“Fires In The Mind” Book Reviews

Last Updated on June 13, 2022 by Anne-Sophie Reinhardt

Kathleen Cushman’s Fires in the Mind discusses the importance of motivation to feed one’s will and determination. It also discusses the value of practicing. The adage, “Try and try until you succeed”, applies to this book. Moreover, it’s very applicable to single mothers around the world.

Fires In the Mind Book

Fires In The Mind

Fires in the Mind is a diverse book published in 2010 that centers on motivation and practice. The book also unveils what it truly takes to be an expert. Teenagers from all walks of life engage in cutting-edge conversations with adults and teachers on developing mastery in and out of school. In short, their discoveries reframe motivation, practice, and academic challenge, inspiring everyone to study more effectively.

Your Invisible Power (Audiobook)
Your Invisible Power (Audiobook)

It contains questions that will describe their driving factors to have chosen that kind of interest and perceptions on how things don’t get any better until they are older. It may take years of hard work and effort before someone deems it perfect. The author Kathleen Cushman made sure that analyzing the intricacies of mastery is an essential step. Fires in the Mind is not only targeted at adolescents as the audience but elders too.  The book (purchased on Amazon) also contains practical advice for educators to help them put these students’ ideas into action. 

About the Authors of Fires In the Mind

Kathleen Cushman wrote Fires in the Mind alongside journalist and documentarian Barbara Cervone and students coming from 17 schools and youth-serving organizations from nine cities or towns in the US. Kathleen Cushman dedicated her life to bringing diversity in the US and abroad to life. In short, all start with the project What Kids Can Do, Inc. (WKCD).

She is a writer and also, a publishing consultant who focuses on adolescent learning. Cushman works with educational institutions as a speaker and presenter to connect direct youth participation with successful techniques in secondary schools and colleges. Besides, she concentrates on addressing issues that will give them a voice on what influences their lives and learning. Furthermore, she had already published

  • Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students
  • And secondly, its sequel, Fires in the Middle School Bathroom, which she co-wrote with Laura Rogers, Ed.D. 

Book Reviews 

Fires in the Mind takes readers in a compelling story of youth finding their will and determination to choose what skills or talents best define them. Hence, mastery of the art. The book contains how youth went beyond their comfort zone and persisted to discover their passionate pursuits. The comments from the readers of the book include: 

  • This inspiring book helps us understand that all students have intrinsic motivation and ability. Cushman’s stories and examples show us how to find and unlock that capacity and help students accomplish more than they— or we—thought possible.Ben Levin, author, How to Change 5000 Schools
  • “Become passionate” is easy to say, hard to do, impossible to compel. Drawing on the insights of young persons, parents, teachers, and experts, Kathleen Cushman reveals the paths to the passionate pursuit of something worthwhile.Howard Gardner, Professor of Cognition of Education, Harvard University
  • A unique approach to exploring the question of how teachers can better engage and inspire today’s students. Anthony Rebora, Education Week/Teacher
  • A relief and a wakeup call to anyone who worries about the apathy of today’s youth. Daniel Greene, Education Review
  • If you are looking for a book that is inspiring and motivating, this is the one. This is educational reform within the four walls of your classroom!Megan Palevich, GoodReads
  • Depicts all kinds of kids as deeply passionate and self-propelled learners, who don’t need adults driving them to get started, to get interested. They figure out how to be good, because they are profoundly engaged in wanting to know something.Kirsten Olsen, author, Wounded by School
  • A wonderful book that gave me lots of new insights about what motivates and inspires young minds.Michael Klonsky, Director, Small Schools Workshop (in Catalyst Caucus)

Practice Project 

Practice Project is an initiative established by What Kids Can Do (WCKD). It is supported by MetLife Foundation and promoted by WKCD writer and researcher, Kathleen Cushman. Practice Project is perfect for anyone who deals with the youth. It is a 5-days curriculum guide that is downloadable in a PDF format. Practice Project serves as a guide for youth, teachers, parents to analyze the missions and visions brought upon by the process of mastery. Moreover, it is where inquisition and acquisition develop within a child and grow maturely.  

What Kids Can Do Courses 

The publication of Fires in the Mind has brought great success in understanding and analyzing students’ motivation. It has become the driving force of asking the questions how, why, and what. Kathleen Cushman launched an online course called, “Learning Path on Building Student Motivation.” It has six in-depth mixed-media case studies dealing with a highly motivating classroom practice alongside commentary given by learning scientists as well as from the teachers and students involved. The course becomes a social-learning experience where the participants can have a chance to discuss with Cushman. In addition, and analyze the curriculum through the utilization of “Motivation Equation.”

How can teachers support kids for mastery according to WKC?

