One-Size Fits All American Education?

I recently read this article on The Daily Beast. It gave me pause to think about how we are teaching our teachers, what we expect of teacher and students, and how education in America is changing.

No Nonsense Nurturing

The gist of No Nonsense Nurturing operates from the assumption that all students benefit from the same minimalist style of interaction, rewards, and consequences. Amy Berard described her experiences with NNN in Lawrence, MA, as “robotic.” Her students entreated her to “be you.”

Some of the steps outlined in the NNN primer seem pretty basic: earn the respect of your students, be authentic, and expect students to meet your expectations. But others, like narrate the activity and speak in clear short directions, seem counter intuitive to what other guidelines are asking. How can I be authentic, true to myself, while narrating constantly or speaking in phrases? Neither of those are things are true to myself, or to my classroom, or to any style of teaching I have ever known.

The classroom Ms. Berard described was stressful, with constant chatter from her describing what her students were doing in an impersonal manner: “Charles has his book out. Vikki is writing.” She describes being told HOW to work with a student and what discipline to hand down. Even when there were mitigating circumstances, even when the student was excited about learning.

She was told, essentially, to teach without joy, without personality, and without nurturing each student as an individual.

This is concerning

Right now, we are telling our teachers two completely different, and contradictory, things. First, treat each child as an individual and create an educational plan tailored to him or her specifically. Second, treat all children the same, use the same lessons and discipline for each child regardless of differences or mitigating factors.

We cannot continue to exist in a world where teachers are being pulled in opposite directions all of the time. Where we have one size fits all curriculum and classroom management systems in every class. This way of teaching is failing everyone involved.

And where have we gone wrong if many of our teachers are ill-equipped to manage their classrooms? What this tells me is that our colleges and universities are failing to prepare their future educators with real-world strategies for using caring discipline with children. Our school systems are failing to support teachers in discipline, or are not providing guidance in discipline policies.

We need a new approach

We need teachers who exit university with actual classroom management skills. Anyone can read from a teacher’s guide or be guided by a voice in their ear. It takes a dedicated professional to cultivate a classroom community, to bring lessons to life, and to foster a sense of wonder in their students.

We need supportive school systems, administrators, and parents, who recognize that teachers are humans who show emotion, who might have biases, who make calls based on the evidence in front of them. We need people to back us up, to validate our approach to classroom management.

When we create one-size fits all lesson, curricula, or classroom management, we further degrade the teaching profession. We fail to recognize the professionalism of our teachers, the years of dedication to their craft, and their expertise in how to teach children. We also fail to recognize the differences that make each of us human.

If we were all the same, then a one size fits all approach would be fabulous. We would all respond to one system, we would all be able to learn the same things in the same manner at the same pace. And the world would be boring.

What you can do right now

Let your teacher know that you support him or her. Advocate for your teacher! Compliment her if you feel she is doing a good job, if your child is learning, is excited, is becoming a better human being. Pass those compliments on to administrators! They love to hear how awesome their faculty are. It sure beats all the complaints they get.

Contact your Congress person or Representative at the federal and state levels. Let them know that you don’t agree with one-size fits all education. Tell them how you feel about Common Core, or the endless assessments. They need to hear from real parents. Without your voice, we will continue on this path toward sameness, or worse, toward contradictory instructions.

How do you feel about Common Core and standardized curriculum/classroom management?

Would you want your child in a class with these policies in place?

~Meg

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