The Buzz About the Book

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

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, Good Reads

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

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

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

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

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)

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

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

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

More Reviews

“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 passionate pursuit of something worthwhile. — Howard Gardner, Professor of Cognition of Education, Harvard University

From the Publisher

What does it take for young people to get really good at something? Teenagers from diverse backgrounds explore that game-changing question in Fires in the Mind. As they describe what fuels (or quenches) their interest and effort, they offer exciting new perspectives on why students choose to engage and persist with challenging work. WKCD writer Kathleen Cushman—whose landmark book Fires in the Bathroom brought youth voices to the national stage—here asks adolescents and their teachers to think more deeply about how we develop mastery, both in and out of school.

Starting with what youth already know and do well, Fires in the Mind uses the latest research on cognition to help students and teachers together gain insight into motivation, practice, and the need for high standards. Filled with thought-provoking exercises and resources, this book lights new fires in the minds of both teachers and students, and galvanizes them toward more powerful learning for all.

The book Fires in the Mind makes a wonderful shared reading for teachers, parents, or youth groups and advisories. All royalties go to WKCD to continue its work of bringing forward the powerful visions, voices, and work of youth around the world.

Look inside the book!
Download Chapter 1 (PDF)
Order the book from online or retail bookstores
Ask about quantity discounts.
About the authors