “case study” of a student that Dan struggled with for whatever reason. These are delivered in very humorous ways, which admittedly at times took a second read to really take in and understand, but were very funny nonetheless. As much as you want to cringe at the brutal honesty, teachers with some experience will most likely also find themselves relating to many of the situations in one way or another and even chuckling at how Dan handled them.
And as for the “brutal honesty” we have referred to…two things in particular are what we are talking about. First, there is some language that some might find offensive. To be fair, in most cases he is quoting words from a student, but it is something you need to prepare yourself for if foul language bothers you. Secondly, Dan is completely honest in how he dealt with specific situations – the good and the bad of dealing with them. Keep in mind he doesn’t state that what he did was necessarily the right thing to do, but that it was done. (Those were the cringe-worthy parts in our opinion.)
Each scenario is followed by Dan’s learning and advice for other teachers who may face similar students or surroundings. In some situations it is a retrospective learning and in others he offers up actions that he felt worked well for him.
All that said, probably the most wonderful thing about this book IS its refreshing honesty. It is real. It also offers great advice, especially for new teachers (or experienced teachers who find themselves in uncharted territory). In many of the chapters in one way or another, Dan speaks of getting to know students better, and we feel that forming relationships with students is key to success with classroom management, no matter what types of behaviors are present.
So check out Dan’s book. As he offered to us “proceed with caution”, but we don’t think you’ll be sorry – especially if you are struggling right now in your classroom with specific students. His book might just be what saves your sanity (or what’s left of it!).
If you’d like to purchase Dan’s book, click here: That’s Special by Dan Henderson