Inspiring the Best in Students

Inspiring the Best in Students

Inspiring the Best in Students

Inspiring the Best in Students


How can teachers connect with and motivate students to embrace learning? According to Jonathan C. Erwin, the secret lies in forging positive relationships with students by meeting their individual social-emotional needs.

Inspiring the Best in Students includes step-by-step instructions for dozens of classroom activities for grades 3-12 that help build student-teacher relationships while teaching both content and skills. Also included is a thorough overview of William Glasser's Choice Theory and such core teaching and learning concepts as internal control psychology and total behavior.

The more students are given the freedom to make choices in a safe environment while also having fun, the more their enthusiasm for learning deepens. By following the advice in this book, you can ensure that the students in your class will remain engaged and inspired to achieve their best.


Inspiring the Best in Students was born out of my 23 years working with children and adolescents, first as an English teacher, drama director, and coach; next as a staff development specialist; and finally as an education consultant, often invited to work with schools’ most challenging students. I entered the classroom in 1986, well prepared to teach English, but not nearly as well prepared to teach kids. My preparation focused more on teaching content than on understanding how to connect with, motivate, and manage adolescents. Most of my education courses were theoretical survey classes, with little exposure to real children until student teaching, which was during my last semester. Needless to say, there was a lot of “on-the-job training.”

During my first few years of teaching, I gradually started to understand the fascinating challenges that adolescents present: their drive to challenge, critique, and eventually separate from the adults in their life; their constant testing of the limits imposed on them; their lack of impulse control; and the ongoing drama involving relationships with their peers. Then one summer, I took an intensive course in what is now known as choice theory (Glasser, 1998). For me, as for many of the teachers I’ve worked with over the years, choice theory articulates a philosophy of teaching that resonated, one based on positive relationships and inspiration instead of power and control.

I first applied choice theory to my classroom by using the ideas to create a needs-satisfying learning environment, characterized by positive relationships, student voice and choice, and differentiated, engaging teaching and learning strategies. I explain this process in detail in my first book, The Classroom of . . .

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