I see some sense in the [no-]nonsense

Screenshot 2016-01-21 12.20.54Hello and Happy New Year!

I haven’t much time for my usual long-winded expositions lately, sorry! But that doesn’t mean that I haven’t had some things on my mind. Instead of writing long pieces, I have been posting my thoughts on current news-stories over on my companion facebook page where a handful of like-minded folks and I converse a bit. And after one such post, it dawned on me today that I could just as easily be sharing my “short and sweet” reactions here too. So here it is, what’s on my mind today:

I’ve been mulling this NPR story on “no-nonsense classrooms” over for a while, now. My reaction is mixed, but here’s what I like about it. The perspective rests on an important point — that effective teaching hinges on being genuine and clear with your intent. If you don’t want your kids to make a choice but rather follow along as instructed, then don’t phrase your remarks as-if they do. Well-intended polite “double-speak” can actually make things harder for kids, not easier: for example,

“Why don’t you all please put down your books, okay? I’ll wait till you are all ready” versus: “Time’s up. I’ll set the timer for two minutes. Put down your books and pick up … ready, set, go!”

The first phrase is polite and gentle and kind, and leaves the door wide open for kids to either comply or not. I personally know a child who regularly chooses to *not* comply to such phrasing, and I bet you do too. The second option, when delivered with a kind smile and a firm but supportive tone, would actually make the transition easier — the intent is clear and kids know the boundary. The whole day doesn’t have to operate this way, but when you need all your students to focus, being transparently clear helps tremendously. If kids have to decode polite double speak all the time, their energies are being used in a non-productive manner.

Another thing I’ve been mulling over: As with many educational fads, this perspective isn’t new, either. As I think about the core message of intent with this “new” approach, I can’t help but think about Maria Montessori’s educational philosophy, which could be called “no-nonsense” too, in that the focus in the classroom is on learning for learning’s sake, period.

What do you think?

 

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About EricaK

As a professor and a parent, I think a lot about education. Turns out that the topics I teach (e.g., cognitive and developmental psychology) inform my thoughts about teaching, and that is what I want to write about here.