FIRES IN THE MIND
"When kids are finally given a voice, it's always amazing to me how on target their perceptions of schools are!"
—Bob Mackin, director, America's Choice High Schools
What does it take for young people toget really good at something? Teenagers from diverse backgrounds explore that game-changing question in Fires in the Mind. As they describe what fuels their interest and effort, they offer teachers exciting new perspectives on why students choose to engage and persist with challenging work. Kathleen Cushman—whose landmark book Fires in the Bathroom brought youth voices to the national stage—here asks adolescents and their teachers to think more deeply about how we develop mastery, both in and out of school.
Starting with what youth already know and do well, Fires in the Mind uses the latest research on cognition to help students and teachers together address motivation, practice, and the need for high standards. Filled with thought-provoking exercises and resources, this book lights new fires in the minds of both teachers and students, and galvanizes them toward more powerful learning for all.
Mastery, motivation, and momentum are meaningless without the will to succeed. How do you plant the seeds of success in young adults so that they control their own future? Is the answer deliberate practice? Cognitive research shows that "express purpose, attention and focus, repetition and rehearsal" aimed toward individuals are effective. In this collaborative work, teachers and young adults brainstorm their teaching and learning styles. Practice, adult guidance, and public honor are all methods for actualizing education. An "Alternatives to Traditional Homework" diagram includes helpful tips, such as texting and e-mailing questions. The online component makes it easy for teachers and parents to download tools. Checklists, questionnaires, and worksheets give educators interested in reform multiple tactics to engage apathetic students. Short, paragraph-long anecdotes, though necessary with 160 students from the Practice Project, abridge individual stories. Because students' faces are featured at the end of the book, anonymity is not guaranteed. For fear of peer scrutiny, many may not disclose their entire journey. For educators, predicting spontaneous teachable moments is a difficult task. This is a valiant effort by Cushman, author of Fires in the Middle School Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from Middle Schoolers (New Press, 2009), who harnesses the components that foster motivation and mastery. As long as caring educators continue to make an effort to create innovative ways for educational reform, there is hope for our future generations. Reviewer: Ann Crewdson