Everyone seems to have fallen in “love” with techniques from Doug Lemov’s Teach Like a Champion. Prior to reading this tome, I was none to crazy about Mr. Lemov (as you can see from my comments here). Now that I’ve started reading this book, I can’t say I’m impressed. First his techniques have been around for a while. Look at this description of a consultant I had in my class four years ago, using a number of Lemovian techniques (there is some other stuff there that isn’t, I’m referring to more to the third paragraph).
But, who cares if they are “new” if they work? Frankly I don’t think it will, because of the lack of attention to culture, which Lemov tries to play as a “neutral” stand, and some experiences with similar strategies to Lemov’s in a culturally diverse classroom and having the strategy fall on its face. For the big picture, Diane Strasser in her review of Teach Like a Champion, points out how deliberate Lemov is in a “de-cultured” approach and the short comings of this (look under the sub-heading “The Limits of “Data””). I’m going to take us down to the level of practice and a specific technique he recommends to show how this approach can fall short.
Tom Hoffman pointed to this review on Amazon that hits on squarely on how the “no opt-out” strategy may be completely inappropriate for specific students because of cultural norms, and their status as language learners (the reviewer cites Latina females). At my school, we’ve been doing a culturally-based program that has some no opt-out strategies aimed at African American populations. These have proved difficult with other student populations in our school (Mexican American and Hmong language learners).
Practices like “no-opt out” seem may seem neutral on their surface, but they go against the grain with a number of cultural groups, and with some types of personalities in any group of students. A recent workplace training discussed the difficulties that this strategy presents to Hmong students. The trainer shared her own experience and that of her sister as students being “forced” to give answers in front of class, and how uncomfortable this was for them, to the point where her sister was having stomach problems. Teaching should not produce anxiety attacks in our students.
I’ll also offer this quote from an earlier post on “no opt-out” reflecting on other factors to consider:
…(S)ome African American kids are shy too. Not every black boy is a budding Chris Tucker. Attributions of loquacity and verbal fluency to a culture are ALWAYS generalizations, and there will be exceptions (I also have some real Hmong chatter-boxes, go figure). If they are special education students, whatever their race or culture, they will have issues about responding, and you will need to build that same safety net that ELLs need for them to participate.
Beware of global solutions to your classroom management, and if you have a diverse classroom, knowing your students, and knowing which approach will work with which student is not going to be something you learn in a book, but with practice and by having a good ear.