Book Review

Teaching Difficult Students: Blue Jays in the Classroom

by Nicole Gnezda, Rowman and Littlefield Education, Lanham, Md., 2005, 144 pp., $19.95 softcover

Nicole Gnezda does an excellent job of exploring the nature of our hard-to-reach students, the blue jays in our classrooms. Her book is a discussion of approaches for reaching them from a humanistic point of view.

The author’s 27 years in the classroom as an art instructor have provided her with numerous stories and insights of how educators can work with our most disruptive and troubled young people today. Gnezda makes use of educational psychology with step-by-step instructions on discipline to show how blue jay students can be taught effectively.

Teaching Difficult Students would be good reading for teachers and principals, especially as they look for ways to communicate with those students whose in-school behavior is so deeply connected to the difficulties in their personal lives.

Gnezda points out no magic changes are readily available to those who teach our blue jay students. However, she adds, there will be slowly developing improvements in the quality of our classroom relationships and attitudes if we follow her 10 effective but compassionate discipline strategies.

By getting to know their basic psychological needs and identifying their dysfunctional behaviors we can take steps necessary to find positive solutions.

Gnezda asks educators to reconsider our assumptions about disciplining disruptive students. Negative reinforcement often builds on the deficits our blue jay students already have. She recommends a more humane notion of student discipline and offers step-by-step instructions on how she thinks it should be done.

Reviewed by David Smette, superintendent, Jamestown Public Schools, Jamestown, N.D.