Mandating Positive Behavior Support

Sometimes what we want others to do so focuses our attention that our actions become counterproductive.

You will find this worth reading to truly understand the significance of this truth. It is from a post on the Mailring.


Hello, everybody. I feel a little frustrated and would like some words of wisdom or support.

I was pleased to be asked to speak to a group of new teachers on the nature of motivation. I printed out an article by Marvin Marshall and articles by Ryan and Deci. My principal has been impressed and intrigued by my philosophy and approach, which he sees as successful.

The very next day there was a Veteran's Day assembly for the entire school. In between musical numbers, the principal would call on kids to answer questions, such as which are the branches of the military? At the next interlude, he would ask who remembered whatever he had asked before. When a child answered his question correctly, he made a big deal out of sending the student across the gym to an assistant who was holding a big bag of candy. My heart sank. I felt like my whole talk was completely invalidated in front of all those new teachers who had heard me the day before.

I have had many conversations with our school counselor about Discipline Without Stress and its applications in my classroom. She admires my approach and more than once has said that I should do staff development for the whole school. (She's also recommended this to the administration.) She said she considers me the behavior expert at the school—not herself. Well, she pulled me into her office on Thursday and said she and the principal are excited about a new plan they're putting together. She held up a "positive behavior card" which they want the children to wear around their necks on a lanyard. The teachers would carry around a hole puncher, and when we have "caught them being good," we would punch a hole in the card.

After 10 punches, they would get a prize, and they would also get to take the card home to show their parents how well they were doing.

This counselor is very sweet, very sensitive, and one of my biggest supporters, so I did not want to hurt her feelings. I said, "Well, you are right; it's not my kind of thing." She said, "But there are lots and lots of research that proves that some kids need this kind of thing!" I said, "Yes, and there is research on the opposite side, too."

Then I said, "Look, you already know my philosophy and how I feel about this kind of thing. I don't expect anyone else to adopt my views. I'm not criticizing you if you want to do this, but I just don't want to have to do it." She said the principal wants everyone to do the same thing, so the kids wouldn't be "confused" by different things each school year.

I countered that kids naturally learn multiple sets of rules/procedures, e.g., at mom's house versus dad's house, parents' house vs. grandparents' house, Sunday school vs. baseball practice—and that no matter how people try to standardize procedures and practices, all teachers are different and children always have to learn their different teaching styles, personalities, etc.—which they have no trouble doing.

Nevertheless, later that day we received a note in our boxes asking for our classroom rules, consequences and "rewards." She and the principal plan to cull through what we report and make ONE system for us all to consistently follow. I typed up a three-page single-spaced reply explaining my philosophy and procedures.

A lot of this is driven by the fact that our state department of education is promoting "Positive Behavior Support," a method originally designed to deal with the most difficult special education students. It is straight-out behavior modification stuff. The hole-punched card is a perfect example. And since this has Department of Public Instruction approval, it must be right!

So the irony is, that even though they both admire what I do and see it working, they would have me abandon it to "catch kids being good" and start trips to the prize box. It makes me sick!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


The concept that is so simple and yet so significant: PUT PEOPLE AHEAD OF THE IDEAS to which you are committed.