Tuesday, September 06, 2005


Having taught in one of the poorest areas of the world as part of Peace Corps and in one of the poorest areas of the United States as part of Teacher Corps, I am somewhat familiar with the effects of poverty (although only from a distance as I grew up in an upper class household. In fact, I figured out that after 1989 the next time I stepped foot in a public school in America was my first day in the Teacher Corps.) Thus being somewhat familiar with the issues of poverty the aftermath of Katrina is, to me, about economics and poverty on every level, from the personal to the national.

On a personal level poor people had little means to leave New Orleans.

On a local level New Orleans didn't have the resources to deal with such a devastating storm because the city is one of the poorest in the nation.

On a state level Louisiana didn't have the necessary resources because the state is one of the poorest in the union.

On a national level FEMA didn't have enough resources because its budget had been cut.

No one, on any level, had enough resources. No one had enough money.

I read something the other day that shocked me. One in five children born in America is born into poverty. 20% of our children live below the poverty line. That is staggering to me. We are the richest country in the world and 20% of our children live below the poverty line. We are the richest country in the history of the world. And 20% of our children live below the poverty line.

Nanny 911

Flipping through the channels last night I stumbled on a show called Nanny 911. I'd never seen it before but I was amazed at three things in this week's episode:

1) That the mother didn't slap the hell out of her son.

2) That Nanny didn't slap the hell of the son.

3) How much of what Nanny does is directly related to classroom management. I wished I had taped it because his week's episode had everything to do with classroom management.

A quick overview: this week's family consisted of two married parents, two boys, and a daughter. The oldest boy, Brandon, is about five. As the show started he was kicking, punching, and screaming at his mother as she tried to get him ready for school. Apparently this is routine behavior.

Anyway, here comes Nanny. She institutes a consequence (the ever-loved "time-out") and immediately imposes it on any of the children who misbehave. They resist and it looks like the "time-out" is never going to work. Pretty soon Brandon has a tantrum with Nanny, and now he's kicking and punching her. I was waiting for Nanny to lose it and slap him but, to her credit, she never did. She does, however, not let him get out of the time-out, no matter how much further the situation escalates (at a certain point it seems like it would just be easier to let him stalk off).

After the time-out is finally instituted Nanny explains to Brandon that she cares about him, but that certain behaviors carry certain consequences and it is Brandon's choice as to what behavior he wants to exhibit. She also institutes a system of rewards for good or helpful behavior. By the end of the hour (and what must have been 20 minutes of commercials) both the systems of consequence and reward have taken effect and the entire dynamic of the family has changed.

How is it applicable to classroom management? Let me count the ways:

1) You must address bad behavior. Ignoring it will not solve it.
2) You must address bad behavior every time. Addressing it intermittently will not solve it.
3) You must remain calm. As Nanny says, "The behavior is bad, the child is not."
4) Ms. Monroe, this is just for you: Rewards are as effective as consequences.
5) Kids have to know you care.
6) It is the child's choice. Everything is framed by this notion.

Nanny 911. Who knew?