An Interview about Where We Are Going – Part IV

This is the fourth part in a series of interviews about “Where We Are Going” with Michael F. Shaughnessy of Eastern New Mexico University.

What kind of assistance is found at your website?

RESPONSE: is the foundational site that contains free information explaining the entire system. This site includes such links as The Discipline Without Stress® Teaching Model, The Hierarchy of Social Development, support links, and other links to implement the proactive, totally noncoercive (but not permissive) system .

My aim is to have teachers increase their joy of teaching, reduce stress, improve relationships, and become more effective.

In addition to this main website, there are other sites to help teachers and parents: Discipline Without Stress is the website for the best-selling book on discipline and learning. Three sections of the book are online: Classroom Meetings, Collaboration for Quality Learning, and Reducing Perfectionism. is used to post questions, share ideas, and give assistance. Discipline Answers provides a compilation of previously asked questions and posted answers categorized from the above Yahoo site.

About Discipline explains reasons why external approaches—such as rewarding appropriate behavior, telling students what to do, and punishing them if they don’t—are not used. These approaches do not promote long-lasting responsible behavior.

I think that it is often imperative to review previously learned material. Do you find that some teachers need additional review?

A major—if not the major—learning mistake is that teachers assume they can teach something once, or have students read something once, or practice a procedure once and then expect students to remember it. This is simply contrary to how the brain operates. The brain images pictures, not words. The vast majority of material that is read is not remembered—unless it is visualized or experienced in ways that will go into long-term memory.

The same is true with a procedure. Unless a procedure is modeled, practiced, and reinforced in order to make new neural connections, it will be lost. It is rare to be exposed to something just once and retain it with 100 per cent accuracy.

Even though my approach is simple and becomes easy with practice, it also needs to be periodically reviewed. Just thinking with positivity is an example. If your supervisor informs you in the morning to stop by the office before leaving for the day, the mind almost automatically thinks, “What did I do wrong?” This is a negative and disempowering thought. But you have no idea what the conversation will be about. You assume the conversation will be a negative one. The point is that we often leap to negative thoughts. Because of this tendency to think in negative—rather than in positive—terms, we constantly need to review our self-talk.

Here is an example a teacher can use with students. A student’s self-talk can be, “I HAVE to go to school today.” The negative talk prompts a negative, disempowering feeling. Notice the difference when the student’s self-talk is, “I GET to go to school today.” Young people can be taught to think and self-talk in positive terms. But this, too, also needs to be reviewed and reinforced.

Continual practice in thinking and communicating in positive and empowering ways is the way that this new approach becomes the brain’s default. The old negative habit needs to be replaced by the newer, in this case, positive one.