Volume 7 Number 5
IN THIS ISSUE:
2. Promoting Responsibility
3. Increasing Effectiveness
4. Improving Relationships
5. Promoting Learning
6. Discipline without Stress
7. Testimonials and Research
MONTHLY RESPONSIBILITY AND LEARNING QUOTE:
Posted on TechLearning.com
May 1, 2007
Marvin Marshall is the author of the book, “Discipline
Without Stress, Punishment or Rewards,” and publishes a
monthly email newsletter that shares additional thoughts
from him and other educators about his philosophy and
method. I don’t use every aspect of his system. However, I
have found its emphasis on putting more responsibility on
the student to control his/her behavior (as opposed to the
teacher trying to “control” the student) much closer to what
works best for me and my students than any other classroom
management techniques I know.
On May 3, I presented my teaching model to 250 attendees in
Lancaster, California. The attendees included 90 interns
plus university staff and K-12 teachers.
The organizers were true educational collaborators.
Organizers of the event were members from the office of the
Kern County Superintendent of Schools; staff members from
California State University, Bakersfield–Antelope Valley
Center; and personnel from various Beginning Teachers
Support and Assessment (BTSA) centers.
One of the points I continued to emphasize was that the
system CAN BE IMPLEMENTED IMMEDIATELY. The only requirement
is to teach the four vocabulary concepts and then have
students create examples of them in their own classroom
and/or for various activities. Anyone can teach the four
concepts at anytime–even during the last few weeks of the
I received the following e-mail the evening after the
presentation (reproduced with permission):
“I suspended a defiant student earlier in the week and was
dreading having him return to my classroom on Friday.
After hearing your inspiring talk, I was able to put my
arm around him and walk with him while I asked him what
we could do to fix the situation. His idea was to write
a contract, which I’m not sure is the best solution.
“However, having him give thought to where to go now
seemed to lift his self-esteem and help him be more
cooperative in my class. I’m sure that it will take me a
lot of trial and error to really ‘get it,’ but
your method is what I see as the best path. Thanks so
much; it was just what I needed.” –Susan Zahn
2. PROMOTING RESPONSIBILITY
Here is an example of how choice can be used to redirect an
impulse towards more responsible behavior–even with a very
young child. It is part of a communication from a friend.
“I marvel at what my grandson understands and how he
manages to communicate. The other night the parents went
to dinner, and he started to cry real tears and scream. I
picked him up and gave him a hug and proceeded to explain
to him that mommy and daddy went to dinner and they would
soon come back. Then I asked him if he wanted to keep on
crying until they returned or play with his trains. The
tears shut off like a switch! He loves Thomas the Train.
“I realized that I gave him the choice of taking
responsibility for his behavior in that situation. Pretty
cool, huh! He’s all of 28 months old!”
3. INCREASING EFFECTIVENESS
We know that when stress overcomes us, choices seems
limited–thereby decreasing effectiveness. Behavioral
scientists have a name for this psychological reaction:
This phenomenon has been studied in laboratory rodents whose
nervous system bears striking similarities to that of
humans. Here is how one experiment works. If you provide
mice with an escape route, they typically learn very quickly
how to avoid a mild electrical shock that occurs a few
seconds after they hear a tone. But if the escape route is
blocked whenever the tone is sounded, and new shocks occur,
the mice will eventually stop trying to run away. Later,
even after the escape route is cleared, the animals simply
freeze at the sound of the tone–despite the fact that they
once knew how to avoid the associated shock.
Obviously, humans have more intellectual resources than
mice, but the underlying principal remains. Just being aware
of the nervous system’s built-in bias toward learned
helplessness in the face of unrelieved stress can help
identify and develop healthy habits that will buffer at
least some of the load.
It is important not to ignore how the brain changes when
under continual stress. You owe it to yourself and others
for whom you care not to let this happen. You can accomplish
this by (1) realizing that regardless of the situation,
stimulus, or urge, a person’s RESPONSE IS ALWAYS a choice
(consciously or nonconsciously), and (2) developing the
habit of redirecting negative self-talk. Learning to act
reflectively (rather than reflexively) can prevent learned
helplessness that inevitably reduces effectiveness.
