Volume 4 Number 9
IN THIS ISSUE:
2. Promoting Responsibility
3. Increasing Effectiveness
4. Improving Relationships
5. Promoting Learning
6. Implementing The Raise Responsibility System:
Your Questions Answered
Impulse Management Posters and Cards
What People Say About THE RAISE RESPONSIBILITY SYSTEM
This month marks the start
of the academic school year for many readers of this e-zine. Although learning
is itself self-renewing, a new school year is doubly so for classroom teachers
because of greeting a fresh crop of students. Even in schools where classes
“loop” (have the same teacher for more than one year), the summer break offers
respite and renewal.
Returning after a summer “break” reminds me of what Stephen Covey refers to as a
“paradigm” in his “7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in
Personal Change.” He states, “A paradigm is like a pair of glasses; it affects
the way you see everything in your life.” (p. 125)
Although my brother is an optometrist and periodically fits me for glasses, the
paradigm shift I have made personally– with many ideas from readers–has
enhanced my vision.
What was created as a classroom discipline system that promotes responsible
behavior and ethical character has evolved into an approach that ALSO nourishes
students so they WANT to learn and increase academic achievement.
The ADVANCED CONCEPTS (Section 5 below) is a compilation of recent posts on the
Raise Responsibility System mailring. I am indebted to Kerry Weisner of Canada
and contributors around the world who have promoted learning by taking ideas,
enhancing them with their own experiences and creativeness, and then sharing
2. PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY
Just as young children don’t
want to be carried while they are learning to walk, adolescents don’t want
adults making decisions for them.
The only way we can learn to walk is to practice walking.
Similarly, the only way to assist maturation for responsible behavior is to
Each time you make a decision for another person, you deprive that person of an
opportunity for maturity and responsibility.
3. INCREASING EFFECTIVENESS
People do not argue with
their own statements, and once a statement is made there is a natural desire to
defend it. Here is a simple question for opening the gate, to have the person
If I share with you a better
approach to achieve your
objective, would you be willing to change your mind?
4. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS
In my recent presentations
before this academic year started, I had participants visualize the following
It is your child’s very
first day of school. When you–
as the parent–meet the child after school this first
day, what would you say or ask your youngster?
I received responses such
as, “How was your day?” and “What did you learn?” I continued to prod until the
following question invariably arose: “Do you like your teacher?”
We intuitively know that the heart has to be engaged before the head is ready to
Regardless of any system or silver bullet you may have at your disposal, if
positive feelings are not engendered, there is a problem.
Although noncoercion and trust (the feeling that no harm will be
forthcoming–psychologically, emotionally, or physically) are the foundations
for good relationships, no solution to any problem will be effective unless the
heart–as well as the head–is engaged.
5. PROMOTING LEARNING
Here are some ADVANCED
CONCEPTS for using the Raise Responsibility System (RRSystem) for DISCIPLINE,
for ENCOURAGEMENT, and for PROMOTING LEARNING and ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT.
RRSystem for DISCIPLINE:
After teachers are well into the mode of ASKING students (instead of telling
them) to identify a level of chosen behavior, asking for a response may seem
coercive. Teachers can then shift to SUGGESTING that students SIMPLY REFLECT on
their chosen level.
The hierarchy is NOT an assessment tool for someone on the outside looking in.
Understand that no one can know the motivation of another person with complete
accuracy, and since rewards can change motivation, rewarding Level D behavior
can be counterproductive. The reward-giver will never know in the future whether
the person will be acting on Level D as it is the right thing to do OR to get
RRSystem to NOURISH and ENCOURAGE:
In addition to referring to the lower, unacceptable levels, acknowledge
higher-level behaviors. This will nourish and encourage students to choose
behaviors on higher levels, especially Level D.
RRSystem to PROMOTE LEARNING and ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT:
BEFORE starting an activity, have students visualize what behaviors on the
various levels would look like. (Level A need not be included.) AFTER the
activity, ASK STUDENTS TO REFLECT on the level they chose to act on during the
activity. Because of the very nature of a hierarchy (the top levels being more
desirable than lower levels), VISUALIZATION AND REFLECTION–before and after an
activity–prompts students to WANT to improve.
(See Bill Funkhouser’s
letter, “What People Say About the RRSystm,” below.)
Talk about long-range
results for operating consistently on each of the levels. Use classroom
experiences as they arise to teach terms such as SELF-RELIANCE and
SELF-DISCIPLINE so students learn what these traits look like in real-life
Level D – In general, these
people know what’s going on in the classroom. They listen for directions and
take the initiative to look after themselves. As a result, they feel capable and
informed. They experience the joy and satisfaction that comes from taking the
initiative of doing what is best for themselves as well as what is best for
Level C – Although these
people do what is required, they aren’t really in charge of themselves because
they depend on others. These people don’t exercise effort to do their best and
so are deprived of the satisfaction that comes with Level D behavior.
Level B – These people are
often “out of it.” They often have a hard time keeping up because they don’t
choose to put in the effort needed to keep on top of what needs to be done. This
can lead to uncomfortable feelings of discouragement or even panic when they
realize that they have missed directions, don’t know what to do, are behind in
assignments, or do less than their best.
The techniques of
VISUALIZING and REFLECTING on chosen levels can be used effectively with ANY
ACADEMIC or SKILL ACTIVITY.
Level D – Motivation to
become a good speller is INTERNAL
Tries different spelling patterns in an attempt to find
the one that looks correct
Level C – Does the above but the motivation is EXTERNAL
People at this level wait until a teacher tells them that
a word is incorrect before trying to fix it, or they wait
to be reminded before trying a variety of strategies.
