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Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students Paperback – April 1, 2005

ISBN-13: 978-1565849969 ISBN-10: 1565849965

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 224 pages
  • Publisher: The New Press (April 1, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565849965
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565849969
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 6.2 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #150,160 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Teenagers dictating to teachers sounds dubious, but educators will want to take note of the message from this volume: students do want to learn. Cushman, an education journalist working in conjunction with the nonprofit organization What Kids Can Do, extensively interviewed high school students in several urban areas about every aspect of school, producing this compendium of their advice here. At its best, it gives teachers solid insights from students like Vance, 18: "You really affect kids when you just do your job day in and day out, do it well." The book covers a range of subjects, including how to get to know students, how to earn their trust, how to judge their behavior and what to do when things go wrong. However, the students' demands can sometimes seem unrealistic, especially for teachers in overcrowded public schools-for extra tutoring sessions, for the use of primary source material instead of just textbooks-and the author does not aid her student co-authors by keeping their comments relatively short and by presenting them out of context. For struggling teachers, Cushman's self-questionnaires are the reason to buy. Although best for new teachers, this chance to hear the authentic voices of students should not be overlooked by anyone involved in teen education. B&w illus.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Review

"In Fires in the Bathroom. . . students turn the tables on adults, and tell them how to do their jobs."
New York Times

"An important book . . . a powerful critique of American teaching . . . Fires in the Bathroom should find a place in any professional development library. . . The student voices give its advice . . . an authenticity and a sincerity that advice books for teachers often lack . . . A powerful and compelling document . . . A major contribution."
Teachers College Record

"Fires in the Bathroom doles out practical advice . . . [in] an unusual . . . effort to tap the opinions of American high school students . . . Students get a rare opportunity to voice their opinions about what works and what doesn’t.”
Los Angeles Times

"This book turns the student-teacher relationship upside down . . . Suggests ways to deepen the unspoken bond between students and teachers.”
Chicago Tribune, Editor’s Choice

"This chance to hear the authentic voice of students . . . should not be overlooked by anyone involved in teen education."
Publishers Weekly

"Thoughtful and articulate . . . offer[s] insights about a range of school-related subjects, including classroom behavior, student motivation, and learning style."
Teacher Magazine

"Fires in the Bathroom is a must for everyone concerned about our children and our schools . . . A wealth of information that can be put to immediate use . . . Treat yourself to this powerful new tool!"
Connections Magazine

More About the Author

Kathleen Cushman: Writer and speaker, raising youth voices

As a journalist and documentarian, I collaborate with diverse youth around the U.S. and abroad, bringing their voices directly to bear on the complex challenges that affect their lives and learning. As a speaker and presenter, I work with educational institutions to connect the direct input of youth with promising practices in secondary schools and colleges.

I bring forty years of experience and new learning to this work. Most of my work since 2001 is for What Kids Can Do (WKCD.org), the nonprofit I co-founded with Barbara Cervone, but I also regularly speak, consult, and write for organizations around the country.

Starting as a printer's devil in my high school years, over four decades I've worn every hat in publishing: writer, editor, and publisher for newspapers, magazines, and books in many fields. Reporting on national high school change from 1988 to 2001 gave me a solid grasp of educational issues and an active network of people in the forefront of that field. Teaching first-year writing at Harvard trained me to coach young people to think deeply and to free up and discipline their voices. Helping to start a progressive public secondary school in Massachusetts in 1995 gave me hands-on experience in setting the bar high for all students.

In the past decade, for WKCD, I have traveled the U.S. and abroad collecting the voices of youth, then bringing their words into print and mixed-media forms. Grounded in the rough and subtle realities of adolescence, these voices cut close to the bone -- illuminating "best practices" in education, and revealing the fault lines that divide students along lines of class, color, and money. I aim to bring young people's vivid experiences and insights to an even wider audience, by speaking, writing, and collaborating with you who share a commitment to equity, opportunity, and powerful learning for all.

I live and work in New York City.

