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EduShyster: Can a Teacher Learn to Act Like a Robot?

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Author: dianeravitch

EduShyster posted an article by Amy Berard, who taught sixth grade in Lawrence, Massachusetts, where she became trained in what was called “No Nonsense Nurturing.” She had to wear a wireless earpiece and receive instructions from three coaches who sat in the back of her classroom, telling her what to say, how to act, how to respond to students, how to stand. She eventually left the district. She was “not the right fit.” Apparently, she got the idea that she was a professional, a human being with thoughts and feelings, and that what she was asked to do was unprofessional and dehumanizing.

 

It is a shocking article. This is how it begins:

 
“Give him a warning,” said the voice through the earpiece I was wearing. I did Tom as instructed, speaking in the emotionless monotone I’d been coached to use. But the student, a sixth grader with some impulsivity issues and whose trust I’d spent months working to gain, was excited and spoke out of turn again. “Tell him he has a detention,” my earpiece commanded. At which point the boy stood up and pointed to the back of the room, where the three classroom “coaches” huddled around a walkie talkie. “Miss: don’t listen to them! You be you. Talk to me! I’m a person! Be a person, Miss. Be you!”

 

Last year, my school contracted with the Center for Transformational Training or CT3 to train teachers using an approach called No Nonsense Nurturing. It was supposed to make us more effective instructors by providing “immediate, non-distracting feedback to teachers using wireless technology.” In other words, earpieces and walkie talkies. I wore a bug in my ear. I didn’t have a mouthpiece. Meanwhile an official No Nonsense Nurturer, along with the school’s first year assistant principal and first year behavior intervention coach, controlled me remotely from the corner of the room where they shared a walkie talkie. I referred to the CT3 training as C-3PO after the Star Wars robot, but C-3PO actually had more personality than we were allowed. The robot also spoke his mind.
If you’re not familiar with No Nonsense Nurturing or NNN, let’s just say that there is more nonsense than nurturing. The approach starts from the view that urban students, like my Lawrence, MA middle schoolers, benefit from a robotic style of teaching that treats, and disciplines, all students the same. This translated into the specific instruction that forbade us from speaking to our students in full sentences. Instead, we were to communicate with them using precise directions. As my students entered the room, I was supposed to say: “In seats, zero talking, page 6 questions 1-4.” But I don’t even talk to my dog like that. Constant narration of what the students are doing is also key to the NNN teaching style. “Noel is is finishing question 3. Marjorie is sitting silently. Alfredo is on page 6.”
My efforts to make the narration seem less robotic—”I see Victor is on page 6. I see Natalie is on question 3″—triggered flashbacks to Miss Jean and Romper Room. All that was missing was the magic mirror. But even this was too much for the NNN squad in the corner. “Drop the ‘I see’ came through my earpiece. All this narration was incredibly distracting for the students, by the way, to the point where they started narrating me. “Mrs. Berard is passing out the exit tickets.” “Mrs. Berard is helping Christian.” “Mrs. Berard is reviewing the answer to question 4.”

 

Read it all. It is frightening. Some organization is being paid many thousands of dollars to turn teachers into robots who will treat the children as standardized widgets. Who dreamed up this absurd and insulting program?

 

 

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