Love this book! The Essential 55: An Award-Winning Educator's Rules For Discovering the Successful Student in Every Child is an amazing book I first saw in one of my favorite places to substitute. In speaking with a teacher who had the book and used it daily, she talked about its effectiveness in teaching students manners and good character.
Ron Clark is a teacher who breaks down some of life's basics for students. Some of the Essential 55 include what to do in classroom situations (like when a teacher reprimands you or another student), how to behave in public, and even things like how to answer a phone and remembering to cover your mouth when you cough.
The teacher I spoke to uses it daily by taking a few minutes to explain each chapter, talk to students about it, and ask them to demonstrate an impromptu skit based on what they learned. The frequent instruction from the book has really paid off since she began using it, she says. I noticed myself that her class was very polite, doing things like saying "yes, ma'am" and opening doors for one another. The teacher attributes her class' good manners to The Essential 55.
This is not a book I think you you need only when you have a really frustrating, rude class. Practicing good manners and character is an important component of any classroom, and teaching the basics to even well-behaved students will help them understand how they are supposed to interact with others.
You may think, "How can a book like this be of any value to my class or school?" You'd be surprised! What I've found in subbing is that students very rarely know some of the "basics" about good manners, being polite, or fostering good character. I'm sure all of us know some adults who are like that, too! Some kids just don't learn the basics (at home, or in earlier years at school) like opening doors for other people, or not bragging when you win a game, so a lot of the misbehavior we see is done out of total ignorance. Once you teach the kids the basics, and they actually see it and start to respond, they begin to practice the good behaviors a lot of us take for granted. With this type of book, I agree with this teacher that frequent instruction and readings are necessary for students to really learn and practice using good manners. I also liked that she made them perform short skits that reflect each essential rule because it gave the kids an opportunity to put things in context.
I was sold on the book then because those kids were some of the most well-behaved and polite kids I've had the pleasure of subbing. There's even a chapter in the book about how a class should behave with subs, so I'm not surprised!