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'This American Life' Airs Program on Challenges of Classroom Management

While many states have adopted the exact same curriculum standards, in actuality lesson plans, learning outcomes and educator methods vary from classroom to classroom. As Chicago Public Media's This American Life radio program explored in a recent episode, there is not one agreed upon method for classroom management. For example, teachers may make persuasive requests to stop a disruptive behavior, yell or offer suspensions, among many other alternatives.

The fact that there is no common behavioral approach will not surprise anyone who attended a teacher prep program or finds themselves currently in the trenches of dealing with students. Academics, parents and educators shared their thoughts with reporter Chana Joffe-Walt about what's not working in the realm of behavior management.

Sociologist Pedro Noguera told Joffe that suspensions have become more prevalent in schools "for everyone, actually, but especially black and Hispanic kids." This action denies students "learning time."

Noguera shared more about his thoughts on the consequences of suspensions.

There's this assumption that, if we get rid of the bad people, that the good people will be able to learn, the good people will be safe. What we continue to ignore is that we are producing the bad people. We're producing in school the bad behavior.

Later in the program Joffe-Walt spoke with former Boston resident Rousseau Mieze who attended one of the first charter schools in Massachusetts, Academy of the Pacific Rim. Rousseau is now an educator himself and feels pulled between requiring that students be on their best behavior and allowing them to have fun.

...he says he's ambivalent about how controlling his school was, about all the ways his school today is a lot like the school he attended as a kid. But the longer he teaches, he says, the better he understands a thing that he did not get as a kid about why his teachers were so harsh. And that is that they were scared. They were scared of losing control of the class. He knew that. That part was obvious to him even when he was a teenager. But what he didn't realize at the time was they were also scared for him. He knows this now, because he is a teacher of mostly poor, mostly black students, like he was. And he feels this for his students.

Listen to This American Life's recorded episode "Is This Working?" to hear more about school suspensions, Mieze's eye-opening experiences and a move toward "restorative justice. "

Corrie Kerr, EducationWorld Editor


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