Troubled Hearts, Troubled Minds

Making sense of the emotional dimension of learning

By: Peter Nelmes

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Products specifications
Attribute name Attribute value
Size: 222 x 182mm
Pages : 176
ISBN : 9781785834103
Format: Paperback
Published: September 2019

In Troubled Hearts, Troubled Minds: Making sense of the emotional dimension of learning, Peter Nelmes delivers key lessons on how we can better connect with both the head and the heart during the teaching and learning process.

How are we to think of the disruptive or destructive child?

Drawing on over 25 years of experience working with children with challenging behaviour, Peter Nelmes argues that such children are members of a community who are possibly the least understood and accepted in society – and whose problems are often met with condemnation rather than understanding and support.

Through his insightful explanation of this phenomenon, Peter gives anyone who works with such children a framework for understanding how the heart and the mind relate to each other in practice.

Writing with warmth and compassion, he shares a range of real-life case studies which illustrate how emotional difficulties can often diminish a child’s capacity for learning and delivers key lessons on the importance of nurturing pupils’ self-regulation and providing them with supportive interventions.

Troubled Hearts, Troubled Minds is divided into two parts: the first comprising lessons from practice and the second looking towards a coherent theory that can then inform practice.

Part I begins by exploring the emotional background of teaching and learning, and the following three chapters enquire into the three components of shared meanings in the classroom: the teacher, the context and the learner. The final chapter in this section turns the focus onto what it means to attune to the emotional dimension of classroom interactions, putting greater emphasis on the lessons for practice.

In Part II, Peter explores the best modes of talk to use when teaching troubled children and presents a way of conceptualising all that has been described in the book into a simple theoretical model which educators can relate to and apply in their own setting.

If you have ever struggled to teach – or even just connect with – a troubled child, then this book is for you.

Picture for author Peter Nelmes

Peter Nelmes

Peter Nelmes has worked with children with challenging lives and challenging behaviour since 1990. As part of his endeavours to make sense of his professional world, he gained a doctorate in education ' the subject of which was the role of the emotions in teaching and learning. He has taught and researched in a variety of settings, and has also been an associate lecturer for the Open University.


  1. "In the heat of the moment, it is often easy to condemn children whose behaviour is - at best - challenging. Many of our students come from supportive, loving and stable families who work best to make sure everyone within is nurtured to do their best. In contrast, for a minority, the daily difficulties faced in their lives can impact negatively on their emotional wellbeing, decision-making and behaviour. It is often schools and teachers who are at the other end of disruptive behaviours but, with the right support, are in a privileged position to offer a positive guiding hand to troubled hearts and troubled minds.

    Within the introduction of his new book, Peter Nelmes concedes that the text is about unconventional people in unconventional classrooms. Essentially, the book is about emotions, and how emotions play a role in the learning of all children, and indeed adults, whether or not their behaviour is challenging, and whether or not they are troubled. Tackling such issues and challenging behaviours is no easy task, but Peter steps through two distinct topics within the book, exploring (1) the construction and components of shared meanings, and (2) what it all means for teachers. 

    In the first part, Nelmes walks the reader through the emotional component of teaching and learning, introducing us to -˜shared meanings' that help us to feel close to others, shape our friendships, and build connections within communities. Exploring how shared meanings are generated, the reader is guided with a range of stories and examples noted through Peter's own teaching experiences where shared meanings have worked with students, and others where those experiences have escaped. Referring to Vygotsky's Zone of Proximal Development (ZPD), the book guides us to help structure and extend learning carefully so that it is accessible to all, and build supportive connections with students. The role of the teacher is also given comprehensive consideration, describing how building coherent meaning to teaching and learning adds value to what needs to be taught. Additionally, the disparity in adults' views is also given attention, with the attitudes and language used alongside the disparate interpretations of behaviours, emotional climates and philosophies all given due consideration.

    The power of the context is also explored within the book in how essential factors are in escalating challenging behaviour. The reader is invited to consider the classroom and school environment, home experiences and the history of individuals, that all have an impact on what is presented each day. Maslow's theory of human motivation (physical; emotional; academic; fun, play and hope; communication; social) is given equal attention when envisaged within the needs of each child taught. Child (and teenage) development is also considered with fascinating sections exploring egocentricity, power control and anxiety.