According to WKC, Teachers are often seen as second parents of children. Everything starts as a question, and as the question takes root in a student’s mind, everything develops. That’s the moment where teachers can support their students in learning mastery. They coaxed them into taking risks – whether it’s intellectual or creative. Besides, understanding each is the main point of teachers supporting their students.  Adults can also learn from students and students from adults. 

So, the importance of understanding is the essence of the practice. It becomes a puzzle that two parties must solve. Moreover, the significance of this is correlation is how it relates to their lives. Adolescents drill it into their minds that our world is a puzzle that needs solving. Encourage the youth to keep practicing. Once a student starts practicing a skill or talent, it will grow into so much more.

How can parents support kids for mastery according to WKC?

Parents play a vital role in their children’s lives. They are the model they need to adhere to, setting out examples, their first teachers in everything they want to know. WCKD provides downloadable materials to help parents understand what is going on in their children’s minds. Their “Advice for Parents” is given to the parents of middle and high schoolers. It contains information on managing stress, self-control, homework, motivation, self-confidence, and resourcefulness. The guiding principles on which the material was based are potential, practice, habits, and success. 

The invited diverse youth from What Kids Can Do’s vast student and teacher network who joined the sustained conversations are from the following:  

Chicago: Eleventh graders at the Academy of Communications and Technology Charter School, students at Westside Alternative High School, and a ninth grade reading and writing class at Prosser Career Academy High School.

Long Beach, CA: Members of Woodrow Wilson High School’s Male Academy for young men of color.

Rural Maine: Students from Poland Regional High School who integrated our inquiry into their senior projects.

New York City: Students from Young Women’s Leadership School of East Harlem, the Queens High School of Teaching, the Isaac Newton Middle School for Math and Science, the Clinton School for Artists and Writers, East Side Community School, and Citizen Schools.

Providence, RI: Members of the youth string quartet at Community MusicWorks, a neighborhood organization. 

San Antonio, TX: Students from the internship program at the International School of the Americas.

San Diego, Oakland, and Mill Valley, CA: Students from (respectively) High Tech High, Youth Radio, and the Conservatory Theatre Ensemble at Tamalpais High School.

More Reviews for Fires In The Mind

Five-star reviews on Barnes and Noble! Once again Kathleen Cushman takes the voices and insights of students and applies them to the teaching profession. Starting from the broad question of how one trains for mastery, she quickly establishes a persuasive model and then shows how it helps teachers give direction and focus to classroom work and homework. As a teacher of history for 25 years, I was especially struck by the argument for “deliberate practice” with assignments attuned to the actual needs of individual students. Throughout the book, I found gems that will also help me as a tennis coach of individuals and teams. I have already recommended this engaging book to several new teachers I am mentoring. It is a must read!

What a refreshing book! Rather than asking the timeworn question “How can we motivate these kids?” Kathleen Cushman performs a lovely act of conceptual Jujutsu and instead asks “What can the kids tell us about motivation?” The answers are smart and thoughtful and brimming with good advice.Mike Rose, author of Why School? Reclaiming Education for All of Us

Five-star ratings on Amazon! In Fires in the Mind, Kathleen Cushman reveals that kids have lots to tell us about motivation and mastery. She skillfully draws on the collective wisdom of 160 young people, weaving together their words and insights into a vivid exploration of “what it takes to get really good at something.” It’s impossible to choose just a few highlights from this book because it’s filled with over 200 quotes from the students who participated in the Practice Project, each one contributing a valuable perspective on the journey towards expertise.Honor Moorman, teacher.

Reviews from Education Institutes and Educators

No matter what stage we’re at as educators, every teacher can mine this book for many helpful nuggets to support student mastery. We can help ignite “fires in the minds” of our kids, and this wonderful book makes an excellent fire starter.Kathie Marshall, LAUSD teacher, in Teacher Leaders Network blog of the Center for Teaching Quality

Stimulates educators to pay attention to the words, wisdom, and practical suggestions that grow out of students’ school experiences. Fires in the Mind is well documented research that grows directly from the “consumers” of our educational systems. It should be studied by teachers and used as a model for eliciting the many fires in the minds of their students. What better way to learn how to transform our practices?Bena Kalick, Learning and Leading with Habits of Mind

Knowing that students spend roughly ten thousand hours in high school and college combined lends debates about best teaching practices and how students learn more urgency. Kathleen Cushman and her teen collaborators present some suggestions for using those hours to students’ and teachers’ best advantage. Their answers and ideas are what make Fires in the Mind so compelling; chock-full of anecdotes, the book gives voice to the most important stakeholders in education—students.School Library Journal

As a nation, we need to return our educational focus to true scholarship. Beyond test scores, we need to support students to strive for excellence in their academic, artistic and civic work. In this volume Kathleen Cushman brings her celebrated collection of student voices to this crucial issue.Ron Berger, Chief Program Officer, Expeditionary Learning Schools

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