You know the summer holiday has arrived when TLAC once again is getting put through the ringer. Last summer it was the “carcerality” of TLAC, this summer’s how to deal with a kid that has fallen asleep in class. So as a teacher procrastinating from all of the things I could be doing to prepare for the fall term, naturally I saw the controversy, read the blog post in question, and dove in. Many anti-TLAC people were on the side of critiquing the post, claiming that inserting your adult feelings into a reprimand of a child is not good advice or an example of how to deal with that situation. I’ve largely been on the “pro-TLAC” sides of the debate, but I agree with them. I would not have addressed the situation the way that the post outlines and that I also disagree with the post’s justifications for the interaction. When (or if) we draw battle lines and refuse to critique a book or idea because someone we admire wrote it, we lose the plot of what it means to be evidence informed. Underneath the hatred-filled tweets of “I hope you don’t teach my kids” or the edu-hero stanning, there is something deeper: The question of what to do when sometimes, and often, people we trust are wrong.
We’ve Always Done These Things
You may be reading this and thinking “AHA! Jasmine is on my side! We’ve always done these things, Lemov isn’t doing anything we haven’t done for millenia!”. There might be some truth in the statement. My IB HL literature teacher, (equivalent of A-level, bless you Mrs Stammers) gave us whole class feedback on our essays and used low stakes quizzing for recall as we studied our texts. Ms Lockhart used to read alouds and bridged the gaps in our understanding. They were brilliant teachers and I would be thrilled to be anywhere near the calibre of teacher they were. But not every teacher is a Mrs. Stammers or Ms. Lockhart, not every child gets the education that I was lucky to receive, and we’d be foolish to think otherwise.
In my first year as a qualified teacher, I was routinely one of very few teachers that:
- Stood in the hallways to greet students during passing time (threshold)
- Wrote exemplars and modelled in my lessons (double planning)
- Questioned the texts as we read and studied it (cold calling or warm-call, show-call)
The idea of introducing a do-now to get kids right to work after passing time? Rarely seen. I had the basic foundations of what a good lesson could look like and run like, so I had the space to focus on the content in my lessons. But TLAC isn’t a bible or (as my dear friend calls it) a training manual either. I know what works with my teacher identity, my beliefs about what it means to be the adult in a classroom with 30 teens who I want to be successful and enjoy coming to class.
Teach them the moves (cautiously)
I don’t do SLANT because I don’t think I need to tell a 14 year old to nod their head if they agree with something– that something you learn from just being a person interacting with other people. I don’t do the ‘Strong Voice’ because squaring up is literally what you do (and may even say) before you fight someone. And I’ve even stopped doing Control the Game reading technique because as I continued to read about how to effectively teach reading, I realised that this technique doesn’t align with the research on fluency. My practice is evolving as I read, things I used to do I no longer do, and my awareness of what is best is not reliant on one person’s ideas. All of these things are ok.
You’ll often see TLAC referrals being accompanied by the necessity of ‘ ‘judgement, context knowing your kids’ ‘ and the “pick and choose” your strategies. Well, quite, and my few examples throughout this post support that model. TLAC is also often given to teachers at the very beginning of the stages of their career who by definition, lack judgement and context, so what do we do? I still say Teach them the moves but with precautions in place. This isn’t about defending or bashing Doug Lemov or defending or bashing any specific book. It’s simply about trying to equip teachers with tools that allow us to not have to flounder as if no one has ever been here before. TLAC is not the pinnacle of the craft of teaching, it is the floor (and too many teachers are still muddling through the wet cement of the foundation).
I’ve largely moved on from TLAC, feeling that I’ve gotten what I can from it. and while I can’t forget how it has aided me in developing to this point, neither can I endorse ideas and concepts that I’ve come to see as outdated or even harmful. So yes. Teach them the moves. But give them a mental and reflection model to know when they’re doing something that doesn’t fit. We can, and have to be able to do both.
And for clarity– if a kid falls asleep in class, you don’t make a big deal of it: you wake them up, check with them after class to see if everything is ok, and if it becomes a pattern, refer it to someone above you.
I’m on twitter. Comments, questions, ideas are welcome