- Age Range: 7 - 13 years
- Grade Level: 2 - 8
- Paperback: 156 pages
- Publisher: Heinemann; 1st edition (July 30, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0325005966
- ISBN-13: 978-0325005966
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.4 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 32 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #162,178 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students 1st Edition
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“. . . an important book for our time, for teachers, teacher educators, and policymakers.”–Ann Lieberman, Senior Scholar, Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching
“Stop everything youre doing and take the time to really read this. Not once. Not even twice, but over and over. Make your colleagues read it . . . every legislator and policymaker ought to too, so they can see when and where their favorite, best-designed, top-down mandates may actually hinder this kind of culture of high standards. But, of course, what in the end makes it such a good read is in the details, those precious and well-told stories of what the real stuff looks like.”–Deborah Meier, Coprincipal, Mission Hill School, Boston
“Ron Berger is one of the most remarkable teachers in America today. He sets incredibly high standards in his classes and his students measure up to those standards. Yet Ron Bergers authentic standards bear little resemblance to what passes for standards in todays test-obsessed America. For a reminder of what education can and should be, read this passionate book - and give it to every policymaker whom you know.”–Howard Gardner, Harvard Graduate School of Education
“. . . passionate stories from an inspiring, ever imaginative teacher whose demands on his students are high and those on himself even higher. He writes of teaching as an ethic . . . a way of thinking . . . that is built carefully by hand, a craft that defies "scaling up" in mechanistic ways and that requires powerful, autonomous work close to the students.”–Theodore R. Sizer, Founder, Coalition of Essential Schools
About the Author
Ron Berger has been a public school teacher in western Massachusetts for 25 years. He works with the Expeditionary Learning Outward Bound school network, Harvard Project Zero, and the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.
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Berger is direct in explaining there are no quick fixes and no proven steps for success in this endeavor. This may be frustrating to some, but I agree with his assessment and appreciate his clarification. Berger provides well-developed ideas and specific examples but places the responsibility on teachers to understand their own unique environments and apply the information he presents.
Berger organizes his ideas into three “toolboxes.” His first toolbox, “School Culture of Excellence,” suggests the power of culture by posing the question, “What if being normal in a school, fitting in, means caring about your work and treating others with respect?” (P36) Berger believes relationships are essential in shaping this sort of culture, and opposes the notion that bigger is better in education. He contends that although facilities should not be poorly maintained, community is lost in our movement in education towards larger districts offering more amenities. While I agree with much of Berger’s assessment on school culture, I am disappointed that Berger does not offer much past a condolence that teachers, in reality, have little to no control over this area.
Berger devoted the most time to his second toolbox “Work of Excellence.” Berger’s emphasis on utilizing models particularly resonated with me. I personally find it so much easier to critique than create. I would rather have an example, identify areas of excellence and areas for improvement, and then apply this knowledge to my own undertaking. Berger explains that he uses a variety of models to encourage creativity, but I believe originality would still be at risk and a disadvantage to consider for this practice.
I appreciated that Berger emphasized quality over quantity, and the expectation of multiple drafts for work. He contrasted this to his experience as a student where “the norm was one draft; anything else was a failure.” (P89) Berger shared how often in his travels that others assumed he was sharing the work of gifted students because of the quality. The quality, however, was a result of hard work and revisions, not innate ability. I found this encouraging and believe this reflects how quality and success in the real world are achieved as well.
I was impressed with the opportunities that Berger designed for students to interact with adults and publicly display their work. I am often surprised at my own kids’ ability or lack of ability to interact appropriately in certain situations, and definitely believe this is a useful skill. I also think Berger identified a very important motivator with students displaying their work publicly. Even in my house project, each craftsman is excited to share their work with my family. They have taken the time needed to complete it to the best of their ability and they are proud of it. They want others to see it and appreciate it. I believe this is true a thousand times over for students and can be employed through so many different avenues.
Finally in the second toolbox, I liked Berger’s insistence that projects do not have to be viewed as additional activities. In his classroom, they are standard aligned curriculum. I appreciate his dedication to work being completed in the classroom instead of assigning projects primarily as homework. I believe this more fairly supports all students to be successful since resources and support at home can vary significantly. Berger also stresses giving students important work; work that they know matters. I agree this engages students and improves effort.
In his third toolbox, “Teaching of Excellence,” Berger empathizes that teaching is a calling which makes the desire of educational decision makers to “teacher-proof curriculum” (P126) especially heartbreaking. Berger laments the increasing number of teachers who feel “isolated, self-protective, and insecure.” (p128) Berger contrasts the United States to other countries where teachers are better supported and better results with students are observed. As with the first toolbox, while I appreciate Berger’s insight and agree with much of his analysis, there is not much provided for teachers to be able to improve this area.
I would recommend this book to educators as an inspiration to revitalize your passion for excellence and a continued treasure of resources upon which to reflect. Berger described the portrait of a teacher who did not care and poignantly concluded that the teacher probably did not begin that way. This book is a good start down a better path. As Berger exhorts, “start small…do something well and build from there.” (P152)
Berger's insight into learning, society, community, politics and human nature is astounding. If you yourself are the kind of person who think deeply about this kind of thing you will find that Berger summarises your conclusions in simple sentences with huge impact. I've never thought "exactly, that's exactly what I think" while reading a book as much as this one.
My field is music education and more specifically composition in music education. I have folders and folders of beautiful work made by children who reworked and reworked draft after draft. I felt the pressure of the paperwork to move onto the next part of the syllabus, but resisted it to allow students more weeks to refine their work and make something truly jaw-dropping. Transformative. Inspirational.
This is the approach that Berger takes - but there's so much more in this book. It points out that the route to success (by which he means both happy, engaged children *and* better grades) is not always easy, and involves more of a philosophical approach to our jobs as teachers (and leaders in our communities) than taking up a bunch of dot points to follow. There's a lifetime of hard work to do. And then he shows why it's worth it.
Most recent customer reviews
The ideas in the book are profound in simplicity and obvious impact, while demonstrating why teaching is a great art.Read more