Update: where to buy the book

Good Habits, Good Students was originally published by Llumina Press, but they are going out of business and I have moved the book over to Amazon (under the Aeon Publishing, Inc. imprint), so that’s now the best place to buy. Here is the link to use:

Good Habits, Good Students on Amazon

You’ll see that there are only two reader’s reviews of the book, but they are both 5 stars and from teachers who strongly recommend Good Habits, which certainly pleases me.

If  you prefer to order from your local bookshop, the ISBN is

978-1595265740.

Christmas is coming, so if you have a student in your family or among your friends, consider Good Habits, Good Students. Definitely better than socks or jammies!

The Education Genie [book excerpt]

Imagine . . .

It’s your summer holiday, and you’re walking along a beautiful, deserted beach. The wet sand oozes between your toes. The salt breeze blows in your hair. The seabirds run up and down as the waves roll in, then recede.

In the water up ahead, a strange shape catches your eye. As you approach, the waves wash it onshore. When you get close enough, you see that it’s some kind of old jar. No, wait—it’s a bottle, the glass so dark it’s almost black. And sure enough, it’s sealed with a cork that is covered with red wax.

“Cool!” you exclaim.

The wax is old and brittle, and with a bit of effort you are able to pry it loose. After some tugging, you succeed in pulling out the cork.

If there was ever something inside that bottle, it evaporated long ago. You turn it upside down and shake it, but nothing falls out and nothing rattles.

Oh well, you think. At least it’s a cool old bottle.

Then a thin trail of mist begins wafting up out of the bottle, growing into a cloud that hangs in the air just in front of you. Suddenly—bang!—a genie appears where the cloud had been. A genie! Just like in the old stories, dressed like someone out of The Arabian Nights, with one ring through his nose and another in his left ear.

“Greetings, my friend,” says the genie, bowing slightly. “A thousand thanks for freeing me from my imprisonment. I am ready to grant your wish.” 

“Whoa!” you say. “This is so cool! What’ll I wish for? Hmm . . .  I could wish to be the richest person on the planet, or an Olympic athlete, or a famous singer, or—” 

“Hold it!” cries the genie. “Let me explain. I’m not like those genies in the stories. I’m an Education Genie, and I only grant wishes that have to do with education.” 

“What?! You mean, out of all the genies in the world trapped in bottles, I have the rotten luck of freeing an Education Genie?” 

“If you’re that disappointed,” says the genie, “we can forget the whole thing, and I’ll just be on my way.” 

“No, no,” you say. “Wait, I’ll think of something.” Then, an idea. “Could I wish for my math teacher to take early retirement?” 

“No,” says the genie. “I’m not a School Genie. I’m an Education Genie. It has to be something about education.” Seeing the puzzled look on your face, he adds, “About learning.” 

“Oh,” you say, unable to conceal your disappointment. “Okay, let’s see, three wishes about learning . . . .”

The genie clears his throat. “Who said anything about three wishes?” 

“I don’t get three wishes?” 

“You’ve been reading too many old stories,” says the genie. “You get one wish.” 

“One wish?” 

“One.”

Oh boy. So you start thinking. You could wish to be a genius. But Melvin, the guy in your class who’s closest to being a genius, isn’t the most popular kid around… and he doesn’t even get the best grades. He always seems to be thinking about something totally different when the teacher calls on him. So maybe being a genius isn’t the best idea.

You ask yourself: what’s the one thing you don’t have, that you really need to help you do better in school? Hmm . . . No idea.

That’s it! Ideas! Wouldn’t it be great to be one of those students who’s always got an idea, or even several ideas? Like Lucy Dobner. She’s got ideas and inspiration to burn. Maybe you should wish for inspiration.

But then you remember that Lucy Dobner, for all her great ideas, is the most disorganized person on Earth. She forgets stuff all the time, her homework is always late . . . and she doesn’t get the best marks, either. Maybe inspiration isn’t the best thing to wish for.

Who does get the best grades? It’s usually either Janice or Chris. They’re not the smartest in the class, so what do they do that’s so successful? Well . . . they always pay attention, they write down all the assignments, they turn in their homework on time, and they never seem to have to cram for tests. They just have really good work habits.

That’s it! Habits! You start thinking about your own habits and realize that they could certainly stand some improvement. 

“Okay,” you say. “I’m ready. My wish is to have great habits.” 

“Are you sure?” asks the genie. “I’ve had many unhappy experiences with people making wishes and then wishing they’d wished for something else.” 

“I’m sure,” you say, “I’ve thought it all through carefully. The best thing to improve my grades would be if I had better habits. That’s my wish.” 

“Did you consider other alternatives?” asks the genie. 

“Yes,” you say, growing impatient. “I thought about being a genius, but that’s no guarantee of success. And I thought about being inspired with great ideas, but I don’t want to risk having great ideas without being able to follow through on them. So the best thing to have is good habits. Let’s get on with it. I should have been back an hour ago, and I’m getting hungry.” 

“All right,” the genie sighs. “Your wish is granted. From now on you will have excellent habits, and as a result you will earn much better grades.” 

“You don’t seem very happy about it,” you say. 

“You made the wrong choice.”

“What!?”

“You made the wrong choice,” he repeats.

“But why? I reasoned it all out very carefully!”

“If a genie offers to make your wish come true,” he explains, “you should wish for something you couldn’t possibly get on your own. You can improve your habits, if you really want to. You can even do things to become more inspired. But no matter what you do, you can’t turn yourself into a genius. You should have wished to be a genius.”

