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Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students

3.70  ·  Rating details ·  742 ratings  ·  75 reviews
Since its initial publication in hardcover in 2003, Fires in the Bathroom has been through multiple printings and received the attention of teachers across the country. Now in paperback, Kathleen Cushman's groundbreaking book offers original insights into teaching teenagers in today's hard-pressed urban high schools from the point of view of the students themselves. It spe ...more
Paperback, 204 pages
Published April 1st 2005 by New Press (first published 2003)
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3.70  · 
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 ·  742 ratings  ·  75 reviews

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May 09, 2008 rated it liked it
Fires in the Bathroom: Advice for Teachers from High School Students mislead me. The title and premise conjured a picture of a superficial book that gave mostly obvious and angst filled ideas padded by some feel good support from the author. That was not the case at all.

Fires in the Bathroom is actually a level headed, thorough, and well organized text for new teachers. Cushman and her student collaborators spent countless hours working on the material for this book. In fact, there is even a cha
Jul 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ed-ref, library
I love, love, love this book. I would say it's more of a 4.5 instead of a 5 though.

The best quality of this book is the fact that it uses actual students and the advice they give. The students come from a variety of backgrounds: gender, race, age, etc. It isn't just a bunch of high-performing kids that find school easy. Instead, it's a mix of high and low performers, and a whole bunch of other demographics.

The advice these kids give is real. It gave me so much insight and understanding, and I fe
May 21, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: new teachers, jerky teachers
This was a good introduction to some basic rules of teaching-- don't try to be your students' friend, don't stand at the board and lecture, don't assume the worst just because a kid has his head down, don't show up on your student's doorstep wanting to chat (you hear that, Michelle Pfeiffer?), etc.

The wisdom in the book comes from interviews with a bunch of high schoolers from California, Rhode Island, and New York, and about half of them taught at or attended Summerbridge/Breakthrough Collabor
Jennifer Mangler
Dec 09, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: profdev, education
Of course it's important for teachers to know and listen to their students. But this book just didn't work for me. The main ideas were redundant, and I think that has a lot to do with how the book was organized. Also, I didn't find the book incredibly useful, mainly because the main ideas often contradicted each other and because it suffers from the "teachers need to be perfect" syndrome. I get that the teenagers involved were offering advice on how the adults in the school could make things wor ...more
Robert Long
Jul 09, 2011 rated it really liked it
You would hope that much of this book would be common sense for teachers, but I can understand how a lot of these things may go overlooked when you have so much to think about. At first, I was thinking "come on, i know all this stuff. Treat kids fairly, try and get them to do their best." Yet, I know it isn't that easy. I really enjoyed this book! It has great modules to give to the students regarding how to ask them questions and so forth. After reading this book, I have a greater understanding ...more
Jul 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: new teachers
After book after book on theory, it was nice to be assigned a book that focuses on creating a dialogue between adults and teens, rather than just adults analyzing and drawing conclusions from their experiences with/observations of youth (not to say that's an invalid way of researching, it's just nice to see a new point-of-view). I will say that this is probably a resource that will be more valuable to new teachers, as I would think that most veteran teachers have developed a greater understandin ...more
Lindsay Merrill
Sep 16, 2016 rated it it was ok
1.5 stars.

The idea that teachers should listen to students and their needs is important but not new. Realistically, this book could/should have been condensed into a 20 page pamphlet.

-Some interesting quotes/experiences shared through the voice of students.

-Poor/questionable organization (In particular, the quotes that were often used to "back up" or illustrate a particular point the author made didn't always really seem to have a whole lot to do with the point the author w
Feb 08, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: every teacher I know
I'm so impressed with the premise for this book: ask high school students to give new teachers advice on how to be successful. I was taken by the fact that the students identified many of the Five Core Propositions that National Board says all accomplished teachers reflect: commitment to students, knowing their subject and how to teach, motivating and managing learning, and reaching outside the classroom...the only one of the Propositions students didn't mention was reflection, and there were pl ...more
Doug Crook
Feb 12, 2014 rated it really liked it
This book is almost entirely driven by student quotes and observations. It doesn't seem like it should be such a novel concept but it really gives a perspective that is often overlooked when teachers are talking about the best interests of the students versus finding out what the students perception of those ideals really is. It confronts a lot of stereotypes and makes abstract discussions more relevant.

My only gripe with the book is the contradictory nature of so many of the passages. I unders
Kayla Gough
Mar 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: reviewed, realistic
This book was assigned as required reading for a graduate level class on classroom management (Spring 2017).

As a future teacher, this book had some valid points and thought provoking themes and ideas to consider before I step into my first classroom. I loved that it asked teachers to be reflective and responsive to students, especially pertaining to underrepresented populations in a school (minorities, ELLs, IEP students, truancy, etc.). How can WE change in order to reach those students?

The on
Jul 19, 2010 rated it it was ok
I guess mostly I wished Cushman would have backed off her own agenda for a little bit and allowed these kids time and space to craft their own ideas about good teaching. It sounds like she just sat in a room with them and goaded them to say certain things (including some awful things about former teachers of theirs who were presumably still in the classroom) and then had somebody write it all down word for word. There are some little nuggets of wisdom, and the kids are lovely and candid (but whe ...more
"When you skip school it's like an addiction, you skip it so much that you're like: What's the point in going, even if you want to be in the school."

This is a compact guide for new teachers and teachers feeling overwhelmed from the perspective of the students on how to be more effective.

