A System Is Superior to Talent

Working in Harlem under contract for three years with the New York City Board of Education taught me an invaluable lesson: Having a teaching SYSTEM is far superior to talent when a teacher faces challenging behaviors in the classroom.

The assistant superintendent and I were very impressed while observing a teacher one year. We agreed that the teacher was a “natural.” However, when I visited the teacher the following year, she told me that three boys were such challenges that she could use some assistance.

Even teachers with “natural talent” are challenged by student behaviors that teachers in former generations did not have to deal with. To retain the joy that the teaching profession offers and to reduce one’s stress, having a SYSTEM to rely on can significantly help. The Discipline Without Stress Teaching Model describes such a SYSTEM. It contains four essential phases to successful teaching and learning:

I. Teaching Procedures

The first phase differentiates classroom management from discipline. Classroom management is about teaching, practicing, and reinforcing procedures and is the teacher’s responsibility. Discipline, in contrast, is about self-control and impulse management and is the student’s responsibility.

II. Practicing Three Principles

This second phase describes three universal principles teachers employ to inspire and induce students to initiate their own changes. The principles are positivity, choice, and reflection. 

III. Being Proactive in Discipline

This third phase refers to teaching a lesson that inspires students to behave responsibly. This is in contrast to the usual approach of first reacting after an irresponsible behavior. Teaching a lesson that has students WANT to behave responsibly reduces stress and is both more efficient and effective. The Raise Responsibility System describes teaching four (4) concepts relating to social (and personal) development. After teaching the concepts, checking for understanding is used when a disruption occurs. If misbehavior continues, than guided choices are used to help the student develop a procedure to help himself or in severe cases to elicit a consequence. The approach is totally noncoercive (but not permissive) and employs internal motivation—rather than relying on shorter-lasting external manipulations of threats, punishments, or rewards. 

IV. Using the System to Increase Academic Performance

This phase has students become motivated to put forth effort to increase learning without the teacher’s use of any external motivators. Instead, the teacher refers to the four (4) concepts referred to above. The Hierarchy of Social Developmentdescribes the concepts. First, pictures are painted of the concepts in students’ minds before students engage in a lesson or activity. Then after the activity, students take just a moment to reflect on their chosen concept. Students WANT to achieve at the highest concept level just by the nature of the levels in the hierarchy. By being proactive before and employing reflection afterwards, motivation toward learning is significantly increased.

For those who desire a more in-depth understanding and would like to share the Raise Responsibility System with administrators and others, please print the pdf version of the Phi Delta Kappan cover article.