Sunday, September 26, 2010

Guest Post: POV on WBT

from Suburban Chicken Farmer at Bon Mot:

Power Teaching/Whole Brain Teaching from the point of view of a nine year old third grade boy.

(email sent to teacher. Teacher and my son regularly corresponded about mainly homework through email)

Mr. H* not doing my spelling's something about the class. remember how the kids always yells at someone if they lose a point? well, I don't like that.. but I want you to do this speech tommorow:
Class! *yes!* Why do you yell at someone who loses a point? It's just some ink, nobody cares if they win the prize at the end of the day. But if the one who loses the point is your friend and you still yell at him, you will might lose him/her. So, do you think you like losing friends? I guess not.
You must do it tommorow. Please! Im trying to help the class!


This email was my introduction to Power Teaching. I was at the school at lunchtime when the school's director came up and said, "I read the email your son sent Mr. H and we'll have a meeting!" Since she was very upbeat, I assumed my kid had written something really good. I rushed home to read it myself. Wow! I was so proud to be related to such a wise person.

Mr. H was not as impressed. He took my son out into the breezeway and lectured him that this was Power Teaching and was developed in college by experts who knew far better than he, a mere child and further more the "I guess not." part of the email was, in Mr. H's opinion, sarcastic and not appreciated.


  1. SCF, thank you for the guest post. I'm sorry you're going through this.

    Do you know how the other parents feel about what's going on? I'm wondering if you could put a petition together asking the school to discontinue WBT.

    Your son sounds like a smart kid, and he's picking up a very important point about this whole scoreboard business. It messes up the social ties kids have with each other.

    developed in college by experts

    Oh, please. Fraternity hazing was also developed in college by experts, but it doesn't belong in an elementary school classroom.

  2. This happened around two years ago, March of 09. It took me this long to get up the courage to publicly "out" myself and the courage to ask my son for his e-mail.

    NCWBT and others have said children never figure out the scoreboard is rigged. Well, my kid figured it out the first day. The "developed by/for college that students are ready for" lie is what Biffle instructs teachers to tell children so they will "buy in." My son really admired, even loved his teacher and felt deeply betrayed. He knew his teacher was lying. Eventually, he forgave his teacher, not verbally, but in his own mind. He always treated his teacher as best as he could. Has always been more loyal to his teacher than his teacher has been to him; my son realizes that too.

    Because it's important to protect children, we don't get their point of view hardly ever. We often speak on their behalf, or say "well, when I was a child I liked being treated this way but not that way."

    We still do contend with Chris Biffle's Cult though. My son's fifth grade teacher uses some of it, and a bunch of other heavy-handed coercive techniques as well.

    Now, what's really interesting is you can also see the teacher's POV at the same time as he publicly blogged about it. (Well not the e-mail but the classroom and students) One of my teacher relatives was so surprised to see a teacher doing that.

  3. From PsychMom:

    You are very courageous Suburban Chicken Farmer....I can see where your child gets it.

    To me the saddest thing about the Whole Brain method is that the children are completely left out of the equation...the children are irrelevant. The main focus is the person in front of the classroom, and regardless of what their credentials may be, they have all the power and are given all the credit.

    I thought teachers didn't want their success measured by students' scores?

  4. FedUpMom, While a couple of parents didn't like it, I think most didn't know and didn't care to know much about it- and were fine with it. Thing is, most of the students had been fed a steady diet of behavior management slop for years already. (Maybe the ideas about "learned helplessness" deserve revisiting. To fully understand it)

    Many parents are poorly educated themselves and defer to the teachers as experts. And people are easily influenced by popular phrases that in reality are completely vacuous on their own. "Brain-based," "Research-based,"
    All it takes is someone willing to lie, someone willing to not question, a few more unable to understand one way or the other with access to public coffers, you've got prime picking grounds for the likes of Chris Biffle.

    Honestly, the most anti-intellectual, anti-science arenas in the public sphere must be elementary schools! At times, trying to talk with people at that school I felt like an anthropologist on Mars, to borrow a phrase from Temple Grandin,


    Pychmom, You're too kind. Thank you.
    Heh, heh.

    I wonder whom my son's third grade teacher Mr. H would prefer, my son who couldn't comply with Power Teaching if his life depended on it (and his social life did depend on it by Biffle's design) and who "drove Mr. H completely insane" but scored well on state tests or his group of children turned compliant robots and their poor scores?