Discipline Without Stress at a Primary School

An example of how one school implemented Discipline Without Stress is reproduced with the writer’s permission:

Dear Dr. Marshall,

I’m writing to let you know what a powerful influence your work has had on our school community. After reading your article, “Using a Discipline System to Promote Learning,” in the March 2004 Phi Delta Kappan, our staff had a strong reaction. Many of us immediately identified with your struggle to maintain discipline and to find a way to do so that was not punitive but increased student learning opportunities and responsibility.

A committee formed and met over the summer of 2004. Their hard work resulted in a small group of teachers piloting your approach during the 2004-2005 school year. As their experiences were shared at faculty meetings and weekly newsletters over the course of the school year, the small group blossomed to include nearly half of our staff. Many read your monthly online newsletter and continued to deepen their ideas and practices. Some even ended many years of reward systems, not without some withdrawal effects, to focus on internal motivation.

During the last few months of the school year, our staff continued the conversation about your approach, finally reaching consensus to implement it school-wide this year. As principal of the Viola L. Sickles School, I am proud of the ongoing and thoughtful consideration our staff has shown throughout this process. There are frequent conversations, sometimes even a bit heated, about these ideas. And the conversation and thinking continues.

Since we are a primary school, grades pre-kindergarten – 3rd grade, we have found it helpful to adapt your hierarchy to make it a bit simpler. We feel we have maintained the essence of your approach but in a form that is more easily understood by our students. I’m sharing it with you now with the hopes that you won’t cringe or feel we have taken your work and misused it. Basically we have two levels: O.K. behavior (acceptable) and Not O.K. behavior (unacceptable).

Under O.K. behavior we have levels D and C listed as follows: I did the right thing all by myself. I did the right thing when I was asked. Listed under the Not O.K. behavior we have levels B and A: I did the wrong thing. I did a hurtful or unsafe thing. One of our very talented mothers created an adorable poster that now hangs prominently in every classroom and the lunchroom, serving as an effective reminder and excellent teaching tool.

I would be delighted to talk with you about our implementation and sincerely hope that you will find our work promising. Actually we had a brief conversation about a year ago when I called to inquire about bringing you to our district. Unfortunately, we are very small and were unable to fund your visit. However, we didn’t let that deter us one bit and have been thrilled with the results of this initiative.

Thank you for your continued information via your newsletter. We are faithful readers, here in our small New Jersey community, and look forward to continuing our learning.


Jamie Sussel Turner
Viola L. Sickles School
25 Willow Street
Fair Haven, NJ 07704