4. IMPROVING RELATIONSHIPS
Studies suggest that
smiling makes people appear more
attractive, kinder and, by some accounts, easier to
All smiles share something in common: an emotional
foundation. Depending upon what the emotion is, the brain
sends different instructions to the face. The areas in
instigating a polite, or voluntary, smile (the kind
exchanged with a bank teller, for example) are not the same
ones involved in a more emotional smile (such as the kind
that emerges on seeing a loved one or hearing a funny joke).
However, regardless of what prompts a smile, the results are
the same. Both you and the recipient are prompted to have
5. PROMOTING LEARNING
Logic prompts people to think. Emotions prompt people to
This fact applies to learning, also.
If you want people to remember what you teach, touch an
emotional chord by painting a picture or by telling a story.
There is a greater chance of the learning staying in
long-term memory using these approaches than when the lesson
just focuses on information itself.
6. Discipline without Stress
The following is about how to help students develop
self-discipline. It is from a post at the mailring:
I have a student who has been demonstrating increasingly
disruptive behaviors throughout this year. I have all kinds
of support for him–principal, school counselor, behavioral
specialist–we’re all involved, every day. We have tried
different behavior plans; so far, nothing has really been
successful. Right now, it looks like this student may be
spending less time in my room until these behaviors are in
control. My question is how do I teach the other students
that it’s better for them to ignore this student’s behavior
than to be an audience, or worse, play along? I need some
“choice words” to really explain it and underscore the
importance of this.
Students did a great job today and I complimented them on
doing so after the student had been removed from the room. A
couple of them asked me individually why that student wasn’t
with us and I told them that when behaviors interrupt
everyone’s learning time, it can’t be permitted to go on and
that the student was with the principal. Any advice/good
words to use?
This is just how I love to use the Discipline without Stress
hierarchy–to motivate kids to be in control of themselves.
For situations like this, I find a discussion centered
around the understandings of Marvin Marshall’s DISCIPLINE
WITHOUT STRESS HIERARCHY to be invaluable. You wanted some
CHOICE words to use. One of the principles that forms the
basis of this approach is helping kids understand that all
personal behaviour is a choice.
In a nutshell, Marshall’s approach fosters SELF-discipline.
This is exactly what I imagine you are hoping your students
will develop with respect to managing their own behaviour
when faced with a classmate, who at the moment, is
displaying very little self-discipline.
Marshall’s Hierarchy has four levels of personal/social
development: Levels A, B, C, D. Levels A (Anarchy) and B
(Bossing/Bullying) describe unacceptable behaviour in any
Just as an example, your disruptive student is often
choosing to operate at these lower levels of A and B at the
moment. In other words, he is NOT in control of himself and
relies on an adult to take control of his behaviour most of
the time. Just as you explained to those students in your
class who were curious as to the whereabouts of your
disruptive student, whenever a person doesn’t manage his/her
own behaviour in an acceptable manner, then the adult has to
take over and manage their behaviour FOR THEM. In your case,
the adults in the school have found it necessary to remove
this child from the room in order to preserve the learning
environment for all the other students. It’s only fair that
the other students be given the opportunity to have an
orderly, safe classroom in which to learn.
Now, here’s an important point from Marshall’s program for
students to understand:
All behaviour is a personal CHOICE. If any of them were to
follow along and misbehave–by copying your disruptive
student or even by just giving him encouragement as an
appreciative audience–they too would be CHOOSING to operate
at a lower level than acceptable.
In discussing the situation, you would also talk about the
other two levels, C (Cooperation) and D (Democracy), which
both describe HIGHER levels of personal and social
development. Level C is acceptable. But then there is Level
D, which describes something even higher than
acceptable behaviour. You might think of it as EXCEPTIONAL,
although Marshall doesn’t use that exact word in his
Teachers who use this hierarchy to help students understand
self-win situations explain ALL the levels to their classes
but they focus especially on some important understandings
related to the highest two levels, C and D.
The difference between Level C and D (that is, between
acceptable and exceptional behaviour), can be explained in
terms of motivation.
