Discipline Without Stress Newsletter – February 2006

Volume 6 Number 2


 1. Welcome

 2. Promoting Responsibility

 3. Increasing Effectiveness

 4. Improving Relationships

 5. Promoting Learning

 6. Discipline without Stress

 7. What People Say


As previously reported, a researcher working on a large

study of discipline and classroom management programs in

America contacted me. She mentioned that her report will be

presented to the American Educational Research Association

at their next meeting.

She asked whether her reference should be to the “Raise

Responsibility System” or to “Discipline without Stress.”

I chose “Discipline w/o Stress” for the following reasons:

–“Discipline without Stress” is in the title of the book,

whereas the “Raise Responsibility System” is a chapter

in the book (Chapter 3),

–Teaching procedures–the key to effective classroom

management–precedes the introduction of the “Raise

Responsibility System,”

–The three principles to practice for becoming more

effective and improving relationships (Chapter 1 of the

book) is not part of the “Raise Responsibility System,”

–The motivational approach (empowerment and noncoercion

described in Chapter 2 of the book) is not part of the

“Raise Responsibility System,”

–Reducing stress, a major concern of many teachers and

parents and a major thrust of the approach, is not

reflected in the name, “Raise Responsibility System.”

In sum, the original discipline system of

1. Teaching the Hierarchy (teaching levels of development)

2. Checking for Understanding (asking), and

3. Guided Choices (eliciting)

has evolved into a more comprehensive teaching model.

The “Raise Responsibility System” is an integral–

BUT NOT AN EXCLUSIVE–part of the model that can be viewed at


Since making this decision, many pages on the Marvin

Marshall website have been altered–including the name of

the Raise Responsibility System mailring/listserv. It is now

found at


Members who send messages to the mailring via e-mail will

now be using the updated address:



Positivity (conscious optimism) induces responsibility.

This positive attitude begins between the ears.

The most important thing people can control is their state

of mind. A state of mind is something that one assumes. It

cannot be purchased. It must be created.

Thinking and acting responsibly–or irresponsibly–begins,

therefore, with how a person shapes one’s own thoughts and

communicates with others.

As leaders, teachers, and parents, we have an oligation to

help young people shape and control their thoughts–so their

impulses and tendency to blame and complain don’t control



Remove barriers to achieve goals–rather than pressure

people to achieve them.

When leaders are not happy with people who report to them,

there is a tendency to add pressure.

Instead of adding pressure, a more successful approach is to

ask what are the barriers that are keeping people from doing

their best.

We may not be able to remove governmentally imposed

barriers. However, we can inquire what is within our control

that may be hampering others from doing their best.

Teachers can use the same approach with young people.

Teachers can ask, “What can I can do to remove barriers

preventing you from doing your best?”


In a previous newsletter, I suggested using the word,


rather than the word, “no,” such as “Not now” or “Not this


I received the following e-mail, which reminded me how

creative and independent even very young people can be:

“You reminded my of a time when my son, Adam, was two. Every

thing was No, No, No! My husband had just had it with him

and said, ‘Adam, don’t you say No to me again; I’ve had

enough, young man.’ Adam looked at him, full of steam and

said, ‘NOT’!

“I couldn’t help but start laughing. You are right. ‘Not’

doesn’t have the same effect as ‘No.'”

Thanks for bringing that back to mind.

(Note: I wonder who modeled “No” in the first place!)


The Los Angeles Times of Sunday, January 29, ran a

front-page report about the drop-out rate in the Los Angeles

City high schools. I am somewhat familiar with the high

schools in the district having taught at two of them (one in

an African-American neighborhood and the other in a Latino

neighborhood)–as well as having served in the district as a

high school demonstration teacher, department chair,

instructional coordinator, counselor, and athletic

director–plus having used nine of their high schools for

my dissertation, “The Tenth Grade Guidance Course in the Los

Angeles City High Schools.”

Two parts from the article give an indication of the

philosophy of the high school reported on–and neither is

unique to Los Angeles.

The first: “Seniors looked for their names posted on a

bulletin board. If a student was NOT listed, the student

earned the right to walk across the stage to get his/her

diploma.” (Capitals added)

Doesn’t it strike someone that posting the names of students

who were SUCCESSFUL in meeting all graduation requirements–

rather than embarrassing those who did not–would be more

dignified to these young adults and reflect more wisdom on

the part of the school?

The second: “20-30 kids are constantly out of class. When

these students are caught, they receive $250 tickets that

require them to appear in court with a parent. About 200

were given out during the last school year.” “And students

still roam,” stated the article, which continued:

“The school has since instituted a new system of taking

attendance each period, rather than once a day, and is

developing a new discipline system to punish truants. Since

the attendance system went into effect November 6, students

have skipped more than 2,000 classes.”

