EDEC 420: Child Development in the Family, School and Community 

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman

  1. Share the excerpt that you brought to class: a passage that you found interesting and explain what it means to you?
  2. How did the teen’s creative writing contribute to their development of identity and their outlook on their future?
  3. Mark Salzman didn’t think that he had the qualities required to be a teacher for incarcerated teens, but he was quite effective. What qualities of teaching and mentoring does Salzman bring into the writing workshops?
  4. What were some of the positive and negative attitudes and behaviors of the different adults who worked in the juvenile hall?
  5. What insights did you gain about the boys’ and girls’ perceptions of gender and race that emerged from the joint writing retreat?
  6. How did the family, school, and community fail the incarcerated youths? What suggestions do you have for ways that teens can be better supported in our society?

The Other Wes Moore

  1. Share the excerpt that you brought to class: a passage that you found interesting and explain what it means to you.
  2. Consider how their fathers’ involvement in their lives affected the two Wes Moores.  Did other male role models take their places? How did their siblings and extended family members influence their lives?  Who are your main influences?
  3. Wes describes attending the private school, Riverdale, as living in two worlds.  Explain how these diametrically different experiences influenced his identity formation.  Did the other Wes also experience conflicting identities?  How so?
  4. On page 82, Wes describes his relationship with his mother, “My desperation for her support was in constant tension with my desperation for independence and freedom.”  Give examples from the book where this is apparent.  How is this changing relationship with his mother similar or dissimilar to other adolescents’ relationships with their parents?
  5. On page 126, the two Wes Moores consider whether their life paths were a product of their environments, expectations, or both.  Find some examples of how these influences played a part in each of the boys’ lives.  How do these influences relate to personal choice and responsibility? 
  6. When Wes lived in South Africa, he compared the transition from adolescence into adulthood in both the U.S. and South Africa.  What are some ways that this is accomplished in both countries?  Who were the people and what were the experiences that guided you as you moved from adolescence to adulthood?
  7. The other Wes continues to claim that he is innocent.  Do you believe that he participated in the crime that he was convicted of?  Why or why not?  What might have been his reasons for getting involved in the robbery?
  8. The story of both Wes Moores forces the reader to question what was different in the lives of both boys that produced such variant outcomes.  What do you think were the reasons that one boy has become a respected and productive adult and the other is in jail for the rest of his life?  In what ways can the family, school and community scaffold children who are at risk or who are falling between the cracks?

The Glass Castle by Jeanette Walls

  1. Share the excerpt that you brought to class: a passage that you found interesting and explain what it means to you?
  2. How did poverty and homelessness impact the lives of Jeannette and her siblings? In what ways could the other adults in their lives (e.g. teachers, neighbors, extended family members) have supported the children more effectively?
  3. Rex Walls asks Jeannette, “Have I ever let you down?” Rose Mary Walls says, “Suffering when you’re young is good for you.” Examine Jeannette’s parents: what qualities and parenting practices did they use that had positive effects on her development and which others had negative effects on her development?
  4. What was Jeannette’s relationship to her siblings? How did the children help each other throughout their childhood and into adulthood? How do you and your siblings support one another?
  5. What did the glass castle represent for Jeannette? How did this image shape her outlook? How did your parents’ dreams and expectations influence your own choices and goals?
  6. Jeannette survived her childhood and was not victimized by her upbringing. What personal qualities and experiences contributed to her resiliency?
  7. In college, Jeannette was confronted by a professor regarding her views on homelessness. What was her perspective? Do you believe that homelessness is a choice?  

