A couple weeks ago, I started writing a letter to the principal of Nuala’s school explaining our departure and it grew out of control in no time flat. We have a lot of complaints. The internet is a limitless repository of complaints about public education (and higher education, for that matter) these days, and I don’t necessarily want to pile on, but our experience confirms much of what I’m reading, such as:
…we tend to rely on rewards and recognition to reinforce conformity. What is so offensive about Skinnerian programs like PBIS or Class Dojo isn’t just their methods, which amount to extended exercises in manipulation, but their goal, which is to elicit mindless obedience.
The “clip chart” has been the bane of our existence this year: a multiple-times-daily and public exercise in enforcing behavior. It raised our hackles at the beginning of the year; we followed up with a wholly unsatisfactory conversation about the nature of the clip chart and the program to which it is attached, then gritted our teeth and rolled our eyes throughout the rest of the school year. Maybe one of the things for which Nuala “cilpped down” was social in nature–she shoved a classmate. I’m totally okay with consequences for antisocial behavior. I’d be happier if they enforced a routine of kids handling their own interpersonal conflicts, but whatever. The rest of her (many) transgressions were about failing to follow rules or do precisely what she was told when she was told to do it. Our response? She’s five. She’s headstrong. Of course she doesn’t do what you ask all of the time. She doesn’t do what WE ask all of the time, and it’s not because she’s a bad kid. It’s because she’s five, highly distractible, and bored out of her mind.
At the end-of-year event this week, a handful of kids received awards for clipping down two or fewer times throughout the whole year. How this is possible is beyond me, the mother of a child who clipped down more like two times or fewer per week. We had another good eye-rolling moment later that day, when we looked at the book she’d compiled with her teacher’s help to commemorate her year in class. There was lots of language from Leader in Me sprinkled throughout, but the one piece that caught our eye was a sentence about the positive relationship between leadership and following rules–something like “A leader is one who follows rules.”
Our minds were boggled, then, to see her final report card, where her scores for “independence” dipped in the last quarter of the year.
Our conclusion? They have no idea what they’re doing, at least in regard to “independence.”