Teaching the Restless: One School's Remarkable No-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed

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Beacon Press, 2003 - 252 pages
We’ve all read the stories about medicating hyperactive (ADHD) kids. The controversy shows no signs of ending, as parents and doctors debate the merits of diagnosing and medicating children at younger and younger ages. Chris Mercogliano has a strong opinion on the matter, and he enters the debate as an educator. In Teaching the Restless, Mercogliano issues an urgent call for a shift in how our society perceives hyperactive children—away from theories of faulty brain chemistry and toward an understanding of children’s lives.

Mercogliano codirects the Albany Free School in Albany, New York. There, he and his faculty have developed numerous ways to help hyperactive children relax, focus, modulate emotional expression, make responsible choices, and forge lasting friendships—all prerequisites for learning—without assigning pathological labels to the children or resorting to the use of biopsychiatric drugs.

Teaching the Restless profiles a handful of Free School students, six boys and three girls. All were either labeled and drugged in their previous schools, or would have been had they not thrown in their lot with the Free School. While in Mercogliano’s mind there is no such thing as a “typical” child, these nine kids represent the legions of children across the country—estimates currently run as high as 6 million—that have been diagnosed with learning and behavioral disorders and prescribed corresponding drugs.

Speaking both to parents who worry that their kids cannot attend classes without drugs and to educators who wonder how to best teach these hyperactive kids, Teaching the Restless should bring new hope into an overcharged debate.

“TEACHING THE RESTLESS is a very important book for our time. That we continue to prescribe drugs to our children in such massive numbers is appalling. There are no historical precendents for a society perpetrating such a travesty on its offspring. Chris Mercogliano deserves a medal for his courage and insight, as well as his years of hard work on behalf of America’s children.”

—Joseph Chilton Pearce, author of MAGICAL CHILD

“Take a ride with master teacher Chris Mercogliano as he writes his way straight into your heart. This powerful tale reflects his work as a master educator and writer and gives us an up-close look at what is possible for America’s school children when we choose not to drug them into silence. The Albany Free School is a hermitage for children, a model to the nation of how a school environment built on love, honor, respect, and responsibility can effect profound changes in kids’ lives.”

—Yehudah Fine, family therapist and author of TIMES SQUARE RABBI: FINDING THE HOPE IN LOST KIDS’ LIVES

“TEACHING THE RESTLESS is a finely crafted moral commentary on a society that would rather “tranquilize our children than create a more tranquil world for them to grow up in.” Chris Mercogliano is a gifted writer as well as a superb observer of children’s lives. Here, he offers a rich blend of insights and observations based on his own extensive teaching experience. His stories of real kids struggling against the cultural constraints on their lives, including inappropriate labeling and drugging, are deeply moving and convincing.”

—Ron Miller, executive editor, Paths of Learning magazine, educational historian, author of WHAT ARE SCHOOLS FOR?

“God bless Chris Mercogliano. He has turned his lifelong commitment to the creation of free learning communities for children and families toward a passionate defense against the oppression of children by psychiatry and the schools. May his longstanding drug-free school zone in Albany extend throughout our country and the world.”

—John Breeding, clinical psychologist, author of THE WILDEST COLTS MAKE THE BEST HORSES

“A wonderful contribution to the growing literature on the sad practice of labeling and drugging America’s “free spirits.” Chris Mercogliano sees past the scientific jargon and deficit-rridden orientation of the ADD/ADHD paradigm, and reveals with great humanistic sensibility the passionate worlds of active kids who don't fit into the tight little boxes of most American classrooms.”

—Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D., author of THE MYTH OF THE A.D.D. CHILD


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Teaching the restless: one school's remarkable no-Ritalin approach to helping children learn and succeed

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This is Mercogliano's second book about the Albany Free School, a 50-student, independent, inner-city school for children ages two through 14 where he has taught for 30 years and been codirector since ... Read full review

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About the author (2003)

Chris Mercogliano has been a teacher at the Albany Free School since 1973 and codirector since 1985. His writing has appeared in numerous publications, and he is the author of Making It Up As We Go Along, and Teaching the Restless: One School's Remarkable No-Ritalin Approach to Helping Children Learn and Succeed. Mercogliano lives in Albany, New York.

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