Charlotte Montessori Blog

No Non-sense Nurturing

No Non-sense Nurturing

Living in Fort Mill, my morning commute can be anywhere from half an hour to an hour and half.  This makes a lot of time for radio listening, and my preference is NPR.  The morning stories are typically hit or miss.  Sometimes they are captivating and very interesting, other times I think “they really pay people to do this?”  One day last week I heard the segment title called “No Non-sense Nurturing.”  Being an educator, myself, this of course peaked my interest.

As we all know, the media has ultimate power when it comes to spinning our view of a story.  The same is true for this one.  No Non-sense Nurturing is a new teaching method being implemented in the CMS (Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools) project L.I.F.T. program.  Teachers trained in NNN are taught to narrate the classroom environment using specific language, and only offering praise when a student puts forth outstanding effort.

To illustrate the point they played a clip from a 6th grade classroom at CMS’s Druid Hills.  The teacher matter of factly spoke directions to the children while speaking aloud observations of what the children were doing.  At this point my concern is growing.  The teacher barely sounds human much less nurturing.  Going in to more detail about NNN and why it is used, the program’s creator states that it was developed by observing “effective” teachers.  Also the program is used most often in schools with lower income families.  The notion is that lower income students need the structure and consistency this program provides.

Later in the broadcast they play a clip of a teacher training to be a No Non-sense Nurturer.  This part was the most devastating to me.  The teacher uses the word “please” while giving her directions to the class.  Her coach immediately stops her, and tells her to “drop the please” because that gives students the option to opt out.

After doing a little research I discovered Project L.I.F.T. is a zone within a large urban school district aimed at reaching all children to give them a better education.  The teachers and administrators interviewed all credit NNN with various successes in their schools.

As a Montessorianan I would never dream of speaking to any child in this manner.  In a world as rushed and informal as where we are today the graces and courtesies are all we have left.  In the Montessori environment we do implement aspects, of what they call, NNN, but we do so in a much more compassionate way.  For example the classroom narration.  We do this on smaller scale, particularly in the toddler environment, we call it “sports casting.”  Sports casting is using words to help the children understand any given situation.

“I see that you are upset because Johnny pushed you, how can I help you feel better?”

“Johnny your friend is upset because pushing hurts.”

We also use very specific language with our children, to give specific instructions.  I will only pose something as a question if the child has the option not to do it, but I would never drop the please.  My teaching partner and I model the behaviors we want to see in our children.  Dropping the niceties when speaking to them only teaches them that it is okay to drop them with us.

For example:

“Johnny will you bring me a rug from our basket, please?”  This gives the option to say no, in which case I would ask another child.

“Johnny you just used the toilet, please go wash your hands.”   This wording shows the child that hand washing, after toileting is nonnegotiable.

Please and thank you are staple words in my toddler community.  At parent teacher conferences I was told by many parents that their 2 year olds were using these words and really grasping their application.  This was so heart warming to me.  It breaks my heart to think other children, even those as young as first grade, are missing out on these pleasantries.  They claim the children in the schools need the structure because of the instability in their homes.  To me they need the grace and courtesy they may not receive at home.  Our classrooms function on the foundation of freedom within limits, and those limits have to strongly enforced.  However, they are enforced in a loving way that respects both child and teacher.

Now for the slippery slope of praise.  In the Montessori philosophy we believe a child’s own pride in their accomplishments is the most motivating praise there is.  This takes the reward and punishment system out of accomplishments.  I still catch myself saying “oh you did such a great job” on a regular basis.  If the child truly feels accomplished or sees their achievement they do not need my affirmation.  The better question for me to ask is “are you proud of yourself/your work?”  One of the teachers interviewed in the article mentioned students being more engaged in learning.  To me there is no way to be more engaged than taking pride in what you are doing.

To hear the full WFAE story on No Non-sense Nurturing click here >>