This was written by Carol Corbett Burris, principal of South Side High School in New York. She was named the 2010 New York State Outstanding Educator by the School Administrators Association of New York State. You can follow her on Twitter @carolburris.
By Carol Corbett Burris
On July 5, T he Answer S heet published a post I wrote about the Relay Graduate School of Education. That began a lively discussion about the Relay School, and the teaching techniques demonstrated in a video entitled “Rigorous Classroom Discussion” (Relay subsequently renamed the video “A Culture of Support”).
The discussion moved to Diane Ravitch’s blog with readers weighing in on whether charter school teacher training programs should be authorized to grant graduate degrees. During the course of that discussion, I learned that the Relay Graduate School of Education is not the only charter school-based graduate program.
This past spring, a similar degree-granting program opened in Boston, which Diane Ravitch wrote about here . Its name is Match and it awards a master’s degree through the newly formed Sposato Graduate School of Education. Like Relay, it is a two-year program subsidized by charter schools and venture philanthropies. Its faculty members are not researchers or scholars but rather charter school teachers or leaders. Similar to Relay, many of its courses are online. Match looks to Relay and Teach for America as models and has a collaborative relationship with Harvard’s “Ed Labs.”
Candidates interested in becoming Match teachers were given Match’s training booklet on classroom management. Match’s founder, Michael Goldstein, told me that the booklet is still in draft form; nevertheless, it has been distributed.
Below is a description as well as excerpts from “Book 1: Classroom Management,” obtained from a prospective Match student to whom it was given. The booklet includes many classic classroom management techniques that are helpful for any teacher to follow. For instance, cueing students regarding expected behaviors, checking for understanding when giving directions and using teaching proximity to deter off-task behavior.
However, there is also advice that I believe is very questionable.
In section II, “The Demanding Teacher,” the manual discusses the six beliefs of the Demanding Teacher. The first belief describes the Demanding Teacher as:
“the ultimate authority in the classroom, in other words, your mindset is, I am a total badass” (p. 9).
The reader is told that while Match candidates were “stellar” students who “succeeded in school when given freedom.” he will not be “teaching a classroom of Mini-Me’s” (p. 10), hence the Match teacher cannot treat his students as he was treated. To drive home the point, the manual has the following picture and caption on page 10.
The third belief of the Demanding Teacher is “My Patrolling Effort and Behavior Oblongata [PEBO] need to be strengthened to the point of automaticity in using prevention and response moves” (p. 17). It is referred to as “aka: Cat like pouncing on PEBO.”
Teachers are instructed to “pounce like a cat” on any student misbehavior or act of non-compliance. PEBO is more important, according to the booklet, than good lessons or relationships with students and families in controlling “the rate of Misbehavior Tax that your students and you must pay for each class” (p17). The guide illustrates this principle on page 17 with this illustration and this caption:
As I read the Match manual, Pedro Noguera’s speech at Morningside’s Courageous School conference came to mind. Speaking of his visit to an Uncommon Charter School (Uncommon School leaders are on the Match and Relay ‘faculty’) he said:
“I've visited this school, and I noticed that children are not allowed to talk in the hall, and they get punished for the most minor infraction. And when I talked with John King afterwards, I said, "I've never seen a school that serves affluent children where they're not allowed to talk in the hall." And he said, "Well, that might be true, but this is the model that works for us, we've found that this is the model that our kids need."
So I asked him, "Are you preparing these kids to be leaders or followers? Because leaders get to talk in the hall. They get to talk over lunch, they get to go to the bathroom, and people can trust them. They don't need surveillance and police officers in the bathroom." And he looked at me like I was talking Latin, because his mindset is that these children couldn't do that.”
I worry when I read that “urban students” need a different kind of teacher or a different kind of teaching. I have a granddaughter who lives in New York City, but I don’t think that she is who reformers have in mind when they refer to an ‘urban’ child. Her college-educated parents would not stand for a teacher who aspired to be a ‘badass’ or who ‘pounced like a cat’ if she did not sit up straight, which according to the manual, must be enforced 100% (p.15). I think “urban student” is a code for minority and poor. We often code what might be perceived as prejudiced. The code does not take away the sting or the stereotypes behind it.
Last week I watched a candidate for our ESL position teach a demonstration lesson. The students before her were not the easiest to teach, and they did not respond well to previous candidates. Yet this teacher captured every student with an excellent lesson that made connections with their lives and their first language. Her style was warm and engaging. She smiled and said “please” and “thank you.” She praised their efforts. She paused after every open-ended question and gave students the time they needed to respond. Every student was on task and learning throughout the lesson.
No student wiggled their fingers.
No student sat in ‘star position.’
She did not ‘pounce like a cat.’
Her ‘behavior oblongata’ (whatever that is) never fired up.
Instead she taught those students as if they were her own children — as if they were stellar students.
She got the job.
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