Series: White People Homework (12) Bad Behaviors

Our current institutions are in dire need of systemic overhauls, and education top of the list. Please read and keep Ilana Horn’s thread and work close to your work and research. I am. If you’re a teacher who’s work in a school during the past ten years you may have heard or read, or even supported some of the behavioral management programs. And the trend is to have a white man create, package and sell these programs. This post is going to upset some educators and colleagues, but the intent is to provide information and background, with the hope of impact being you change and help change your own classroom policies, know how to push back, and keep districts accountable.

Here are some I’ve encountered, and others I’ve read:

Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess: I read this book on my own a few years ago, and it didn’t sit right with me. I am already a creative teacher, and I found the ‘pirate’ thing gimmicky. He also fan-boy’d Tony Robbins, and yeah. No. Thanks. So, I put it aside, and moved on. I am kind of repulsed by a grown man who wears a pirate-style bandana on his head and a black t-shirt. I tried to go through the #TLAP hashtag on Twitter and can’t find precise criticisms, but a whole lot of fans who gush over this work. But the criticisms tend to run toward this: It’s teacher-centered. And since 80% of teachers are white women, that’s problematic.

PBIS: PBIS stands for “Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports.” It’s based on a Tier System. Every school I’ve worked in (now at three) has used PBIS, or when I’ve gone in for interviews have been asked about my knowledge and expertise with this system.

It’s a glorified “Change your clip” chart. And these are only my observations, because life at school goes so fast, any chance to discuss and create a sustainable method falls apart. The problems with PBIS is it’s a token economy: it rarely gets to the place for students to get to internalized positive behavior motivation. I have witnessed years of students ‘gaming’ the token system, too. One year in particular, kids kept the tickets that were intended to be traded for prizes and snacks, hoarding them as the treasure or trading them on the open market. It was actually quite genius. Students know inauthentic, tokenized systems of oppression. And the more important factor which lead to lack of success and meaningful change: there wasn’t the support for students. The physical, real-time qualified adult bodies to support students. My dream: instead of school safety officers we have a counselor and adult support for every 30-50 kids, including classroom teaches, counselors, and administration. We don’t overcrowd schools in the first place. We don’t use harmful, hateful violent curriculum (looking at you, programs that use racist, colonized canon). And we stop the systems that promote meritocracy. PBIS is that.

Teach Like a Champion: see the above thread for #TLAC. Also: these articles, please:By Layla Treuhaftali, The Power of Pedagogy: Why We Shouldn’t Teach Like Champions

This School Year, Don’t Teach Like a Champion by Ray Salazar

“To some white eduinfluencers who are starting to speak up” by Benjamin Doxtdador

“To be honest, after reading over 100 pages of the book (there will be a follow-up blog when I finish reading the entire book), I have to say it’s incredibly shallow and simplistic – yet the scary part is the dictatorial demand to keep everything shallow, uniform and simplistic. And as mentioned above, Lemov’s beliefs about “teaching like a champion” are beginning to co-opt what true educators really understand about teaching, child development, and engaging learners. This book is a great primer for reducing learning to uniform and robotic student behavior which is easy to “track” (Lemov’s word – not mine) and manage, in order to get the results that you want. And the results that they want are high test scores. Lemov is clear in stating that this work is gauged via state test scores.

“Fast LLama” by Doug Curry – sat in on his trainings. Cute, and he’s congenial, but same stuff.

Second Step: I’ve been through two districts with this and both times they don’t have the money to purchase the support materials. And it’s hokey.

So what to do instead?


Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain by Zaretta Hammond

Troublemakers by Carla Shalaby

Article about Troublemakers:

Work with experts on understanding ACES, trauma-informed teaching, etc.

The End of Police in Schools

What do you think of some of these ideas?

What are the goals?

Every parent want their child to be able to go to school and feel free to learn, free from obstructions, bullying, racism, distractions, and fear. They want to know when their child comes home after the school day they have friends, healthy relationships based on mutual respect from adults, have grown their brains, bodies, and joy. And we humans are messy. We have bad days. We experience grief, anger, frustration, and a hundred ways to express these emotions based on our upbringing, context, culture, and desires. We get stuck with labels. I don’t have the answers. Every year I’ve made mistakes. I do know there are better ways to do this. I was a troublemaker in school.

And I still am.