* MY #1 BOOK OF 2016 – EdWeek Teacher blogger Nancy Flanagan:
“Terrific book. Much more than a collection of stories about happy, successful, innovative classrooms. Cohen’s thoughtful commentary accompanies his classroom visits, weaving observations about education policy, teaching, our changing student demographics, equity and justice into detailed vignettes that paint an accurate portrait of education in America…. The kids, it seems, are all right–and so are the teachers. That’s a lesson that bears endless repetition, and Cohen does so with grace and conviction.”
* Daniel Pink, author of DRIVE, says:
“In CAPTURING THE SPARK, David B. Cohen shares his year-long trek through California’s public school system, from elementary to high school, where he found daily examples of the kind of enthusiastic learning teachers can foster through a well-defined sense of autonomy, mastery, and purpose. If you’re looking for reasons to be hopeful about public education, read this story of optimism and excellence.”
Thanks to Jeremy Adams for the first published full-length review of Capturing the Spark!
The book is both readable and well-written—a dual achievement that can be difficult to attain. Cohen provides a professional service that I have long searched for. As a teacher, I spend my days in my own classroom, frequently isolated and curious about the practices of others. I have always wanted to see what is happening “over there” – in the next classroom, in another school, in another part of the state. David Cohen does not just paint a vivid picture of “what’s happening,” but he vividly describes what’s happening in the best classrooms in the state of California, a state of extraordinary diversity and a tapestry that is certainly a microcosm of America itself….
Read more of Jeremy’s review: The Good News In Education We’ve Been Waiting For: ‘Capturing The Spark’
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Interviews and Articles
One line in the book that caught my attention came at the end of the chapter on Teachers of the Year: “The recognition these teachers receive should not be seen as devaluing anyone else’s talents, but rather as an opportunity to celebrate the ways that these teachers turn their vision into realities that improve children’s lives.” It captures the spirit of the book, these wonder-filled, perceptive observations revealing what is usually invisible about good teaching. Equally important, it 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.
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 Cohen reveals in this chronicle of the 21st century California classroom. An uplifting read!
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.
Whether from the perspective of a “fly on the wall” — or drawn as a participant — Cohen managed to get inside the workings of over five dozen California schools, in settings as diverse demographically as they were geographically.
As Cohen points out so graphically, those teachers who energize students the most are those for whom the job has become, literally, a way of life. This is despite the demands of class sizes that may stretch to 200 student contacts daily and paper loads that defy any kind of manageable sense. Cohen describes the spark—or sparks, really—as: a personal charisma, a prevailing sense of humor, a refinement of lessons throughout the day, an independent and creative spirit in conjunction with teaming and mentoring, perpetual personal growth, and continually asking: Would I want to be a student, or would I want my own children to be students, in my own classroom?
Until — or unless — readers of Capturing the Spark 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.