Review of Ivan Frank's Book by Helen Meigs*


Ivan Frank, Ph.D., former Social Studies teacher at Westinghouse and Allderdice High Schools shares his insight and perceptions of young people today through his book, Not From My Lesson Plans: A Teacher’s Impact on the Social-Emotional Relationships and Characteristics of Twenty-Six Gifted High School Students (2006). Dr. Frank’s personal philosophy regarding the essence of a dedicated teacher is revealed in the brief descriptions or “pictures” of individual high school students.  Dr. Frank believes that a teacher does more than impart knowledge to his students, rather an effective teacher attempts to understand the student as a unique individual struggling to reach maturity during a critical stage of development. Confronting the students where they are at this moment in time, trying to assess their needs, and discerning what positive or negative factors are influencing the students, are all critical concerns for a teacher who wants to be more than an instructor. These reflections reveal the genuine caring nature of Dr. Frank and his earnest desire to assist students to grow through classroom academic experiences and community service projects.

Within the classroom setting Dr. Frank delighted in presenting intellectual challenges to his students to ponder and discuss.  In his daily diary he chronicled the actions and interactions of his students.   Apparently Dr. Frank has been blessed with the ability to see into the depth of a student’s character.  Reflecting upon each student he seemingly was able to pierce the façade and draw conclusions regarding inner needs and motivations.  Utilizing these perceptions and assumptions Dr. Frank would support, encourage, nurture and even push or prod to move the student forward towards adulthood.

A high level of mutual trust and respect are evident throughout the vignettes of the students.  Dr. Frank not only taught them Social Studies but he modeled for them the role of a committed humanitarian.  At Allderdice High School and in the community he regularly engaged in volunteer and community service activities.  He served as sponsor for the school organization, Student Hunger Action Coalition through which students participated in local charitable endeavors and yearly traveled to Appalachia to repair homes.  Dr. Frank has noted that these humanitarian endeavors in several instances fostered increased self-worth and provided direction to some students.

Parents have long regretted the waning of their influence when their child becomes a teenager.  Typically the influence of peers and societal pressures have become primary or dominant forces at this stage. When a student realizes that he/she is respected as an individual and whose opinions and feelings are valued and appreciated by a teacher, the teacher-student relationship develops and matures.  Dr. Frank’s book has shown how a dedicated and sincere teacher can serve as an effective mentor to counter balance other, perhaps harmful influences.

Any one searching for a clearer understanding of today’s teens will find that though many commonalties exist, each teen is truly a unique individual with particular talents, desires and needs.  Dr. Frank has shared with the reader a glimpse into the hearts and minds of twenty-six young people who were preparing themselves for the adventure of real life.  Quite expectedly, because of Dr. Frank’s warmth and charisma he has established strong personal ties to his former students.  Today he continues to enjoy opportunities to interact with them over coffee in order to learn of their recent endeavors and achievements.

                                                                           Helen M. Meigs

                                                                           Facilitator for Gifted Education

                                                                           Taylor Allderdice High School

                                                                           Pittsburgh Public Schools


*A shorter version of this book review appeared in the The Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh on September 14, 2006.

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