‘Hanging in with Kids’ in Tough Times – Smyth, Down, and McInerney

This is another book I “read” (i.e. skimmed) as part of my research on teaching kids in poverty/who are “at-risk.” The authors are Australian, so it was interesting to see their take on American education and how Australia compares. At the same time, Australia and the US were grouped together as being “Western countries” along with Canada and the UK in that our education systems face similar difficulties. Definitely not the greatest book I read as it had less specific information about reaching this demographic and more generalities stated over and over.

Some (paraphrased) gems include: hanging in with kids

  • people don’t like to talk about class, but if we want students to understand the world and society, we’ve got to.
  • colleges don’t prepare teachers to teach students who live in poverty
  • we’re taught that hard work = success, but that is rarely the case, so when people from low socio-economic statuses don’t succeed in life, we blame them, not the system.
  • use and love parents! They love their kids and want to help but often don’t know how to be engaged in school or how to help their students with homework.
  • every 29 seconds, a kid drops out of school in America. Think about that for a sec.
  • teach students relevant information and useful skills (which is true for all students, not just ones “at-risk”).
  • bridge the gap between schools and community by doing service projects and generally getting students out in the real world doing work that matters (there were some examples in the book, but all you excited readers will have to wait until I write my paper…or just read this book…the citation is below).
  • teach what students know and are influenced by, including media and music.
  • teach students not to accept the faults of society but to change them.
  • assess students in meaningful ways through demonstration of skills, experiments, exhibitions, etc.

Smyth, J., Down, B., & McInerney, P. (2010). ‘Hanging in with kids’ in tough times: Engagement in contexts of educational disadvantage in the relational school. New York, NY: Peter Lang.


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