Volume 6 Number 3
IN THIS ISSUE:
2. Promoting Responsibility
3. Increasing Effectiveness
4. Improving Relationships
5. Promoting Learning
6. Discipline without Stress
7. What People Say
On a flight last week to present “How to Deal with
Difficult Students” to the Texas Middle School Association,
an airline attendant asked me if my name was Marvin
Since I was not wearing a name tag, I inquired of Janet (not
her real name) how she knew who I was. She whispered to me
that she is leaving the airline industry to enter teaching.
She said that she is reading my book for the SECOND time
before lending the book to her sister who is having a
challenging time with her two children.
I inquired how she found out about the book. She said that
one of her professors at the university she is attending
mentioned that the book was one of his favorites. She bought
“Discipline without Stress” because she thought it would be
the most beneficial.
Reading a book a second time reminds me of an old story that
exemplifies the point I am going to make.
Two woodcutters were engaged in a four-hour woodcutting
contest. They cut wood in front of each other and an
audience of eager onlookers. One woodcutter took a 10-minute
break each hour while the other did not stop. At the end of
the competition, the woodcutter who took the breaks had cut
much more wood. The other woodcutter was shocked. “How could
this be?” he asked. The other woodcutter replied, “Maybe
it’s because I sharpened my axe each hour.”
Stephen Covey’s seventh habit of highly successful people
is, “Sharpen the Saw.” It means refresh. In this case it
refers to revisiting what you have already learned. Because,
as the axe gets dull with use, the human mind cannot
remember all that it learned. Just as the brain and the body
require sleep, so does learning need to be refreshed.
Have you ever seen a motion picture more than once? Didn’t
you pick up something on the second viewing that you did not
notice or remember from your first viewing. Didn’t the whole
become clearer after revisiting the various scenes?
Have you ever read a book twice–expanding your learning the
Whenever I listen to an audiocassette or a compact disk that
is worth hearing, I inevitably listen to it a second time.
This practice reinforces what I have learned. Oftentimes, I
pick up points that I didn’t fully retain during the first
Janet is not the first person who told me she has read
the book more than once. It’s simply impossible to grasp,
remember, and implement all the strategies in one reading.
Sharpening the saw is surely a habit of highly successful
2. PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY
An 80-year-old mother was unable to find a cab to take her
home. She walked into a pizza parlor and said, “I’d like to
order a pepperoni pizza delivered…and I’d like to go with
People say about the aging process that it critical to
retain our humor as we grow older. The reason is that, as we
grow, our character traits become more ingrained. In fact,
they become even more pronounced. A sweet person becomes
sweeter. A disagreeable person becomes a real crank in old
Therefore, the attitudes and traits we are planting now will
take root and become rigid habits later in life. So it’s
important to make a commitment to live a daily life of good
cheer, optimism, and gratitude. Whatever choices made today
will serve well later in life.
Plant happy seeds and enjoy today–and many, many tomorrow.
3. INCREASING EFFECTIVENESS
One of the fundamental truths I remember from my graduate
studies in economics is the concept of opportunity costs.
This means there is a cost to everything–be it in monetary
terms, in time, in relationships–really in anything.
The Nobel Laureate, Milton Freedman, summarized economics
with the same idea: “There is no such thing as a free
Here is a challenge. For the next week, ask yourself the
following question before taking any action:
“WHAT PRICE WILL I BE PAYING?”
Situations can include:
Going to bed late
Going to bed early
Reading a book
Eating that second piece of pie
Not tempting the taste by not eating the first piece
Asking for something
Ignoring my mate or child when entering a room
Smiling when someone enters the room
The benefit of reflecting on the question,
“WHAT PRICE WILL I BE PAYING?”
is that you will have a tendency to perform that which
is in your best interests.
Basically, this amounts to the fact that you have the
freedom to pay the price. Just become aware of the price you
4. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS
I recently purchased a new mobile phone that has a
an opening message. I inserted, “smile.” Now each time I
open my cell phone, I see that message.
A smile is a small gesture with a powerful impact. In
American culture, we’ve come to expect people to smile when
we meet them.
The late pianist/comedian Victor Borge put it another way
when he described a smile as “the shortest distance between
two people.” Greeting someone with a warm smile is the best
way to introduce yourself, and it sets the stage beautifully
for any discussion that follows.
Check your smile in the mirror. As you step toward it,
before you see yourself, smile. Then look at yourself. Is it
really a happy smile or a forced smile? And are your eyes
smiling? That’s the test of a real smile.
Greeting others with a smile is the easiest approach to
start anything with a positive note.
5. PROMOTING LEARNING
In the 1990’s, the Juran Institute produced a video series
on the subject of quality. One of them describes a problem
with the Jefferson Memorial: the granite was crumbling. What
was frustrating to the national park officials was that none
of the other memorials were having this same problem with
their granite. So the question was “Why?”
Question: Why is the granite crumbling on the Jefferson
Answer: It is hosed off more than the other memorials.
Question: Why is the Jefferson Memorial hosed off more than
the other D.C. memorials?
Answer: The Jefferson Memorial has more bird dung.
Question: Why does the Jefferson Memorial have more bird
dung than the other memorials?
Answer: It has more birds.
Question: Why does the Jefferson Memorial have more birds?
Answer: It has more spiders for the birds to eat.
Question: Why does the Jefferson Memorial have more spiders
than other D.C. memorials?
Answer: It has more flying insect for spiders to eat.
Question: Why does the Jefferson Memorial have more flying
insects than other D.C. memorials?
Answer: The lights are turned on too soon at the Jefferson
Memorial, thus attracting the insects.
Solution: The lights were turned on later and the granite
By asking “Why?” enough times, usually at
least five, one can find the root causes of problems.
–Lee Jenkins. “Permission to Forget and Nine Other Root
Causes of America’s Frustration with Education.” Milwaukee:
Quality Press, 2005.
6. Discipline without Stress
What sort of consequence would a student with level “A”
behavior receive? I’ve been down the rewards and punishment
route but as we know, it is not effective.
I repeat instructions until the student complies or a more
serious consequence seems inevitable. It is very important
that the child know that insubordination will not be
The answer to this is in a prime difference between D w/o S
and other approaches. Whether the consequence is referred to
as logical or natural, as long as it is IMPOSED it will
prompt a negative feeling and, therefore, one of resistance.
Rather than imposing a consequence, ELICIT it. The
conversation goes something like, “This behavior is on a
level that is simply inappropriate in our classroom, and it
is unacceptable. What do you suggest we do so that you will
not continue to be a victim of these impulses?”
Continue to ask, “What else?” “What else?” “What else?”
until the student comes up with a procedure or consequence
that will help the student redirect future impulses.
This noncoercive approach sends the message that you want to
help the student–not control the student.
Review the example at
It is very important to understand that this is NOT a
permissive approach. Responsibility is placed ON THE
STUDENT–where it belongs. See “Guided Choices,” part 3 of
the Raise Raise Responsibility System at
7. What People Say
I received the following in a recent e-mail:
“I heard about your newsletter from a teacher in my
district. She began using your system and enthusiastically
shared it with everybody she could. I am using it and love
the ‘stress free’ aspect of the kids knowing they are
responsible for their choices–rather than me!”
Summit, New Jersey
Preview a presentation by the author at
See a video clip from the In-House Staff Development from
the last link at