If Holden Caulfield Were In My Classroom

If Holden Caulfield Were In My Classroom

Inspiring Love, Creativity, and Intelligence in Middle School Kids

Bernie Schein

Through stories from his classroom, Schein shows how true emotion is key to discovering real relationships. His account is psychologically sensitive and socially accurate, an eye-opener for parents and educators alike.


73 in stock

By the time Bernie Schein’s students arrive in his middle school classroom, they are little more than a gaggle of psychological defense mechanisms. For over thirty years, Schein has worked with students in middle-class Atlanta, helping them rediscover who they really are.

With humanity, humor, and compassion, Schein gets his students to reveal the secrets of their lives, helping them through this joyous and difficult endeavor. Through stories from his classroom, he describes how true emotion, rather than pure reason, is the key to discovering real relationships and personal truth. His account is psychologically sensitive, socially accurate, and will be a real eye-opener for parents and educators alike.

Schein received his Master’s Degree in Education from Harvard, and has been a principal, a director of teacher training, and a teacher of creative writing and literature at =middle school and high school levels.


Praise for If Holden Caulfield were in my Classroom 


This book is a must for all teachers, parents and kids who are interested in an education focused on personal growth and involves a passion for life and learning. Schein tells his stories of working with middle school kids in Atlanta with zest and soulfulness. We come away with a feeling that a real education is one of the heart, mind and spirit. Plus, it's a great read with lots of rollicking humor and even some adolescent heartbreak thrown in for good measure!

—Fredric Posner, author of Lives of Passion, School of Hope, in Just Cause

For Bernie Schein, a founding teacher of the Paideia School in Atlanta and a former principal of three schools, it’s all about getting personal when it comes to successful teaching with middle school students. Combining his insights, ideals, and inspirations from more than 40 years as an educator, Schein aims to dismantle the archaic structures of middle school classrooms that engender boredom and obedience, in favor of building emotional connections with all of his students. The unyielding compassion which he offers to students is evident both in his descriptions of former students as well as in the excerpts from their writing which make this book a delight, whether or not we are involved in the lives of middle school students. For Schein, there is nothing more important than the lives of the children in his classroom, a lesson with relevance for all of us.

—Peter Schmidt, Gill St-Bernard School, NJ, Klingbrief


With this bold, intimate story about the power of love, authenticity, and caring to ignite real education, Bernie Schein offers us a front row seat in his classroom—if we can stand the heat. And Schein’s formula is so simple: He midwives the innate wisdom and goodness of his students by risking to be himself and making it safe for them to do the same. Every teacher in America should read this book.

—Chris Mercogliano, author of Making It Up As We Go Along, Teaching the Restless, How to Grow a School, and In Defense of Childhood

Bernie Schein is a genius—the best teacher I have ever seen.

—Pat Conroy,
bestselling author of The Water Is Wide

Bernie Schein delivers a powerful message of hope for the youth and families of America.

—Mark Rosenberg,
former U.S. Assistant Surgeon General

This book is compelling, not just because Bernie knows these kids so well, but because he is so good at putting into words what they think and feel and say.

—Frank Pittman,
author of Grow Up!

Bernie Schein is a fire-carrier and a bliss-follower. He has altered almost every life he has touched with his light.

—Anne Rivers Siddon,
author of Off Season

Bernie Schein has spent days, months, and school years of his life among American middle schoolers in a major Southern city. A little-understood and vaguely feared tribe, these hip, smart, middle-class suburban children have allowed their English teacher access to the secrets of their lives. He, in turn, has accepted their confidences with humanity, with humor, and with compassion. He now shares his glimpse into this remarkable world with a uniquely compelling book: a handy guide for interested on-lookers, an eye-opener for parents. Plus it’s a terrific read.

—Melissa Fay Greene,
author of There Is No Me Without You

Schein helped start and for many years taught at Paideia School, a private school in Atlanta. He was previously the principal at three different schools and has been an educational consultant throughout his career. Schein here details his interactions with several of his students, highlighting his unique method of teaching—he’s able to draw out students’ true emotions, what they’re most afraid to tell anyone, and he explains how doing that liberates them and improves their academic performance. Schein believes his methods will work in any school, but they will be harder to follow in public schools owing to less flexible curriculum, time constraints, risk of parental complaints (Schein’s students openly discuss sexual issues), and other controls put on public school teachers. There is no doubt that Schein’s methods have merit. Teachers should have access to this book to consider adapting Schein’s style of teaching to improve their own students’ performance. Recommended for most public and academic libraries.

—Terry Christner, Hutchinson P.L., KS

If Holden Caulfield Were In My Classroom: Inspiring Love, Creativity and Intelligence in Middle School Students by Bernie Schein is one of the most astonishing books on teaching that I have seen in my 50 years of reading education books. This absolutely remarkable teacher of middle school students brings out the real feelings and emotions of students to create authentic people and in the process a classroom of vitality and greater learning. This book will take you inside the lives of adolescents, their fears, hopes, jealousies, dreams and inner selves. He also uses class meeting, trials and the core curriculum as a progressive educator. Every teacher at every level would gain from this engaging, readable book.

—Wayne Jennings, chairman of the board of International Association for Learning Alternatives

I can't tell you how long it's been since I've read a book on a subject as boring as education and laughed as hard as I have reading this one. Author Bernie Schein has many decades of experience in the classroom, and doesn't mind sharing a few opinions on the modern testing culture, nonsensical political agendas, and interpretation of contemporary lit. He is blunt, profane, brilliant and loving; a strange mixture of Lenny Bruce and Albert Schweitzer. Above all, he is a teacher in the old-fashion sense of the word (and to my mind, a modern American hero.) He is absolutely dedicated to awakening his student's reasoning abilities and instilling in them the joys (and pitfalls) of living in community, and having the courage to actually feel. Recommended reading for parents, grandparents and teachers of any stripe, particularly college of education students who have never been in charge of a class room. For them, it is mandatory reading and really, just hugely entertaining.

—Janis Owens, author of My Brother Michael

Additional information

Product Format


Page Count

264 pages


6 x 9 in.