Bookshelves the world over, are awash with books about educational improvement and transformation – in my time I’ve read a few of them and for the most part, I’ve often found them to be quite dry and academic. It was therefore enlightening to have been invited to join my school’s professional book circle and to be presented with a pristine copy of Ron Berger’s book, An Ethic of Excellence: Building a Culture of Craftsmanship with Students. I was already familiar with Ron’s ideas of improvement through redrafting but taking the time to read his book really brought to life his passion for getting the very best work out of young people by developing a culture of achievement and excellence in the classroom.
I think the thing that really stood out for me was the human element to his writing. He really lets you into his world and allows you to see into his thought processes and what motivates him to value and get the best out of every child. On teaching he describes his feelings in the following way, ‘The days might be exhausting but we didn’t need to compromise our vision: We could be passionate, creative and obsessive about quality. Even with the stress I felt fortunate to have that opportunity.’ I think that quote really embodies his passion for teaching and his sense that like any craft, teachers can develop their craftsmanship and in so doing their passion for quality.
If I’m totally honest, not all the ideas in the book could be adopted by a school such as ours, but that is not always the point in engaging with a text. I would say that the book offers a refreshing outlook and interpretation of education and should be a must read on any teacher’s professional reading list. If you want a book that will leave you with a feel good factor and reaffirm your beliefs about what drove you into the profession, you do not have to look much further.