Devil in the Details

Glossary of some unfamiliar terms from the book:
Kashrut – dietary laws that are defined in the Jewish faith that restrict diet and food preparation.  E.g. not mixing
meat and dairy; not eating shellfish.  You’ve probably heard someone say, “That’s not kosher” which actually means it wasn’t prepared following kashrut guidelines.
Traif – not kosher
Shabbat – the Jewish Sabbath, from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday; Orthodox Jews refrain from
doing any work during this time
Yarmulkes – a head covering worn in Temple or when engaging in religious practice
Torah – the first 5 books of the Bible; the Old Testament
Passover – a holiday observed in the spring to remember the exodus from Egypt to Israel

  1. Share the excerpt that you brought to class: a passage that you found interesting and explain what it means to you.
  2. Attention to details is considered an asset in many careers: law, medicine, theater, writing, teaching, etc, but Jennifer describes how she was too fixated on the details.  How did her attention to details affect her life, both positively and negatively?  What other behaviors are considered strengths in moderation but problematic when excessive?  What behaviors do you or your family members have that are a bit over-the-top?
  3. What strategies did Jennifer’s parents use to deal with her OCD behavior?  Do you agree with their methods?  What additional approaches could they have used?
  4. Jennifer describes how her OCD and anorexia were related to issues of control.  On page 94, she says, “there is tremendous power in food refusal” and later she states, “I got all of the attention”.  How does this feeling of being in or out of control play out during childhood and adolescence?  How can parents and teachers create a balance between external control and children being in control?
  5. Jennifer describes how she was the only Jew in her classrooms.  How does this affect her self-concept and her peer relations?  How does her isolation compare to the feelings of most children that they are different?  In what ways did you feel unique in your childhood school or social settings?
  6. What challenges did Jennifer and her family face by growing up in an interfaith home?  How does celebrating conflicting holidays and performing certain rituals affect Jennifer?  If you (or a close friend) was raised in an interfaith home, how did the different beliefs, customs and rituals affect you?
  7. During adolescence, Jennifer and her sister take different paths, “I went right and she went left (pg 77).”   Compare this divergence to other sibling relationships, either yours or your friends: how are we similar or dissimilar to our siblings?  Why are these differences significant?
  8. Jennifer uses a humorous tone as she describes her OCD and her eating disorder.  Do you think this is an appropriate way to talk about psychological disorders?  Why or why not? 


On the Other Side of the Sky

  1. Choose an exerpt from the book that particularly moved or impacted you, or a passage that interested you. Explain why it moved or interested you.
  2. What was life in Afghanistan like during Farah Ahmedi’s childhood, and what effect did the Taliban have on the people of Afghanistan? What are some of the similarities and differences between Farah’s life in Afghanistan and the life of a girl in the U.S.?
  3. What was Farah’s school experience like in Afganistan, and how did she feel about it?
  4. How does the friendship with Alyce Litz change Fara’s life? What lessons can we learn from this friendshyip?
  5. What were some of the difficulties Farah experienced integrating with students in her American high school. If you were Farah, would you have decided to participate in the fashion show? Why or why not?
  6. What characteristics of Farah’s personality helped her to overcome the difficulties and challenges faced in the U.S.? Print out a copy of the map of Afganistan and find where Farah lived. Bring the map to class.

The Ride Together by Paul and Judy Karasik

1. Share the excerpt that you brought to class: a passage that you found interesting, and explain what it means to you.

2. In what ways were David's siblings affected by his autism, both when they were children and also as adults? Paul describes his mixed emotions toward David in the chapter "Bizarro World." How do these conflicting emotions compare to the feelings of all children toward their siblings?

3. In the Karasik household, besides accommodating David's behaviors, the family cared for both Grandfather and Sister. What did the children learn from living with their disabled extended family members?

4. How did Judy and Paul explain David’s differences to their peers? How did having a brother who was special affect their social development? Is the realization that peers might negatively judge our family a similar or dissimilar experience for children without a sibling with a disability?

5. At the time that David was a child, autistic children were not educated in the public school and it was a constant struggle for his parents to find him adequate care. How did David benefit from the educational settings where he was placed and how was he a victim of them? How can a society be more supportive of families with exceptional children?

6. As the Karasik children grew older and moved away from the family home, how did their transitions affect the other members of their family? How are these transitions similar to those that are occurring in your own family, with you being a college student and developing a life separate from your parents and siblings?

7. How did Judy and Paul differ in their relations with David? How might age, gender and birth order affect each of their perspectives on David's autism? Compare the effectiveness of their story-telling genre that each used in the book; which style did you think was most compelling?


photo credits Wernher Krutein photovault.com