The 'No-Nonsense' Classroom Where Teachers Don't Say 'Please' Is Brilliant

by Maria Guido

No-Nonsense Nurturing instructs teachers to focus on correct action and refrain from using the word ‘please’

How much time in a classroom is spent focusing on the good behavior of students, and how much time is spent focusing on negative behavior? It was a draw to stop focusing on things kids were doing “wrong” and instead shift focus to the things they were doing “right” that led to the development of a method of teaching called “No-Nonsense Nurturing.”

At Druid Hills Academy in Charlotte, N.C., praise is kept to a minimum and expectations are kept high. According to NPR, No-Nonsense Nurturing is the brainchild of former school principal Kristyn Klei Borrero. She’s now CEO of the Center for Transformative Teacher Training, an education consulting company based in San Francisco. Since 2009, the center has worked with more than 250 schools across the country.

Borrero explains that the basis of the program is nothing new: it’s something she’s observed from high-performing teachers. Such teachers keep expectations high by only praising outstanding effort. Instead of focusing on students who are doing it “wrong” and pointing out their shortcomings, the method of teaching focuses on students who are performing well. For example, instead of pointing out that a student is doing something the wrong way, a teacher will instead narrate the “right” actions all students should be taking:

“Your pencil is in your hand. Your voice is on zero. If you got the problem correct, you’re following along and checking off the answer. If you got the problem incorrect, you are erasing it and correcting it on your paper.”

Borrero insists that directing students in such a way “notices students who are doing the right thing. It creates this positive momentum.” It also gives students who may have missed the directions another opportunity to hear them without being nagged.

Teachers go through several weeks of training to re-learn how to speak to their kids. From NPR:

Teachers like Kelly McManus, at Druid Hills, go through several weeks of training before implementing no-nonsense nurturing in their own classrooms.
“I would say, ‘Students, please, raise your hand on a level zero, if you …’ “
Her coach and colleague Vanetia Howard interrupts, “Stop. ‘Please.’ You want them to do it; there’s no opt-out. Drop the ‘please.’ “

The teachers have the one-on-one lesson and are then followed into the classroom by instructors who observe them and whisper directives into earbuds. This all sounds really stressful, and teachers confirm that indeed it is. But they also confirm that they’ve never gotten so much feedback that they can then take into their classes and apply.

Narrating correct behaviors may seem tedious and robotic, but if it takes some attention off the negatives why not? And should we really be congratulating students for every minute, right action that they take? As SheKnows points out, praising children when it’s undeserved or unwarranted has been linked to poor performance in children. Reinforcing correct behavior without going overboard with praise is a sensible primer for the real world: where no one praises you for doing the things that are expected of you, unfortunately.