Hearts of the Mountain: Adolescents, a Teacher, and a Living School

Hearts of the Mountain: Adolescents, a Teacher, and a Living School sketches an utterly unique entity: an independent and virtual one-room middle school in the Green Mountains of Vermont. Hearts of the Mountain takes a deep look into an intimate, wild, and unpredictable year of learning, in and out of the classroom, with a diverse collection of funny, profound, troubled, and hopeful adolescents.

“If education interests you—if kids interest you— this is a magical story.” —Bill McKibben

Advance Praise
“. . . I couldn’t put it down. . . . At North Branch School, a group of youngsters of varying ages sit together—or sometimes by themselves or with a few peers—and work on making sense of the world they live in. They do this with each other’s assistance, and the help of a few interesting adults, and all the resources they can get their hands on inside and outside the classroom. These lucky children are in that rare place where everything we know about how humans learn always has and always will be taken seriously. Imagine: a place created for the purpose of maximizing human learning, designed with that purpose in mind! . . . These are the stories about remarkable classrooms and schools that we need to restore our appreciation for how remarkable living things of all sorts are, but humans most remarkably so. Every last one.
Deborah Meier, author The Power of Their Ideas, Lessons to America from a Small School in Harlem

“ I promise you, from the first page, the first few paragraphs, you will be captured by this book. Birdsey is a beautiful writer, and he tells a story of great power and beautythe story of a year in the life of a rural school and the lives of twenty-seven memorable students, their time together rendered with a novelist’s skill and a true teacher’s wisdom.”   Mike Rose, author of Possible Lives: The Promise of Public Education in America

“I love this book with its beautiful storytelling, wisdom and sense of authentic hope in children and the future. I admire and respect this book for I love its teacher author and the children who inhabit this holding environment for growth and well-being. It is a living learning community not only preparing young people for the future. It is also a dynamic, organic community for living in the present in the shared purpose of human agency and meaning-making. A community that honors the wholeness of each member, the ‘full development of the human personality.’ It is concerned both with the academic expectations of a school, but more importantly with the social-emotional-ethical learning that Tal found at an embryonic community, founded fifty years ago in Atlanta, the Paideia School. I was there at the creation of that school as a 22-year-old aide in the half-day kindergarten while studying for a Ph.D. in Human Studies at Emory. Tal’s family joined us in those first years and contributed greatly to the life-blood of the community. I sense deeply what this intentionally small, rural North Branch School in the mountains of Vermont must be because I know its taproots- what it values in how it sustains a living community. But community doesn’t just happen, even in a small school. To be an authentic community it must be organized around people and relationships. A living school is as it becomes: a caring place, a democratic place, a creative place, an inquisitive place, a just place, a communicative place, and a celebrative place. The hearts of the mountain.”
Walter Enloe, Senior Director, Leadership, Learning, and Teaching, EdVisions, Gordon B. Sanders Chair in Education, Hamline University

LIFE IS THE SCHOOL – The North Branch School, Ripton, Vermont from Vermont Folklife Center on Vimeo.

Reviews & Media

“For 21 years, Tal Birdsey has been the head-teacher at The North Branch School, an independent school for students grades 7-9 in Ripton. 

The new book dives deep into a year of learning and living at the small school, which is nestled in the woods and mountains near Robert Frost’s summer home.

Hearts of the Mountain: A Teacher, Adolescents, and a Living School, published by Vermont’s Green Writers Press, details a magical and thrilling year of learning in the school.

In novelistic detail, Birdsey sketches an utterly unique entity: an independent and virtual one-room middle school in the Green Mountains of Vermont. It’s a deep look into an intimate, wild and unpredictable year of learning, in and out of the classroom, with a diverse collection of funny, profound, troubled and hopeful adolescents. Birdsey published his first book about the North Branch School, A Room for Learning: The Making of a School in Vermont, in 2009, from St. Martin’s Press.” —Addison County Independent 


Link to feature in SevenDays

About the Author

Tal Birdsey is the head teacher, co-founder, and director of the school. He teaches writing, literature, social studies, art, student government, and ethics and serves as the school counselor, soccer coach, and newsletter and literary magazine editor. He’s been State of Vermont licensed and certified and has taught previously at the Paideia School in Atlanta, Georgia, and abroad in Taiwan. He has published poetry in journals around the country and is a working visual artist. In 2008, he published a book about the founding and first year of North Branch School, entitled A Room for Learning: The Making of a School in Vermont  (St. Martin’s Press). His second book forthcoming from Green Writers Press (spring 2019), Hearts of the Mountain, is about a year in the life of teaching and learning at the North Branch School.

Hearts of the Mountain: Adolescents, a Teacher, and a Living School
Tal Birdsey
Nonfiction / Education
$21.95 for print
Paperback Original
358 pages / 6 x 9
ISBN: 978-1-7328540-1-7
Pub Date: October 22, 2021
Green Writers Press

Distributor: IPG/Chicago
Rights sold: All rights available.
Rights Contact: Dede Cummings, dede@greenwriterspress.com
German Language Rights Contact: Oliver Brauer, brauer@agentur-brauer.de

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