It is hard to think of where to start when wrapping up my discussion of LouAnne Johnson’s Teaching Outside the Box. I guess I could start with my own admission that she helped inspire me to becoming a teacher and mentor for our youth. I can only hope that I can be half as good as her. I was in my teens when Dangerous Minds came out. I loved the movie. Though I am sure that filmmakers took several liberties with the story, the character played by Michelle Pfeiffer became a hero of mine, one of many. I did not know about the person behind the character until reading this book. After reading the note about Louanne Johnson on the book’s cover, and a few pages of text, I began hearing Gangster’s Paradise
by Coolio. His song was with me every page I turned… And, again she is a hero of mine.
Though this book mirrors Harry Wong’s The First Days of School, LouAnne Johnson has some wonderful ideas and stories that she shares with readers. She spends a great deal of time discussing the procedures and various other classroom management techniques, but where she separates herself from Wong is the presentation of how certain techniques engage students on cognitive and metacognitive levels.
I found the Chapter 9 that discussed food especially interesting. Many of my students are on a free or reduced lunch program, it is fairly obvious that many of them do not eat well outside of school and it is sad to hear them talk about some of their experiences with food in general. I’ve had many students engage in a debate about Ramen Noodles being a superior dinning experience. That makes me ask as opposed to what?
I had the pleasure of traveling with members of my high school’s football team, for which I am an assistant coach, to Minneapolis, MN to play in a seven on seven tournament. Our small school didn’t fare well versus the larger city schools and we were eliminated after two games. We were able to spend the remainder of the day taking in sights and visiting the Mall of America. At the mall some of our kids got food from Dairy Queen, the only fast food place in our town. They could have eaten at any of probably hundreds of restaurants and they hurried to get in line for DQ. The same kids bought out the Raman Noodles from the vending machine in our hotel and stayed up half the night watching TV and eating noodles.
I bring this up because there is shockingly high rate of diabetes and obesity. My students complain about not being allowed to drink sodas and eat things like chips for snacks during the school day. Johnson spends a great deal of this chapter discussing the negative impacts of aspartame and high fructose corn syrup. She make a strong argument that both should be avoided and again tells a wonderful story about her experiences, this time of having a fuzzy brain whilst playing Scrabble online after consuming a sweat tea with high fructose corn syrup. Not a very scientific testing means, but when paired with the discussion of the science she makes another great point.
All in all, I loved this book. I was lucky enough to buy it and undoubtedly I will refer to it several times in my future.