I understand what a Level B student is but sometimes I hear teachers asking, “Do you want me to become a Level B teacher?” Can you explain what this is all about?
One important understanding students receive when the teacher introduces the Discipline without Stress Hierarchy in the beginning of the year is that people can in effect, choose the type of relationship they wish to have with other people, including the authority figures in their life.
Good relationships are created by operating on Level C. For those who choose to operate on Level D–the highest level–relationships will be even better and more satisfying. Students are also introduced to the understanding that frequent operation on Level B (and certainly Level A,) very naturally leads to poor relationships with others.
As obvious as it might seem to teachers, this is a new concept for many students (and for some adults too!) Many students go through their school years feeling that teachers don’t like them, or pick on them and that their peers have it in for them too. In other words they go through their lives feeling victimized, not realizing that it is their OWN BEHAVIOR over time which determines, to a great extent, how others treat them and how others feel about them.
In this system of discipline, students are directly taught that through their own choice of the four behaviour levels (A,B,C, or D,) they are actually CHOOSING the types of relationships they want to have with other people, including their teacher.
Students are proactively taught then when someone continues to operate on Level B–one of the two lower and unacceptable levels–the teacher is required to step in and exert their authority. In other words, since the student is not being self-disciplined and is not in charge of him/herself, the teacher is forced to step in and take charge. At Level B, a student can EXPECT that a teacher will become their “boss.” It can’t be a surprise.
Therefore, when a student misbehaves (Level B,) the teacher might simply BRING AWARENESS to what is happening in the situation. After a student has assessed himself at Level B, a teacher might calmly ask, “Do you want me to become a Level B teacher?” (Of course, tone of voice and body language is important here so that the question doesn’t come across as a threat.)
Because students have been taught that continued Level B behaviour is unacceptable and results in a “Level B teacher” (that is, a teacher who must assume the position of boss and therefore use their authority to ensure that the child cooperates and conforms to acceptable standards,) in the majority of cases, students often decide that they would rather take charge of their own behaviour by voluntarily moving their operation up to Level C.
The teacher also expresses another important point—that their personal preference is to NOT have to take over and exert authority—since they have no interest in bossing people around. They would prefer that the student take care of their own behaviour and become self-disciplined, but… if the student can’t manage that, they are prepared to take over.
In this light, most students prefer to take charge of themselves. In other words, they get their act together! Of course, if they can’t get their act together, then the teacher moves on to the next phase of the system, which entails using authority.
I find that in my classroom, because we so often talk about Level C and D as being more powerful than the two lower levels (in the sense of being “powerfully in control of yourself,”) almost all students prefer to think of themselves as powerful and capable—capable of managing at Level C or D. This is the secret to encouraging internal motivation in students. It gives them a powerful image for which to strive.
Having to admit to yourself that you are on Level B is akin to admitting that you aren’t powerful enough to be in charge of yourself. No one likes to think of themselves in this way. With smaller children, I might phrase this as “Do you think you can raise the level of your behaviour or do you need me to become a babysitter for you–and stay right with you in order for you to manage? Once again, tone of voice is very important. A teacher would be conversational in this dialogue and certainly not threatening or sarcastic.
As I said, it’s usually a matter of simply bringing awareness to the situation at hand. Basically the teacher is asking: Can you control yourself or do you need me to take control of you?
- Can you walk down the hall in an appropriate manner all by yourself or do you need me to walk right beside you?
- Are you prepared to work quietly at your desk or do we need to find another seating arrangement that will allow others to have the quiet they need to finish their assignment?
- Are you willing to play safely with the PE equipment or do I need to take it away from you?
Given the choice, “Do you want me to become a Level B teacher?” most young people decide that they would prefer to raise the level of their own operation to something more acceptable. It just seems like the sensible thing to do!