Embarrassment by Thomas Newkirk. And the Emotional Underlife of Learning - Heinemann Publishing


And the Emotional Underlife of Learning

By Thomas Newkirk

In this groundbreaking exploration, Tom Newkirk takes on the "true enemy of learning"--students' (and teachers') fear of embarrassment.

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Full Description

"Why has no one written about this subject before? Every teacher should read this book."--Michael G. Thompson, coauthor of Raising Cain

Embarrassment.  None of us escape it.  Especially as kids, in school.  How might our fear of failure, of not living up to expectations, be holding us back?  How can our fear of embarrassment affect how we learn, how we teach, and how we live?

Tom Newkirk argues that this “emotional under life,” this subterranean domain of emotion, failure, and embarrassment, keeps too many students and teachers silent, hesitant, and afraid. “I am absolutely convinced,” Tom writes, “that embarrassment is not only the true enemy of learning, but of so many other actions we could take to better ourselves.”

In this groundbreaking exploration, Newkirk offers practices and strategies that help kids and teachers alike develop a more resilient approach to embarrassment.  “I contend that if we can take on a topic like embarrassment and shame, we can come to a richer, more honest, more enabling sense of who we are and what we can do,” he explains.  “So let’s do battle. Let’s name and identify the enemy that can haunt our days, disturb our sleep, put barriers up to learning, and drain joy from our lives—and maybe we can also learn how to rearrange some things in our own head so that we can be more generous toward ourselves.”


Part One: Underlife

1. The Emotional Underlife of Learning
2. The Need for Embarrassment
3. Stigma

Part Two: Asking and Receiving

4. “To the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”
5. Soft Hands

Part Three: Embarrassment and the Three R’s

6. Math Shame: Why Are We All on the Outside Looking In?
7. Reading Guilt: The Art and Science of Forgetting
8. Telling a Better Story About Writing

Part Four: Voices
9. Learning to Fail Publicly—What We All Can Learn from Athletes and Coaches
10. What Is This About?


“With humanity, vulnerability, and his trademark knack for storytelling, Tom does what Tom does best: presciently speak into the deepest needs of our profession. With stories and research ranging from sports to math class, medicine to English class, Tom pulls back the curtain on the shame that so often holds us back and explores how we can all learn to move forward—in our classrooms, in our careers, and in our lives. We will all be quoting from this book for decades.”
—Rebekah O’Dell, coauthor of Writing with Mentors

“Why has no one written about this subject before?  Every child in school suffers moments of embarrassment and shame, and most children will do everything in their power to avoid such exposure.  In his wise and practical new book, Tom Newkirk mixes personal anecdote, research and the secrets of great teachers to help us understand how children can survive this painful underside to learning.” 
—Michael G. Thompson, coauthor of Raising Cain

“Once again, Tom Newkirk has opened the doors to truth, writing of the most vulnerable aspects of learning and teaching in personal, compassionate, and wise ways.  He also offers myriad suggestions, such as ending the anxiety-producing timed practice, for how to make learning and teaching more humane for all.”
—Katherine Bomer, author of The Journey Is Everything