At Level C, a student is motivated EXTERNALLY to behave
themselves by cooperating and by willingly conforming to the
expectations of the adult–AS LONG AS THE ADULT IS PRESENT.
In your situation, this would describe students who can
manage themselves appropriately in the classroom (even
though one child is being incredibly disruptive in front of
them) whenever they notice the teacher is nearby or directly
looking their way.
This level is higher than Level B because (at least when the
teacher is present and is watching), the child operating at
Level C is self-disciplined enough to do the right thing.
THEIR MOTIVATION IS EXTERNAL. They are motivated to do the
right thing, perhaps to please their teacher or because they
realize that to do anything disruptive would only lead to
getting themselves into trouble.
Level C is the expected level of behaviour in the classroom
in Marshall’s system of discipline. It is the level of
simple obedience. In all other discipline systems that I’ve
seen, this level is considered the highest level of
behaviour, but not so in Marshall’s approach. HAVING A
HIGHER-THAN-ACCEPTABLE LEVEL IS WHAT MAKES DISCIPLINE
WITHOUT STRESS UNIQUE IN MY OPINION.
Level D is the level of taking responsibility for yourself.
It is the level of SELF-discipline. It is the level of
doing the right thing SIMPLY BECAUSE it is the right thing
to do. In other words, students operating at Level D think
for themselves. They consciously make CHOICES for themselves
with the understanding that all behaviour is a personal
When operating from this highest level, a student does the
right thing REGARDLESS of whether or not an adult is
present. In your situation, this is a student who notices
that a fellow student has chosen to behave in inappropriate
ways and yet is not influenced to follow along–whether the
teacher is watching or not.
They decide for themselves that following along or giving
encouragement to the disruptive student would only mean that
their own behaviour was no better off than that of Fred, the
disruptive student. They would no longer be in control of
themselves. In fact, they would be ALLOWING FRED TO BE IN
CONTROL OF THEM.
When you complimented your class on being able to manage
themselves when one student was losing it, you were actually
describing to them that they were either on Level C or D of
Marshall’s Hierarchy. THE INTERESTING THING IS THAT LEVEL C
AND D BEHAVIOUR USUALLY LOOKS IDENTICAL TO ANYONE WATCHING.
THE ONLY DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THESE TWO LEVELS IS IN WHY THE
person is MOTIVATED to act correctly.
Some of your students would have been on Level C; they were
motivated to act appropriately BECAUSE YOU WERE IN THE ROOM,
and your presence motivated them (externally) to behave
themselves. This is acceptable, but it’s not the highest
level of behaviour.
Some would likely have been operating on the higher level,
Level D. They simply knew inside themselves that to follow
or encourage the disruptive student would be inappropriate.
In other words they were INTERNALLY motivated. They wouldn’t
have followed along with Fred and acted inappropriately
–even if they were all alone in the room with him.
Here’s the conversation I might have with my class (and HAVE
HAD with previous classes) if we were in the same situation.
Just as you did, when it came up, I would be quite up front
in discussing that Fred is sometimes working elsewhere in
the school. Just as you did, I would explain that his
behaviour is out of control at the moment and that he is
showing little self-discipline. I would ask someone in the
class to identify the hierarchy level of this type of
disruptive behaviour. Any child in the class would be able
to correctly identify it as either Level A or B. Then I
would ask them to tell me what happens when someone chooses
to operate at an unacceptable level–to the point where it
interferes with other people’s learning. Someone would say
that when a student continually operates at Level B, a
teacher has to take over. A teacher has to be the boss and
tell the person what to do.
Then I would agree and say that yes, that is what the
current situation is. Fred has such little self-discipline
at the moment that the adults have decided that he needs to
work somewhere else in the school so that others can still
learn and HE can be helped to learn some self-discipline.
Hopefully, with some help, Fred will soon learn to control
himself enough to be able to rejoin the class in an
acceptable manner. Then he, too, will be able to move
forward in his schooling.
Then I would initiate a discussion about the behaviour of
EVERYONE ELSE in this situation. I would talk about how we
all have a personal CHOICE in how we respond to Fred and his
lack of self-discipline. I would ask them to imagine some
For example, I would say:
What if someone chose to follow along and copy Fred? What
level would that be? (B)
What if someone chose to encourage Fred by laughing or
making other comments? (B)
Would people who chose to encourage Fred, or be influenced
into following Fred, be self-disciplined THEMSELVES?
