I recently read an article which really disturbed me, both as a former P-12 teacher and as a teacher educator who has been in the profession more than three decades. The article, entitled Public Schools to Teachers: Run Your Class on Fear or Get Fired, focused on a classroom management philosophy called No Nonsense Nurturing.
Essentially, No Nonsense Nurturing involves “coaches” sitting in the back of the classroom or nearby, constantly directing the classroom teacher how to interact with his or her students using microphones and earpieces. Even worse is that teachers are required to bark orders at students using short, choppy commands, and no enthusiasm or encouragement from the teacher is permitted. Rather, it is simply a command-followed-by-compliance model. As stated in the article, the two goals of teachers adhering to the No Nonsense Nurturing approach are:
(1) I have to earn the respect of my students.
(2) I expect to have 100% compliance from my students 100% of the time.
There are so many flaws in this “philosophy” I wouldn’t quite know where to begin, but one cannot overlook the fact that the two goals are at opposite ends of the continuum–one does not earn the respect of his or her students by demanding compliance. The Center for Transformative Teacher Training, which apparently developed this gem of a classroom management approach, might be wise to dust off their dictionary and look up the word “respect” again. If they insist on keeping goal #2 intact, they may want to consider changing the word “respect” in goal #1 to possible replacements such as “fear” “dread” “unquestioning obedience” and so on. But not respect.
It has been my observation throughout life that we tend to fear what we don’t understand, and we try to control what we fear. Maybe if teachers and those who prepare them understood students better both as learners and as human beings, we could collectively come up with a way of building a classroom environment where each person was empowered to think, to question, and to grow–where mutual respect abounds and compliance is reserved for annual regulatory reports.
So then, how can we prepare new teachers to create safe, robust, stimulating places for students to learn and develop? It can’t be accomplished within a single obligatory course (typically Classroom Management or some similar title). Instead, helping teacher candidates to understand and use the best tools for creating positive learning environments should be woven thoughtfully and purposefully throughout a teacher preparation program across multiple courses and field experiences, with significant components addressing how to partner effectively with families and caregivers. Likewise, this needs to be prominent in an advanced program for educational leaders—after all, administrative staff often oversee a building’s discipline and they need to be as highly trained in this area as teachers.