Customer Reviews

This short book was helpful and a fun read.
S. Rapacchietta
Intriguing book with the unique insights by students who offer their insights on how they want their teachers to be teach them.
W. van Beek
Why don't they want to treat the kids like adults?
B. Wolinsky

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By Frida Kahlo on January 6, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This text has a lot to offer in terms of the nuances of how kids act and think, and about how they perceive education. What is particularly troubling about this text is an introduction about how the author worked with a group of children to get a colleague fired. I suppose this is okay because she is a journalist and not a teacher? But is this really a good model of writing/documenting - if not of teaching or of educational research? Surely there is some compromise between neglecting student voices and inappropriately colluding with students to fire inexperienced or overwhelmed colleagues. (Are the fires really in the bathroom?)

This rather large issue aside, the text is quite repetitive without offering elaboration. The suggestion to have students revise their work comes up again and again without much suggestion how. Lots of teachers use revision, and there are myriad ways to approach this. This is perhaps why it's a shame the journalist author left teachers out of the equation.

Some of the excerpts from kids are so brief and unclear that it seems to also ghettoize the dialect and casual statements of what seems like a usually articulate group of children. Cushman throws around the cultural capital of New York City public schools without a lot of basis. Out of 18 children interviewed, only five are from New York - and some of these attend "small" and possibly private schools. What this book perhaps more aptly addresses is a journalist's view of suburban teaching in Rhode Island and California, where most of her interviewees are students.

Overall a somewhat disappointing read - educators: please consider a wealth of texts from actual teachers and those within legitimately urban environments like yourselves.
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26 of 31 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book was awesome! If I had read this before my first year of teaching, I would have been a much better teacher. I'm really glad I came across it in a bookstore and bought it on a whim as I entered my second year of teaching. It's a book that I know I will read again after a bad day to connected to my students' point of view. It's also a book that I plan to share with many of my colleagues. It really hepled me see things from a kids' perspective. I think it will change my teaching for the better.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By R. Hill on August 30, 2005
Format: Paperback
I was in the bookstore browsing and found this book. I've been teaching college students for over ten years, but only began teaching community college four years ago, and thus feel a bit at sea sometimes with the "high school mentality." This book contains some things that are obvious to those who have been teaching for a long time, but it's almost certain that at least one or two of the views of the kids will be helpful and will translate directly into classroom practice in a way that few books on teaching do.

The insights this book provides into what highschools are like, especially for kids in large city schools, are invaluable. I was surprised to find myself already following a piece of advice I read in the book in the classroom the next day. Definetely worth reading.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Jenns Gems on June 28, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I initially read this book as a study group member. I subsequently bought 5 more copies to share with teachers. The words of wisdom from these students would benefit any first time teacher from Elementary School to High School, and would benefit any teacher who needs a reminder of what to do or not do in order to have a productive mutually respected school year!
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19 of 27 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on September 14, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This book ROCKS. I wish that all of my teachers would read it. High school kids are sick of being treated like second class citizens or caged animals and finally here we get some respect. Thank you Kathleen Cushman for listening to intelligent teenagers and getting their words into print.
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18 of 26 people found the following review helpful By B. Wolinsky on January 29, 2006
Format: Paperback
When Mayor Bloomberg announced the cell phone ban in the schools, teachers like me were angry about it. I thought it was the stupidest idea; a sign of terrible management. If you're a good administrator, you can tell your students and/or subordinates not to use them on the grounds. Having the police department search the kids for cell phones is in my opinion, bullying.

However, cell phones are disruptive, and the "record-the-fight-and-load-it-onto-youtube" phenomena is getting out of hand. Exactly where do we draw lines?

It's unrealistic to expect teens to sit in their seats all day without a break. It's not fair to let kids go all day without fresh air. It won't ruin the child if he doesn't change for gym class or shower afterwards. But there are some exceptions that can't be made. Especially if they're not suitable for school.

The problem with "Fires in the Bathroom" is that Kushman examines the students' complaints from only one side. She only includes interviews that back up her point of view, and there's no info on the teachers and parents. What do the teachers have to say? Why do they think there can't be a student lounge? Why don't they want to treat the kids like adults? What do the parents expect to get?

Kushman interviews high school students who say they want a "student lounge" or they want to be treated like adults, but are the kids right? It's okay to want these things, but you have to step back and ask yourself if these things are appropriate for school. Why would kids need a lounge? If they're not in class, eating lunch, or having recess, then when would they sit in a "student lounge"? I've seen British schools with a "common room" for the older students, and it's always a mistake.
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