Wednesday, December 28, 2016

CAPTURING THE SPARK by David Cohen -- A Review

"...the real drivers of education are not technological or programmatic. It's educators who make innovation work, when they are connected, empowered, and inspired to make learning come alive for students."

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?

Favorite quotes:

"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.

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