What do Americans want their teachers to be like? What do they really want out of their schools? Within a space of a week I saw the media send out very mixed messages. We know Americans are meant to see these reports as examples of what teachers should be like. But which is it—A or B?
First, there’s Ron Clark, the teacher turned principal, who Oprah catapulted to fame as her first “phenomenal man.” We got to know him through his no excuses book Essential 55 providing rules for student living. You know—the say thank you for that birthday present in three seconds or have it ripped from your hands and returned to the store–Ron Clark (p. 24). My favorite rule from that book is “When you win, do not brag….”
Clark now has a school in Atlanta that looks like it’s out of a Disney park (he was Disney Teacher of the Year), although I think I’d like more windows…tsk.
Now if you’re a teacher in Detroit and think this classroom is the prototype of what you should have for yourself…good luck. I hope you win the lottery, because we all read this week about what your classroom really looks like. Check out one of their middle schools. HERE.
But there are tube slides at Ron’s school–a private nonprofit! And now he’s dancing! In some of the videos he is wearing funny pants that students could never wear with their strict dress codes. Could they?
Here’s NBC bragging about Ron. They have visited him before. And despite the joy in the dancing, they make sure you don’t forget how difficult the school is.
Here’s CBS’s version of Ron Clark rapping. CBS mentions fun and bonding with students and depicts a joyful Ron Clark who sees school as much more than just work.
So now we have the light and airy (still tough) Ron Clark, rapping and dancing, and the students even jumping on their desks…wheeeeee! It’s the teaching should be joyful Ron Clark! I’m sure there is another book deal out there somewhere…The Essential Joy Steps to Learning…or a sequel to his movie…The Ron Clark Story II—Ron Gets His Groove On.
I say go Ron! I like that he’s letting fun into the room. Kids, just make sure you say “excuse me” if you bump into one another. Behind all that past strict good behavior talk, these kids really look like they like school in the midst of their drive to college.
These videos have been viewed over a million times we are told. Creative teachers out there think, hmm, I could do that. But STOP! Before you go buying any tap shoes—pay attention to the other media message telling you what to be like as a teacher.
It’s the no nonsense “nurturing” teacher who doesn’t say please. Yikes! And there’s a lot of “looking at you” stuff going on here. Ron Clark likes to emphasize eye contact too. You know how important it is to get kids to do that creepy staring business. Only, unlike Ron’s school, there doesn’t seem to be any dancing on the desktops here.
“Your pencil is in your hand. Your voice is on zero. If you got the problem correct, you’re following along and checking off the answer. If you got the problem incorrect, you are erasing it and correcting it on your paper.”
“Vonetia’s looking at me. Denario put her pencil down — good indicator. Monica put hers down and she’s looking at me.”
It comes to us from the Center for Transformative Teacher Training led by a teacher CEO to remind you schooling is now big business. There is no shortage of strictness on their website. Even Dave Levin one of the KIPP guys shows up plugging the program. Teachers have heard for years that KIPP style “on the bench” teaching is what they should emulate.
And look at all their business! Memphis, Denver, Cleveland, and many more. Schools across the country look to be transforming into clones instead of dancing in the streets!
If you look at this website, the faces of the children in these schools do not look happy…not like Clark’s school. Does anyone care?
Well, yes. There is at least some concern in the NPR report.
No-nonsense nurturing makes some education specialists uncomfortable, though. “Maybe we are doing them [students] a favor by teaching them codes of power, but maybe we’re also participating in some kind of, I don’t know, colonization,” says Barb Stengel, an education professor at Vanderbilt University. “We’re simply teaching kids to look like me.”
Is that teacher A or teacher B?
The media knows how to mix-it-up and keep you guessing don’t they?
And when you have the Center for Transformative Teacher Training contracting with your school district, will you have a choice?