TLAC, Planning and Ethics

The planning section of the book is competent if a little mechanical, though there is little in it that might lead to controversy. There is an unintended reveal in it when covering learning objectives in that I’ve always felt that they perform more of a management function than anything else: we are advised to have them on public display in the same place every lesson (no bad piece of advice) so that visitors to the classroom, “peers and administrators”, can see what you’re teaching.[1] Learning objectives are for management to check on teachers. Students see little value in them. Neither do teachers who know much about the form.

He diverts into classroom organisation in the planning section and acknowledges there are differing philosophies. He rejects the depth of thought that exists around having tables in groups (and, despite what I may have written in a book published thirteen years ago, you have your desks however you want them as far as I’m concerned; I prefer mine in groups as it impacts on how often students are asked to share ideas with each other) on the mechanistic basis that it makes the teacher harder to see (a view somewhat undermined by the fact the teachers in the videos are all unaware of sightlines); it’s probably also a view that is unencumbered by much seasoned experience of what it is rejecting as there are some quite profound philosophical reasons behind having tables in groups: it valorises the students’ voices, allows learning to be a genuinely enjoyable social experience, broadens the pedagogy available and just feels plain funkier. And, interestingly, Lemov is not against small group discussion[2] but, apparently, tables in rows “socialises” the students to look at the board.[3] This is an odd, to the point of mildly ironic, use of the verb.

There is an implied, though probably unconscious, lack of respect for the students. An assertion like “once you have to say ‘excuse me’ you are essentially asking permission. This limits your ability to hold students to high behavioural and academic standards”[4] is rubbish really. Manners are important,[5] respect is important, but the teacher must model those qualities to the students, and the teacher must do so first. If you expect respect that is anything more than just grudging compliance, then teachers must ensure that it is a two-way street. It’s all at such a profoundly low level philosophically that one might argue that a teacher who’s in need of this level of advice probably is.

Another related concept worth mentioning is that there appears to be very little in the way of ethical consideration: there is little in the book about why we teach, much prescription of how to do it. This is more serious than it might appear. If there is no serious thought, no deep consideration of the correct and appropriate value system a school or a pedagogy inhabits, then a foundational element of working with children is absent. The consideration of the moral is found in the necessary gap between thought and action: without such a gap, things can be implemented that have not received enough depth of consideration. Intellectuals are humanist and philosophical; they have a developed sense of the aesthetic and are prone to spending time lost in abstract thought; they are also interested in understanding how the world is organised. While there is no evidence that the creator of this pedagogy has ever claimed that he’s an intellectual (he is the model of gentle humility in public), perhaps it might have been better that the governments which allowed the flowering and cultivation of this taxonomy, members of which have said, “people in this country have had enough of experts”,[6] might now want to reconsider whether it is better to place education in the hands of intellectuals and experts than it is placing it in the laps of blunt theorists. If there is little depth to your imaginative considerations, then you may not have imagined the possible consequences of your theorising. 

A school, a network of schools or a pedagogic approach that has a value system as morally inconsiderate as ‘raise test scores’ is potentially dangerous to the children it serves as it no longer holds ordinary moral standards to be important. If the sole metric for the schools to appear successful is this single consideration, then all other ethical considerations might be thrown in the dumpster, and the schools might start viewing children purely as things. If teachers in any school are not explicitly aware that they are the servants of the children, approaches can become too punitive, too power orientated, too obsessed with the self. School behaviour systems have to exist but, any system inclined to fetishise punishment could potentially have damaging results. As French writer, David Rousset, puts it, “Normal men do not know that everything is possible.”[7] The concept of professional ethics is an important facet of our profession, and accenting coercive approaches to managing the behaviour of human children, all the while unaware that therapeutic approaches are kinder and more beneficial in the long run, is a negation of something genuinely important and, as well as this, is a negation of thought itself. 



[1] Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College p140.

[2] Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College p206.

[3] Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College p41.

[4] Doug Lemov, Teach Like a Champion 2.0: 62 Techniques that Put Students on the Path to College p142.

[5] If you doubt this, then question what it is that makes the electorate continually vote in a class of people whose main area of expertise is in criminality.

[6] Michael Gove, Interview with Sky News, 2 June 2016

[7] David Rousset quoted in Howard Ball’s Review of The Vision and the Dream of Justice Hugo L. Black: An Examination of a Judicial Philosophy, The Western Political Quarterly 28/3 September 1975 pp.580-582.

Added Sat, 15 Jun 2024 10:20

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