Square Peg is a book written by L. Todd Rose with Katherine Ellison, and if you are dealing with a child who struggles in a conventional school setting, you need to read this book. I can’t say that enough.
Todd had an awful childhood. Diagnosed with ADHD later in his childhood, he finished his K-12 career by dropping out of high school. Sadly, that choice was a relief to many. Todd got into SO much trouble in school and at home. If it weren’t for a supremely patient and supportive mother, he could well have ended up in prison.
Instead, he earned a Doctorate at Harvard and is now a professor there, teaching a course on educational neuroscience.
He is also co-chair of the Connecting the Mind, Brain, and Education Institute at Harvard. The transformation from problem child to respected scientist is truly astonishing, especially for me. When I was teaching in the public school, the “bad” kids were my domain. I so wish I could have read this book 20 years ago. I may not have been much more effective at my job, but I would have had so much more empathy and understanding for my students.
It’s not often that we can sympathize with a bully, but Todd Rose helps readers do just that. He doesn’t excuse or justify any of his bad choices, but he does explain them. Throughout the book he ties his own experiences in with what we’re learning about brain development. He also gives readers takeaway ideas at the end of each chapter.
Reading this book really rocked me to the core, and I found myself wishing I could open up my own boys’ heads and pour my new insights into their brains. It’s just so much easier to try and deal with this population when you have a better insight into what may be going on in their heads. My own boys aren’t difficult on the level described (or compared to what I saw when I was teaching), but they could be so much more supportive and helpful with peers going through the same troubles.
This book really should be required reading in any college or university teacher-prep program. It’s that helpful.
Todd spends a good deal of time explaining what solutions helped him, and what kinds of trends and technology can help kids today. I truly hope that the vision he outlines comes to be. So many children can be helped.
A favorite quote is from the book, when Todd is reflecting on his life now:
The bottom line is that it’s not as if I’ve managed to extinguish all the feelings of anger, sadness, shame, self-blame, and fear, which still reliably arise whenever I do something dumb-and much less that I’ve actually stopped doing dumb things. nor am I convinced that I’d want to, since sometimes such feelings can be helpful. The difference is that I’m more prepared to cope with them when they do arise, and to remind myself, as often as I need to, that any one behavior or mistake does not define me.
If you have a child with behavior problems in your life, you’d be doing yourself a huge favor by reading Square Peg.
Disclosure: the Amazon link above is not an affiliate link. I did get a free copy of this book to review, and I will be strongly recommending it to anyone I encounter who would benefit from reading it. The book is that good.