North Carolina schools restrict teachers’ use of the word please in the classroom as part of an initiative called No-Nonsense Nurturing Program (NNP), according to ABC News. The program was recently implemented at Druid Hills Academy in the Charlotte-Mecklenberg School district.
Denise Watts is the Learning Community Superintendent for Project LIFT which oversees nine schools including Druid Hills Academy. She told ABC news that over 250 schools in the United States use NNP in the classroom. She says that the NNP is used to “create a structured and consistent environment for students where teachers give them clear and specific directions about movement, volume, and participation.”
She goes on to say that when a teacher gives an expectation to students that “the word please is not necessary.” She gives the analogy of the working world. She says, “No one would say, ‘Would you come to work today, please?’”
Watts says that NNP gives teachers and school administrators the tools to create a culture that consists of conditions that help students thrive by giving very specific directions and holding high expectations of students, resulting in strong relationships with students.
According to Jonnecia Alford, mathematics teacher at Druid Hills Academy, although there was student pushback at the inception, now the students love the program and enjoy the structure. She goes on to say that since using NNP, test scores have increased.
Among parents, however, there have been mixed reactions.
Parent Daren Guilford says, “I don’t agree with it, point blank, period. What about manners?” He adds that parents are asked to teach kids manners at home. But, he says that at school the kids are told, “You will pick the pencil up.” He says, “That’s not what I would call good communication skills with the kid.”
Parent Jamal Gibbs says the program “might be a good thing, considering that some kids need more stricter directions. Some kids don’t listen very well to politeness because of the things they’re going through in their homes, around where they live and where they’re growing-up.”
Overall, ABC says, “Parents of kids at the school have mixed feelings about the new program and its advice to use the word please ‘sparingly.’”
Godsman Elementary School says that part of the NNP is positive narration, which involves narrating behavior of students who are on task and not to respond to students who are off-task. Narration is “precise directions related to verbal behavior, movement, and participation.” For example, “Tim has his book out.” Educators are to narrate immediately after giving directions. In the first six weeks of program implementation they are to narrate “approximately every minute during instruction.”
The school website goes on to say that the objective of the NNP is for the teacher to “demonstrate a different kind of caring,” which involves use of a “strong teacher voice.” The program also teaches educators to identify and addresses “middle-class bias.”
One teacher shared his thoughts on his blog Teacher Roland. He describes the modeled teacher voice as spoken in “a direct, authoritarian manner”—a “militaristic” style of speech that is” short and commanding.”
He went on to say that though this might be effective at the classroom at the elementary level, he didn’t feel it would be necessary for older students, as they typically give the respect the teacher deserves to teach.
He goes on to say that his “assumption that students should give the respect a teacher deserves” is called “the middle-class bias.” He says that teachers like him who come from middle-class backgrounds “have developed a mindset that the middle-class expectations on how to interact with students is the normal and right way to do so for students from low-income backgrounds.”
As a result, this places a “stumbling block on effective teaching such as not being strict or mean. But having a strict and firm teacher voice is exactly what students from low-income backgrounds need in order to succeed.”
Such a program begs the question, what is the outcome? Since NNP is a relatively new program, we won’t know its impact on our children for years to come. By restricting the use of the word please, a culture shift is imminent. Traditionally, good manners is what has differentiated the United States among other countries in the area of customer service. Additionally, good manners, including the frequent use of the word please, is a major part of what defines the South.
This movement is reminiscent of Charlotte Iserbyt’s point from her book Revolution in Education – Soviet Style on News With Views that states that Benjamin Bloom’s purpose of education was to “change the thoughts, actions, and feelings of students,” and defined good teaching, as “challenging the students’ fixed beliefs.”
Image of Druid Hills Academy teacher via ABC News