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An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students 1st Edition

4.7 out of 5 stars 31 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0325005966
ISBN-10: 0325005966
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“. . . 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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Product Details

  • 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: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #41,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

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Ron Berger has put together a way of thinking about standards that surpasses anything I've read up to now.
It made me want to start school and teaching all over again, and to feel sad that none of my own children or grandchildren had him as a teacher. This is one of those rare accounts that you KNOW is true. (I happen to know it based on a visit I made to his chool some years ago.) Order it immediately.--send it to a friend amd colleague.
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This book is simply extraordinary. What you have here is not politically correct mumbo-jumbo, nor radical institution bashing. This book is the result of 25 years of Berger refining his own craft (one of many, in fact), namely being a good teacher, evaluating what works and what doesn't, thinking about it deeply, observing patterns, and delivering them in this gem of a book with dozens of anecdotes to prove his points.

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.
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Berger's anecdotes and reflections are very captivating can be easily read within a few hours. I believe his project & research based approach with high expectations of students and rework until quality is achieved works and should be a championed approach to engaging students' learning through authentic projects and community impact. I just wish he had more examples of how this could be implemented in secondary education where a teacher can only hold students for an hour a day instead of in elementary school, where a teacher can teach interdisciplinary projects more easily because they hold dominion of the students for the whole day and can devote hours each day to a singular project. Practicality-wise, our secondary & middle schools simply are not going to switch to a 1 teacher format, so I wonder what the best way to is to wrap some of his work into higher grade teaching, because it truly is valuable.
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"Teaching is hard," Ron Berger writes in this brilliant, inspiring and practical book of craft wisdom. While his primary audience is educators who focus on building school culture, his ideas for cultivating and maintaining an unwavering work ethic of excellence are gems also for parents, clergy and any one with responsibility for developing the mind and character of a child.
"It is through their own work that their self-esteem will grow," he notes citing numerous vivid examples. Berger writes with clarity, candor and humility. His stories inside and outside the classroom form a compelling narrative in support of his case that all children deserve an education that is this demanding and meaningful.
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This book is a great practical example of how to focus as a teacher. Ron Berger brings to light the trouble with current educational trends and shows ways students can be naturally engaged. His students feel mature, bright and capable. Read this book, follow Ron's example. I finished it in a day and it has changed my whole approach to teaching.
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Berger's method consists of allowing students to learn through real-world applications the concepts taught in class. To do this he integrates concepts of different subject areas for the completion of a project that has real-world application. Usually the projects are based on the community. He starts a project by showing his current students past student work. This sets the standard for excellence. As part of the project, the students create several drafts and improve their drafts based on peer-review. Classmates critique each other's work in a safe environment and through this process raise the excellence of their work. This method creates meaningful learning that many of his students cherished for the rest of their lives because their projects improved their community's lives.

As you read it you'll also appreciate Berger's passion for his students. It's an amazing book! I highly recommend it.
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This book provides a completely different side to educational practice as opposed to the typical focus on the asumption that high test scores are the only gauge of student learning and pre-scripted curriculum, canned instruction, and narrow administrative evaluation are the only ways to achieve that "high level of learning". In other words, if you are looking for a quick fix approach to improving student test scores, you will not glean much from this book. Mr. Berger offers an approach to quality student learning though authentic learning experiences for kids as well as ongoing learning for the teachers working alongside their students. Using his experience as a carpenter as a backdrop for his success as a teacher, Mr. Berger provides three toolboxes that collectively provide a clear picture of what an excellent school culture, excellent student work, and excellent teaching look like. As a secondary school principal constantly looking for ways to improve his school, this book provided a tremendous example of what is possible in public education. If you are serious about quality change in our schools - this is a must read for you and for your staff.
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