    Emotions are given central consideration in Chapter 5, as the book explores how to attune to and contain emotions. This is a powerful chapter advising teachers to be in touch and understand their own reactions and emotions when presented with challenging classroom or school situations. It is often not appropriate to fight fire with fire, but the central message here is containing such situations by facilitating social interactions and being a supportive teacher with strength, respect and kindness, no matter what situation you are faced with.

    Forward into the second part of the book, the reader is presented with a couple of chapters exploring: How to talk to troubled children, and; Self-regulation and supportive interventions. Four modes of teacher-pupil dialogues are noted (facilitative, authoritative, authoritarian, and rejection), and reflecting on how teachers use each mode is given due attention. A collection of advice snippets are offered in supporting the art of de-escalation.

    So, who is this book for? Most schools and teachers will be faced with challenging behaviours and individuals that have the ability to disrupt the best-planned lesson, descending to a wasted period where too much time was given towards managing (or not) the disruption. This is not a book that is necessarily aimed at teachers who always work with students living with emotional or behavioural difficulties (EBD), but it is a book aimed at teachers who try to deal with disruptive behaviour that negatively impacts on the teaching and learning sequence. It is a book for teachers, and school leaders, who want to better understand the emotional and cognitive challenges that some students face more than others. The book offers guidance, support and guidance on how to support and deal with students who, themselves, are struggling to cope with any number of challenges within their lives.


    The book offers guidance, support and guidance on how to support and deal with students who, themselves, are struggling to cope with any number of challenges within their lives. 

    - This is a book for teachers, and school leaders, who want to better understand the emotional and cognitive challenges that some students face more than others.

    - For teachers who try to deal with disruptive behaviour that impacts on the teaching and learning sequence.

    - Help develop opportunities to engage with those 'hard to reach' children we can encounter.

    - Explores the emotional, developmental and cognitive challenges that many young people live with on a daily basis."

    Click here to read the review on UKEdChat's website.
  2. Troubled Hearts, Troubled Minds gives us a refreshing perspective from a teacher who has actually walked the walk and doesn't just talk the talk. A true expert! Drawing from his years of experience working with -˜troubled children', Nelmes is able to use anecdotes and real examples that focus on the reasons why children challenge their teachers and the education system.

    Without making excuses he skilfully explores how children's anxieties, their traumas and their environments can manifest themselves in seriously challenging behaviour. He then explains how, after years of reflection, learning and soul-searching, he is able to deal with these disturbances and make a real difference to the lives of the children he has taught. Using real-life stories and examples from schools where he has worked, Nelmes draws upon the -˜nitty-gritty of practice' that so brilliantly frames the work of teachers dealing with their pupils' social, emotional and mental health (SEMH) needs.

    This is a book that should be read by any Ofsted inspector charged with inspecting an SEMH school, pupil referral unit or alternative provision setting, and by any teacher who has ever encountered challenging behaviour in the classroom. Troubled Hearts, Troubled Minds will restore your faith, help explain those dark moments, reinforce the reasons why you choose to do the job you do, and encourage you to continue.
  3. This book shines a spotlight on the complexity behind troubled behaviour and the skills needed to deal with it effectively. Using -˜creating shared meanings' as the key concept to drive professionals' actions, and writing with total authenticity, Peter Nelmes uses real-life examples to help the reader make sense of what is required. He also provides really helpful tips on how to work with a student's internal dialogue as well as a range of other behaviour management and emotional well-being strategies.

    Heartbreakingly accurate in its description of -˜hard to reach' children, unapologetically truthful in its commentary, and ultimately reassuring to all staff and agencies working in special education that their work makes an enormous difference to young people's lives, Troubled Hearts, Troubled Minds is essential reading for all educators.
  4. Troubled Hearts, Troubled Minds is deeply rooted in Peter Nelmes' extensive experience of working with children who have struggled in the standard mainstream schooling model. It is replete with warts-and-all examples and, refreshingly, Nelmes is very honest about his own past mistakes. He lays bare his learning from these experiences in a coherent framework that will influence your thinking, reduce your frustrations and improve your teaching.

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