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Shine In Your Own Way:
Inspiration for Parents of Failing Kids
by Nancy Gill
 
Reviews

Failure in grades is not always the failure of the student. "Shine in Your Own Way: Inspiration for Parents of Failing Kids" is a discussion of many of the problems with modern education and how parents can keep up their hopes for a better tomorrow and pass that inspiration onto their failing children. "Shine in Your Own Way" discusses the problems with education: recommended.

The Midwest Book Review, Oregon, WI.......

Shine In You Own Way, Inspiration for Parents of Failing Kids, is Nancy Gill's riveting, compelling account of her innate ability to create a learning climate in which reading and writing become natural, interesting, meaningful, playful and fun for children, teenagers and even college students.

During her thirty-plus years as a college professor of English, Nancy spent more than twenty of them visiting public schools in the counties surrounding her college. She wanted to see why even children regarded as the smartest by their schools dreaded English and doubted the value of their own minds.

Eventually, Nancy took early retirement to tutor troubled kids. Having learned initially from her own childhood experiences, she had now gained new understandings. She discovered that at a very early age a child's grief, loneliness, and longing were in part balanced by a joyous and affirming sense of playfulness that continues to reach out to encourage others whose lives were often more painful than her own.

Shine In Your Own Way reveals how her undaunted avowal for life, deep wisdom, understanding, empathy, and humility continue to cause dysfunctional children and teenagers to gravitate towards her, trust her, as they become successful students by finding space, meaning and joy in learning and life.

Whether a third grader who played imaginary battles with his Pokemon characters while jumping on a trampoline, or college students who couldn't read, Nancy found unique and creative ways to reach them. In the case of Jake, instead of dragging him from his fighting games on the trampoline, she went to him. Explaining she had left her tape recorder at home, she asked him to take little breaks while she wrote down his battle stories. Before her next session with this boy who could barely read, she typed up his story - four pages. Sitting at the family's kitchen table, she said: "This is not a test and it is not a race. This is your story. I wonder if you would go through it and underline words that look familiar to you and then read them out loud."

As his parents watched from the kitchen doorway, they were amazed that with only a little help from Nancy, he read the story from beginning to end. Nancy worked with him for two years. When he was a seventh grader, his mother sent her a note that Jake was labeled a genius and been asked to take the SATs.

With her junior, college students who couldn't read but wanted to become elementary school teachers, Nancy refused to send them a reading specialist for fear that she would become one more person who would pass them on to someone else. Instead, she asked each to tape-record their chosen story and then meet with her in her office to devise an individualized strategy for learning to read the story. Although they began their first of four projects, a visit an elementary school, only after each student learned to read, they completed all projects successfully.

Nancy is absolutely correct when she explains why "public school is simply not a place where all children should go." Since schools would have to stretch to fit most children, when the going gets tough they tend to contract. They squish children by developing more restrictions, obstacles, tests, policies, statistics, and justifications. Rather Nancy models the ideal parent and the ultimate image for a community of learners. Her "first goal is always to help the child feel confident in his or her mind, just the way it is, and to help the child enjoy his or her mind just the way it is.

What this approach says to the child is that he or she is not the problem! The problem is the problem! There is nothing wrong with the child!" Nancy is immediately in tune to the needs of each child and teenager she encounters. She creates a space where they can be excited about their own ideas, enjoy sharing them, explore them further, and try some out. She provides the calm, encouraging, non-competitive environment, in which a child does not have to defend his/her learning style or intelligence.

- David O. Solmitz is author of Schooling for Humanity: When Big Brother Isn't Watching, Peter Lang Publishing, NY, 2001.

This is an important and inspired book - important because it is about teaching as an act of listening. But not simply listening - but listening to what is within both children and adults that needs to be listened to and brought to the forefront of consciousness. Nancy Gill is one of those rare and gifted teachers, who, through the artistry of her listening, reminds us over and over again, with the wonderfully sensitive examples she shares with us, of what learning can become when it is based on the primary interests of the learner.

- Richard Lewis, Director, The Touchstone Center for Children and author of Living By Wonder: The Imaginative Life of Childhood

Nancy Gill has conclusively demonstrated in this journal of her work with students who are not thriving in school that the biggest attention deficit in our educational system is that between adult and child. Adults are simply not paying attention. Nancy never loses her focus on the students she works with. She becomes whatever they need a mentor, a friend, an instructor, a reality check and a coach. The results of her efforts are impressive - students who have learned at last how to learn and who have more confidence in themselves, students who begin to sense the future as a possibility, not a dead end.

- Emanuel Pariser, co-founder and co-director for several decades of The Community School in Camden, Maine, a community-supported residential school for high school dropouts

Nancy Gill shows us what "education" would be like if we truly valued and respected young people. She breaks through our culture's limiting assumptions about teaching and learning to reveal that genuine education means engaging in authentic human relationships rooted in empathy, understanding, and acceptance. These moving stories about young people's struggles, aspirations and successes invite us to transcend whatever methods or ideologies we might hold about education.

- Ron Miller, author of What Are Schools For, and Free Schools, Free People

 

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