Shouldn’t it be obvious that heaping negativity on more

negativity to solve this problem would not work? Apparently

not, since such practices continue.

The essence of Jean Piaget’s hierarchy of cognitive

development has been lost: Young people THINK AS YOUNG

PEOPLE THINK (not as adult think) but THEY FEEL THE SAME WAY

ADULTS FEEL. Unfortunately, too many adults practice the

opposite. They think young people think like adults and feel

like young people.

Deprivation of dignity is felt–regardless of age.

If you believe that a 6 year-old or a 16 year-old should be

treated the same as a 26 year-old, then punish–and perhaps

have these young people join the ranks of 2,000,000 other

young people who are incarcerated in the USA.

However, if you believe that a 6 year-old or a 16 year-old

is not yet a 26 year-old, then consider whether you want to

discipline by punishment and do things TO people or do

things FOR and WITH them by using the opportunity to help

them help themselves.

Negativity never feels so good as positivity nor is

negativity nearly so effective at changing behavior–whether

we are referring to people of 6, 16, 26, or 66.

6. Discipline without Stress

The following is from a recent post on the mailring:

“I am always working on thinking about, ‘What can I do to

change a procedure to make it work better, and what did I

do/not do that led to things not running smoothly?’

“Monday my principal stopped me in the hall on my way out

the door and said, “I never see your kids.” At first I

didn’t know what he meant. Then he said, “I never see any of

your kids in my office. I just want to know what you do, and

what your philosophy is because I know you have to be doing

something different.” (He knows I definitely didn’t get the

“easy class,” either!)

“I was so happy to be able to tell him all about Marvin

Marshall’s book and system! He may not be really open to the



is very impressed with the results in my room. And now I

feel like I’ve cracked open the door and gotten one toe in!”

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7. What People Say


THE LEAP…AND OTHERS DON’T,” is a very popular book on

leadership. I recently heard him interviewed, and I quote

his final thought regarding leadership as applied to


“You can take away blackboards, you can take away the

computers, you can take away the administration, and you can

take away the building. You can take away everything. It all

happens in that magical intersection of a wonderful teacher

and a student. And when you get that happening

SYSTEMATICALLY, that is ultimately what really turns the


With this in mind, I share a letter I recently received:


January 10, 2006

Dear Dr. Marshall:

This letter is a follow-up to your presentation for our

staff at McFadden Intermediate School this past August. In

that full day workshop, you introduced our staff to the

“Discipline Without Stress” system. Whether the people who

use it call it a system, a method, or a philosophy is not

nearly as important as what happens when an entire school

embraces it, teaches it. By using your methodology

school-wide, we have transformed our school. Thank you seems

inadequate, yet it is a sincere thank you, from the bottom

of our hearts, that you deserve.

After your presentation, we decided to devote the first four

days of the new school year to teaching the levels of

development to each and every student in our school. Dr.

Marshall, we have a different school this year! Our office

referrals have been cut by more than half from the year

before. Students look each other in the eye, look the adults

in the eye, and sincerely ask how the day is going. When

problems occur in the classroom, each and every student

knows the levels of development and are able to articulate

exactly where things have gone awry and what they are doing

to correct the inappropriate behavior. One of our teachers

questioned how we were able to ever operate without your

approach. I wholeheartedly agree. The climate at McFadden is

positive, a climate of mutual respect, a climate of

togetherness and cooperation rather than “us” versus “them.”

There is no doubt in our minds that you are, indeed, an

expert in your field, and one who has been truly

instrumental in helping our whole school concentrate on the

art of teaching rather than the art of keeping order. We are

forever grateful to you for your insight into adolescent and

adult minds, for helping us change negatives to positives,

and for helping us to renew our dedication to teach. You are

a wonder!

If you have an opportunity, please feel free to drop by the

school and walk the halls with me. I think you will like the

way we have implemented “Discipline Without Stress” in a

very short amount of time. Wow!


Esther Severy



I visited the school shortly after receiving the letter and

marveled at how 6th, 7th, and 8th grade students walked the

halls so orderly and quietly. When the tardy bell rang, the

halls were empty. Every student was in class. Mrs. Severy

commented that this never happened before implementing

Discipline Without Stress.

If you have contact with middle schools or parents of middle

school parents, please take a moment and share this

communication with them.


Preview a presentation by the author at


See a video clip from the In-House Staff Development from

the last link at