Level B – Doesn’t make any attempt to be careful with
Level D – Reads carefully
Level C – Reads carefully when reminded by the teacher
Level B – Doesn’t read carefully under any circumstances
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6. Implementing the RAISE
What is the “bottom line” if
after discussions with a student to help him understand the consequences of his
choices, he still chooses not to comply?
Who is choosing the
consequences–the student or the adult? The answer to this question is critical.
If the consequence is IMPOSED, the youngster has no ownership of it, and
ownership is a critical component for behavior change.
What about the case of “no
homework” and the student’s
admission that he “just doesn’t care and doesn’t WANT to work”?
As Madeline Hunter often
stated, “You cannot force
learning.” There are thousands of capable, mature,
responsible adults who rarely did their homework in school.
As I mention in the book, I do not use the term, “homework.”
I differentiate between work and effort. I use the term,
“home assignment.” Your question basically is, “How can I
get the student to put forward the effort to do what the
teacher assigns the student to do?”
The answer starts with the teacher. What has the teacher
done to arouse interest, curiosity, or the necessity of the
home assignment to reinforce and/or reflect upon the
If the teacher is not successful in influencing the student
to put forward the effort to learn, how can punishing the
student be justified? Is causing harm or intentionally
“hurting” a youngster in his or the teacher’s best
interests? And most importantly, will the motivation be to
avoid punishment or to learn–and if it is the former, how
long will the learning last?
The success rate would increase if the teacher were to
collaborate and work WITH the student by convincing him that
completing home assignments would be in the student’s own
best interests. The teacher can suggest what the possible
consequences of his effort–or lack of it–would bring. If
the student chooses not to put forward the effort for
something that is in his own best interest, then that is the
student’s choice. The resulting consequences (lack of
increased skill and/or knowledge and resulting lack of
feelings of satisfaction) are negated by the student.
Skills, knowledge, and feelings cannot be IMPOSED by the
teacher–but they can certainly be encouraged.
Inevitably, doesn’t he
experience a punishment?
The student experiences punishment if it is imposed.
Punishment infers that the punisher does something TO the
NOTE: I strongly favor homework above primary grades.
However, helping students develop procedures that bring
structure to their home assignments is far mare effective
than punishment. Think of it this way: What would be best
for the student and most likely motivate the student to do
home assignments–your imposing punishment or your
continual encouragement, empowerment, and commenting on
your faith in the student’s ability?
In the case of “no
rewards”…public recognition for good behavior or attitudes IS a good
Not in my opinion! I expect
good behavior, and I don’t know how to assess one’s attitude aside from one’s
behavior. As I have stated earlier, “The reward-giver will never know in the
future whether the person will be acting on Level D as it is the right thing to
do OR to get the reward.” REWARDING young people for EXPECTED STANDARDS OF
APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR takes young people on a treacherous path–even though
thousands of teachers and parents do it. This practice is highly
counterproductive to their ultimate goals and is contributing to raising a
generation of young people whose focus is on receiving, rather than on the
effort and satisfaction that come from contributing and acting responsibly.
You can read more about the pitfalls of external approaches of punishing YOUNG
people, rewarding them, and telling them what to do at
Is there an appropriate time
to use a “perk” as a motivator?
Certainly! But realize that
the underlying drive is often not the perk but the competition. Just look at the
recent Olympic Games in Athens. Competition and recognition are basic to
humankind. The perquisite at the games were medals. Napoleon Bonaparte and the
former Soviet Union used ribbons.
In my own case, I play the classic music of the Great
Highland Bagpipe called piobaireachd (pronounced pibroch). Approximately eight
percent of pipers play this type of music, and this traditional music never
would have been passed on to today without competitions. The token ribbons won
were nice, but it was the competitive spirit that had me devote hundreds of
hours to practicing.
The mistake erupts when, by implication, we use rewards to promote learning. If
a youngster is never in the winner’s circle, will that young person be prompted
to continue “losing” or give up by “dropping out”?
Low self-perception–prompted by comparison of oneself with others–starts when
socialization starts and is exacerbated when students start competing against
Many teachers will not admit to themselves that these kinds of rewards foster
competition between students. Competitive students thrive on who gets the most
number of stickers, gold stars, etc.
What about the student who believes he should also get a reward but doesn’t?
Alfie Kohn answered this dilemma in his tome, “PUNISHED by REWARDS: The Trouble
with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A’s, Praise, and Other Bribes.”
Although COMPETITION promotes PERFORMANCE, COLLABORATION is far more effectve
for promoting LEARNING. More on this subject is in Chapter 4, “Promoting
Learning,” and the Epilogue in the book at
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You can share and learn more
RAISE RESPONSIBILITY SYSTEM (RRS) at
IMPULSE MANAGEMENT POSTERS and CARDS
Learning a procedure for
responding appropriately to
impulses is described on the Impulse Management link at
What People Say About THE RAISE RESPONSIBILITY SYSTEM
“This is the best year I
have had in the 25 years of being a principal. Behavior has not been a problem
this year. Our students are learning to solve their problems in a positive way.
We find that with the proper instruction, students can monitor their own
behavior and make responsible choices without the use of punishment and
Phelps Wilkins, Principal
Eisenhower Elementary School, Mesa, AZ
A descriptive table of
contents of the book describing the approach, three selected sections, and
additional items of interest are posted at: