No-Nonsense? Nonsense!

DSC_0107Our local CBS affiliate posted a public opinion question this morning. The “No Nonsense Nurturing” is rearing its ugly head once again because teachers and schools using this program (see link ) have gained some news cycle traction: teachers are being told not to use “please” or “thank you” with students.

As Amy Berard, former Lawrence Public School teacher, so eloquently wrote, the program requires teachers to speak with students according to a script. Don’t say please. Don’t say thank-you. Be direct, speak without inflection. Don’t give students a choice.

Oxymoronically named, the program does anything but nurture. Teachers are commanded not to use polite language as it might cause the teacher to appear to be less powerful, to lose “control”. Is this what education has come to? Power and compliance?

As a classroom teacher with thirty years experience, this trend in education policy to find the one program that will magically turn all students into acquiescent sheep troubles me. Educators don’t need to be trained and practiced professionals who have the skills in child psychology and classroom management to read the room and respond to what the students’ needs might be. No, all one needs is the magical script, training and consultant available for an extra fee.

I spent the whole of my teaching career empowering students to learn by making choices, modeling acceptable social interactions, and still managed to keep 20-30 young learners from swinging from the light fixtures. Students need to learn from decision-making and practice making good choices. As a colleague in my last school used to say, “you win or lose by how you choose”.

An educator recently made this thoughtful observation:

One of the Great Truths of Ed. Reform is that we cheer on reforms
that affect Other Peoples’ Kids, but that we would never tolerate for our own
kids.

Is this the kind of nurturing we want for our children? Puh-leeze.

A Chilling Story of Coaching Gone Wrong

Have you read this tale of horrors published in Edushyster? Amy Berard’s post “I Am Not Tom Brady“, published on July 22, tells of how her school and school district contracted with a group of consultants to improve student engagement and teacher performance. Make that, mostly “improve” teacher performance.

Picture an experienced teacher being “coached” by 3 experts huddled around a walkie talkie in the back of the classroom. That’s right, this Handwriting the Listis coaching, school improvement style.  Because if your school or district is targeted for improvements, there must be money for consultants – you know, consultants who have never taught, or are trying out their latest graduate school theory or something they heard from the TV experts filling afternoon airwaves.

The group Ms. Berard posts about is from the Center for Transformational Teacher Training and the program – get this – is “No Nonsense Nurturing“.

I don’t know, nor do I care, what the qualifications of the three people “coaching” Ms. Berard might have been, but I know this. Lawrence, like Lowell, has a very high population of students for whom English is not their native language. A teacher  speaking in phrases and incomplete sentences with robotic monotone is poor practice and modeling for English acquisition. And what can “no nonsense nurturing” offer? Nurturing without nonsense? What can that possibly mean?

Because of high poverty levels, which, by the way, will not be fixed by employing teachers who speak like robots, urban school districts often are targets of these types of programs. Peter Greene writes of the dangers of using canned programs such as the  one described in Amy Berard’s post in the Human-Proof Classroom. (You may need to register with Education Week – free – to see the whole text). Is this the education that our urban students need or deserve? Since when is a teacher making an emotional connection with students, especially impoverished and difficult-to-reach kids, an undesired outcome?

There are so many wrongs here. The simple fact that private, money-scavaging “consultants” are empowered to find cash flow in urban districts by offering outrageous programs such as this one, should alarm everyone.

And if you think it can’t happen in your own school or district, think again. Amy Berard’s tale of coaching gone wrong hits pretty close to home – literally. Lawrence, MA, a school district under state receivership, is a quick 15 miles from where I live and where I taught in Lowell, MA. Be vigilant.