Could Relay’s techniques be used to educate all teachers? Oh hell no. Relay’s techniques are designed for mid-ability, low income black and Hispanic children in elementary and middle school whose parents are desperate to remove them from schools that aren’t allowed to expel troublemakers. In return for a guarantee of expelled troublemakers, the parents sign up for all sorts of commitments and expectations that parents with any other choice would laugh at. And Relay’s methods won’t work without that anvil hanging over the kids’ heads. Or, as I said in my last post, white kids don’t do KIPP.
Regular teachers often find these exemplaries…..unconvincing. My terms range from “flatly incompetent” to “pretty damn creepy”.
I must yield to the expertise of others in assessing whether and under what circumstances the classroom management techniques demonstrated are scalable. My personal experience is that, Game Theorists and Dog Whisperers to the contrary, Alpha behavior is really hard to mimic successfully. But I am apparently alone among "White People" in watching these videos and saying: "Wow! Children behaving and following instructions! With no yelling!"
These videos contrast favorably with my own daughter's tales of public school classrooms, which often sound like they operate on the ragged edge of chaos. Though, I hasten to add, it is middle-class white people chaos. By which I mean that the chaos is usually more-or-less directed at the subject matter, and doesn't involve physical assault. Ed, I think, would call them "engaged learners". That may be true, but I'm not convinced that the trade-space between engagement on the one hand, and quiet civil behavior on the other, is quite what she alleges. And if she's wrong, then I pick quiet civility, even at the expense of having my daughters required to, for instance, rise from their desks at a four-count.
In this vein, Carol Burris writes:
I do not fault the teacher in the video for her style. She is performing as taught by a system that, in my opinion, better prepares students for the dutiful obedience of the military than for the intellectual challenges they will encounter in college. In schools taught by RGSE teachers, the Common Core State Standards will be, I fear, merely heavier rocks in the pail.
As I watched the video, I thought about the rich discussions, open-ended speculative questions, ample think time and supportive feeling tone that I find in the classrooms of the teachers at my school. I remember the same culture in the middle school where I taught. Both are diverse schools that serve students with little as well as students
with much. Suburban parents would be horrified by the magic finger wiggling and drill techniques used in the video clip. How sad that charter school students are treated as if, were they were given one second to think, the teacher would lose control. How horrifying that student grades and punishments are put on public display. The dignity of the learner comes in second to his or her compliance.
The snobbery here on display deserves a post on its own, but I want to focus on the dismissive remark about military service. The irony is that peacetime enlisted service is quite beyond the measured intellectual ability of, by my calculation, 73% of the American black population -- and that's assuming they actually graduate from high school. And getting elementary school students to come up with opinions about stuff doesn't actually make the discussion of those opinions "rich" in Socratic sense. I appreciate that charter schools sell themselves, dishonestly perhaps, as the gateway to college for poor minorities, but it doesn't change the fact that military service is, for many of them, an optimum outcome.
But even if I concede that my decided lack of middle-class horror at Relay's classroom management techniques is not representative of my community peers . . . so what? Who cares that these schools aren't "for" the middle class if the poor minority parents whose children attend the schools are happy with them? Yes, the threat of expulsion is held over them . . . so what? Yes, the discipline and family expectations are filters exerting positive selection effects . . . so what? Don't be so quick to discard what you see working before your eyes in favor of something that doesn't actually exist.