I would talk about how some people in this situation might
follow or encourage Fred, thinking that it was FRED’S FAULT
that they were misbehaving. I would make sure that everyone
understood that Fred’s behaviour can ONLY INFLUENCE our own,
IF WE ALLOW that–if we have no self-discipline ourselves.
Then I would move to discussing higher level behaviour,
Level C and D. I would first get them to describe behaviour
at each of these levels. Some kids would be able to do this.
They would explain that at Level C, a student watching Fred
and his antics wouldn’t follow or encourage Fred BECAUSE
they see the teacher in the room and know that it wouldn’t
be a good idea to act like Fred because then they’d be in
I’d say, yes, that’s true. Level C is acceptable behaviour.
They would be able to manage their own response to Fred
because they’d be smart enough not to do something
inappropriate themselves WITH A TEACHER WATCHING. We’d talk
about how they were doing the right thing–but that they
were relying on the presence of the teacher to influence
them in how they chose to behave. The result would be that
classroom atmosphere would remain fairly calm and we’d be
helping Fred, too, because he would see what self-discipline
looks like in the rest of us.
Then I’d remind them that both Level C and D are acceptable
and I would ask them this:
If Level C is acceptable, how is Level D higher?
Then some child would be able to explain that Level D is
higher because the person at Level D wouldn’t be influenced
by Fred’s antics–EVEN IF THE TEACHER WASN’T WATCHING or
even if the teacher wasn’t in the room at all. Regardless of
whether the teacher was in the room or not, they wouldn’t
follow or encourage Fred simply because they know what is
the right thing to do. They wouldn’t want to encourage Fred
to act up because they would know that wasn’t helping Fred,
and they wouldn’t follow Fred because they would not want to
sink to Level B behaviour themselves.
Then we’d talk about the benefits of being self-disciplined
and being internally motivated to do the right thing simply
because it’s the right thing to do in the situation. We’d
talk about HOW GOOD IT FEELS to be in control of yourself.
We’d talk about how people who are self-disciplined can
respect themselves. When people often operate at a high
level, they understand that to sink down to a lower level
and follow along with Fred means that they would be part of
the problem. What self-respecting person wants to think of
themselves as a problem! It FEELS GOOD to respect yourself
and think highly of your own behaviour. Operating at Level D
allows you to take pride in yourself.
We’d talk about how another benefit of acting at the highest
level is that OTHER people also respect us and learn to
trust us. We ensure that our relationships with other people
will be very good if they come to know us as people who
often choose to do the right thing in any given situation.
Others come to count on us. It FEELS GOOD INSIDE to know
that other people think highly of you and can count on you
to do the right thing.
As I said, I have had this exact same discussion with my own
class in previous years and have many similar discussions
EVERY day about the benefits of operating at a high level–
about exactly WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE to operate on a high level
in ordinary everyday situations. For instance, what does it
look like to be self-disciplined in the situation of getting
math corrections caught up to date? What does it look like
to be self-disciplined on a field trip? What does it look
like to be self-disciplined as you walk down the hall?
Although this might sound as if it would be above the heads
of primary students, it isn’t at all. I teach grade ones and
twos this year and know that grade threes can certainly
understand the concepts mentioned above. Simply use
vocabulary you know they will understand to get the points
Although this way of thinking about behaviour and
self-discipline is very new to most teachers, I sense from
your post that you are already thinking along these same
lines. I hope my own experiences with fostering
self-discipline through Marvin Marshall’s DISCIPLINE WITHOUT
STRESS might be of value to you!
Kerry in BC
I just want to let you know that your e-newsletter of
promoting discipline and learning really helps me in my
personal life (as well as my professional life, of course)!
Just so you know, I’m currently training teachers in India
and I have the opportunity to train many of them in
Discipline without Stress! The word is being spread!
Akanksha Foundation, Chandrakant, Lane No.3
Wakdewadi, Shivaji Nagar Pune, 411 005