Organized by sections such as how to work better with English language learners and how to integrate movies into the curriculum this book is students sharing their input on what makes a good teacher and what woul
Susan Bazzett-Griffith
Jul 15, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: teaching-books
Eh. Barely two stars. I can see how this book could be interesting/valuable to a brand new teacher, but really, it is a lot of common sense. The student quotes were somewhat painful to read because the grammar was so poor (seriously? If their teachers haven't even taught them how to write grammatically correct sentences, they SHOULD be bitching and offering them advice, I suppose...). I just don't see how tidbits of advice like, "Get to know your students, know their neighborhood, have high expe ...more
Luke Sweeney
Dec 07, 2017 rated it liked it
There are some really great insights and student perspectives offered in here. After a 150 pages or so it starts to get a bit redundant, and you wonder if the book might've benefited from more interview subjects. The author herself admits to including some quotes/suggestions from kids that veteran teachers would recognize as "impractical," so I kept that in mind as I was reading. Please forgive me for thinking the kids were a tad whiny at times. Anyway, I would recommend this to every HS or MS t ...more
Nov 23, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: educational
Students came together and gave their thoughts, insight and help in regards to what teachers can do better to teach them. Coming from the perspective of students who are labeled as ELL, ESL and SES, these students help teachers to see another perspective. While the book discusses similar topics repeatedly and the student's answers do become monotonous, it only reinforces what students are thinking.

This book is a great resource to remind someone what the students are thinking and how to more effe
Apr 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: teacher-helps
I read this while I was student teaching suburban/rural HS in UT. I was planning to land a job as an inner city teacher in DC. I was baffled by the title.

Then, I got my dream urban job, and totally understood it. The bathroom (or boys locker room) was lit on fire regularly.

Anyway, I'd highly recommend this book to any new teacher, or to any teacher working with inner city kids.

The bottom line: students want to be challenged. Structure and challenges, they thrive on it, even amongst the chaos o
Aug 12, 2011 rated it liked it
This book has a lot of good ideas. I can see it being especially useful for new teachers. Reading this as an experienced teacher, I found I was already doing much of what was being discussed, but there are a couple of ideas that I want to implement into my plans.

I would like to see this same book written for a middle class, suburban high school. The issues are both the same and totally different.
Nov 19, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This book was good. It's full of stuff that high school kids actually said. My biggest complaint, perhaps, is that it's at times contradictory... But actually, that makes sense. I mean, there is no one formula that makes teaching easy. If there were, I'm sure we'd have already figured it out by now. Anyway, it only took a couple hours to read this, so it's definitely a good return for your time investment.
Jan 26, 2008 rated it really liked it
Though somewhat standard info, this comes straight from the mouths of high school kids in oakland, nyc, etc. Includes a few interesting exercises for teachers, too, aimed at trying to figure out how you teach and treat individual students vs. the class, clarifying grading policies and expectations. Quick read, and thought-provoking. I recommend it to new teachers, especially for the summer before starting.
Jul 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone who interacts with high school students
Recommended to Elizabeth by: I read it for my Adolescent Development course at NYU.
This book is the collection of the opinions of a diverse group of high school students from around the country...their opinions on everything related to school, from pop quizzes to classroom behavior expectations. Their voices are real, honest and down-to-earth without being overly whiny and demanding in their tones. There are tons of interesting anecdotes. Overall it's an important perspective to be exposed to for anyone who works with this age group.
Aug 24, 2008 rated it liked it
Shelves: education

I found this book to be enlightening in some regards, but often repetitive. Though much of the advice is common sense, even good teachers need to be reminded of the students' perspectives and unique situations. This is definitely a text I'll come back to when I start teaching, if only for the questionnaire templates.
Jul 21, 2012 rated it liked it
This book contains insight that may seem to be "common sense," however it is a good reminder that students are people. I plan to come back to this as a reality check when the testing and administrative responsibilities threaten to interfere with my true duty--helping students to be more than they were at the beginning of the year.
Apr 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
This book is packed with clear, meaningful feedback from students to teachers on how to deal with many of the concerns we have stepping into the classroom. The author has also included worksheets to help teachers reflect on different situations and concerns as they arise. It's a book I'll turn to again and again throughout my career.
Jan 24, 2009 rated it really liked it
I hate non-fiction books, but every once in a while I'll suck it up because I think I might learn something. I did. Kids are so honest & you just can't hide anything from them because they see through all the b*#!^*@%!. As a teacher, I get way more from kid advice than teacher advice. Afterall, the kids are the ones who have to sit there and learn from me. :)
Jun 25, 2008 rated it liked it
Okay, fine, only read 90% of this. About 20% too much, really. If I could give 2.5, I would. If you get this, and you're new to teaching stuff, consider this as something like 1/2 of the story. There certainly is NOT enough student accountability in here. The pendulum swings too far to one side.
I'll admit I skimmed this book, because it was written in a way that enabled me to do so. Some interesting ideas. It's hard to put into practice some of the things these students ask for though. I'll have to work hard on a few things, but some of them I understand very well and will use in my classroom.
Mar 20, 2008 rated it liked it
Some interesting and good suggestions from students and points made by authors. Somewhat repetitive in the quotes and concepts. Not sure who would find it interesting other than high-school teachers. Doesn't do enough to point out that students are ultimately responsible for their own learning and that parents and communities have the obligation to educate children, along with teachers.
Emily Klein
Jun 21, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: education
I have all my student teachers read this. I think it's very easy to forget that teenagers have really valuable things to tell us as educators. This book is such a well done reminder that we should ask them.
Mar 26, 2008 rated it liked it
I had to return this to the library so I did not get to finish. What I read was hit and miss but it did have some great teaching advice from kids in high school and from the author. I would definitely give this a closer read if I were teaching in high school.
May 11, 2010 rated it liked it
I read this right before starting a new teaching job at a charter school. It helped me feel less nervous. I love the idea of having students fill out a survey about their lives during the first week of school (or their first week in a class)to help build connections.
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