With a groan, you plop down onto the sand. “I’m such a loser!”

“Well,” says the genie, “I must be off now. Good luck!”

“Wait,” you say. “I have one more question.”

“Make it quick.”

“You say anyone can improve his habits. How?”

The genie seems a bit offended by such an easy question.

“It’s nothing difficult,” he replies. “Read this book.”

2nd edition, revised and expanded, is coming!

I am now working on a second edition of Good Habits, Good Students, which will be updated and expanded, including an entirely new section (more on that, later).

If you are one of my readers and have ideas about what a second edition should include, please share them with me! I want the book to be as useful to students, parents, and teachers as it can be. Thank you!

Oh, and by the way: I now have an author’s page on Amazon. ;^)

Two glowing reviews on Amazon.com

Bob Duffin teaches in Mesa, Arizona. In April of this year he posted the following review of Good Habits, Good Students under the heading, “Advice that can really work”:

I teach mathematics in middle school and am always looking for high quality reference material to help my students develop better academic and personal habits. “Good Habits, Good Students” is full of good, practical advice that students understand and relate to. This year I recommended it to all of my classes. The students who read the book made favorable comments and said it would be very helpful in school and in life. There is no better reference than that.

In May another Amazon reviewer who goes by the name “BookMaven” titled his or her review, “Every 9th grade student and parent should read this book!”:

This is a great book for both students and parents. Students should use this book to check themselves at the start of high school. Too often, students find themselves in the 11th grade attempting to undo the mistakes of the first two years of high school. Read this book going into high school and you will be in a good position for starting off on the right track. Read it earlier and you will be all the better off.

Bob and BookMaven, I’m so glad that you and your students have found the book to be useful, and grateful to you for spreading the word. If you see this, please drop me an email message. Thanks!

You can read both of these reviews here.

Inspiration, ambition, motivation

If you are inspired, ambitious, and motivated, acquiring good habits is easy: follow the advice on this web site, and in my book.

But if you lack inspiration, ambition, and motivation, you are unlikely to make the effort needed to acquire good habits.

What to do?

Talk to people who seem to be inspired, ambitious, and motivated. Find out what drives them. Read about people who have been inspired, ambitious, and motivated and have achieved great things as a result. Seek out people, especially, who are inspired about subjects that leave you bored: maybe they can show you something that will spark your interest. If math is not your thing, for example, find a really good math student, or teacher, and ask: what is it about math that interests and excites you?

“They don’t take notes!”

Today a colleague began talking about his Grade 11 students. “They don’t take notes,” he said in exasperation. “Not a single one of them.”

Another colleague, overhearing us, joined in. “Isn’t that their problem?” he said. “By Grade 11 they should have figured this stuff out. We shouldn’t have to tell them to take notes and use their homework diaries.”

I wrote Good Habits, Good Students primarily for students. Teachers, for a variety of reasons, rarely teach the habits needed to succeed in school. Students are left on their own to “figure it out.” Unfortunately a huge number don’t figure it out, and they usually blame themselves for their academic disappointments: I’m lazy, I’m no good, I’m stupid. I wrote the book to help students acquire the good habits they need, and to convince them that they can be successful.

But I also wrote the book hoping that teachers and schools would realize that they should be teaching habits. If they did, students would achieve much better results on the “material” taught in school, and would believe in their ability to learn, and would be equipped to go on learning on their own when they are out of school. Grade 11, of course, is a bit late to begin.

Imagine what my colleagues would be saying, though, if their students had been learning and practicing good habits for years. It’s a dream, but it would not be particularly difficult or expensive to make it come true.

Reviews of ‘Good Habits’

Two educators I greatly respect have written reviews of Good Habits, Good Students and have kindly allowed me to post them here and here.

Caroline Ellwood was one of the founders of the International Baccalaureate’s Middle Years Programme. She has been a middle school teacher and principal, taught IB Theory of Knowledge, and has been a leading proponent of Islamic Studies in international schools. She is currently editor of International Schools and the International Schools Journal, the two flagship publications of the Council of International Schools.

Konrad Glogowski is well known and widely respected for his blog of proximal development, in which he chronicles his work as a middle-school teacher in Canada. If you teach secondary school, have a look: Konrad is sure to challenge and inspire you.

I am grateful to Caroline and Konrad for taking the time to read Good Habits, and very pleased that they have positive things to say about it.

Free Sample Copies for Review

I now have some copies of Good Habits, Good Students that I can send out to anyone who might be able to write a review, share it with colleagues, consider it for adoption as a textbook, or purchase multiple copies for classroom use.

If you are a

  • book reviewer
  • educational blogger
  • magazine editor
  • teacher
  • school administrator, or
  • professor in a school of education

I will happily send you a copy on request. Just drop me an email message [ericmacknight AT mac DOT com] explaining who you are. Be sure to include your mailing address. I will send your copy off as soon as I can.

Offer good, as they say, while supplies last.

UPDATE 22 OCTOBER 2007: Sorry, but I’ve run out of sample copies. I will order more and let you know when they have arrived via a new post. In the meantime, consider buying a single copy from your favourite online bookseller.

Released at last!

Good Habits, Good Students: A Complete Guide for Students Who Want to Succeed has been released for sale. Little did I imagine what I was getting myself into a few years ago when I wrote a one-page handout for my students about the good habits they should be cultivating.

No Manhattan release party is being planned, so just raise a glass of your favourite beverage, wherever you are.

Information on where to buy is just a click away.