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Capturing the Spark: Inspired Teaching, Thriving Schools Paperback – November 17, 2016
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- Jeremy Adams, author of The Secrets of Timeless Teachers (2016) and Full Classrooms, Empty Selves (2012)
"Cohen offers wonder-filled, perceptive observations revealing what is usually invisible about good teaching. Equally important, he asserts that good teaching is neither a limited resource nor a competition. Only a master teacher could guide an often misinformed public and policymakers through the realities of schools today."
- Renee Moore, Teacher, Writer, Mississippi Teacher of the Year
"Save the obituaries - the teaching profession lives on. While much maligned and constrained, teachers still manage to find the spark within themselves and share it with their students, as David B. Cohen reveals in this chronicle of the 21st century California classroom. An uplifting read!"
- Anthony Cody, Co-Founder, Network for Public Education, Author
"David B. Cohen has managed to capture, at various times, and, in a variety of places, the elusive element that fuels great teaching-and teachers. As he points out so readily, that 'spark' is not sufficient to drive today's schools, but it is an absolutely necessary condition to bring about student learning. Until readers can become the 'teacher for a day' in their children's schools, they can re-enter the classrooms of California via Cohen's eyes and ears, and wise insights."
- Bill Younglove, Teacher Educator, California State University, Long Beach
About the Author
David B. Cohen is a National Board Certified English Teacher with twenty years of teaching experience, currently on the staff of Palo Alto High School teaching 10th and 11th grade English classes. He helped launch and co-directed a teacher leadership network called Accomplished California Teachers (ACT). That experience led to opportunities to learn about and work with teachers from all over California. Having worked with a variety of other networks and organizations, and having built relationships with individuals and groups throughout California, Cohen spent the 2014-15 school year traveling around the state to gather material for Capturing the Spark. He chronicled that year at the EdWeek Teacher blog Road Trips in Education, and maintains an ongoing EdWeek blog also called Capturing the Spark. Cohen is also a contributing blogger at The Standard, a group blog by the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards (NBPTS).
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Top Customer Reviews
Whether you read this book in nibbles or one huge bite, David gives us many glimpes into what is good. It's not that 'bad' is absent, it's more that the exemplars take priority. During these times, it's very, very easy to rail on educators/schools/systems that don't achieve to an expected level of performance. While David never presents anything as perfect, he does remind us where our educational priorities should be placed.
I have met David Cohen, the author, several times, and I admire him greatly, so reading this book was having a long visit with him...
David took a year off and set out to visit as many schools as he could, observing educators in action...visiting with administrators and learning what works and what doesn't. He counted on his extensive network of educators: people he trained with, NBCTs he worked with, and just friends from his career...It was a joy to 'visit' these classrooms with him.
More than a few are teachers I know, or are online friends...FB friends, network associates, or folks I follow on twitter. I loved the possibility of peeking into Jane Fung's classroom, and Jim Burke, and Larry Ferlazzo, and Leslee Milch, whom I've met at several conferences.
David organized his visits first by level: elementary, middle school, secondary...Then, he reconfigures his visits according to other criteria: Teachers of the Year, NBCTs, teachers in the STEP program, union leaders, authors, tech-networking teachers, teachers at innovative schools, teacher-run schools...he learns from each teacher and each site.
Then, in the epilogue, he puts it all together, all his insights, all him reflections (he IS, after all an NBCT!) and shares his observations, his suggestions. I was reading and cheering the whole way. His recommendations are all for California schools, but they are so transferable to #oklaed too:
1. Equity of funding
2. Local control and accountability (CA programs)
3. Libraries with full-time librarians (YES YES YES)
4. School nurses and counselors at every school...
5. Address teacher salaries and recruiting/retention programs (Teacher Salary Project)
6. Teacher preparation and induction
7. Teacher leadership-career pathways
8. Address teacher evaluations
9. Progressive unionism and collaborations
What if -- what if our policy makers really committed to reforms like this?
"We err by viewing school improvement as a personnel problem rather than a system problem"
"New teachers, like other professionals, should be thoroughly trained and ably supported by experienced mentors."
"Teaching is more multidimensional, involving continual learning, planning, design, assessments, collaborations, and leadership."
"..accomplished teaching depends on the teacher's ability to learn."
He reminds us of the danger of a single story, and he shares so many different stories of accomplished teachers, vital schools, and wonderful students.
I'm sure David didn't hear, but there were several times I was cheering out loud as I read!
If you read one professional book this year....or next....make it this one. Share with policy makers...and let's work toward David's recommendations.