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The Essential 55    by Ron Clark order for
Essential 55
by Ron Clark
Order:  USA  Can
Hyperion, 2003 (2003)

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The author (an acclaimed educator) shares a handbook of life lessons about 'how we live, interact with others, and appreciate life'. He has used them successfully with students but recommends them to all ages. They derive from the extended family influences of his own childhood, especially from his five foot tall Southern grandmother. This is a book of interest to other teachers, to students and to their parents.

The 55 rules address topics like respect, emphasizing the positive, encouraging the achievements of others, tolerance of different points of view, handling of rewards, treating school work and its deadlines like a job, standing up for beliefs, and dealing with bullying. They teach how to be an active participant in any endeavour, how to get along with others and to communicate appropriately in a group. They cover phone, bus, door, field trip, food and washroom etiquette, amongst other similar topics. Since I have two sons whose answer to questions about their school day is typically 'Fine' or 'Ok', I especially appreciated Rule 14 to respond in 'complete sentences out of respect for the person's question' - but everyone will find something to which they can relate in here.

Any child and parent would be fortunate to have a teacher in their lives like the author, whose rules are sound and sensible. They incorporate discipline tempered by empathy, which is my only concern about general applicability, since someone who implemented them without the same warmth and empathic skills would only be left with the discipline, ineffective on its own. At the back of the book are tips for teachers for dealing with kids and with parents, setting punishments and rewards.

Ron Clark ends by giving us his perspective that 'life is all about experiences, the ones you make for yourself and the ones you make for others.' He has clearly made memorable ones for his own students and generously shares his approaches in The Essential 55.

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