I’m a 9th grade high school teacher in Long Beach, California. Most of us grew up with the old “rules and consequences” model, so I naturally followed it when I became a teacher 21 years ago. I don’t know whether our culture changed, or the kids changed, or I changed. But apparently no one ever told my students that bad behavior should be punished.
It’s like many of them are totally foreign to the concept. Why? I don’t know. But I was very tired of the stress that comes from running a coercive classroom. It was draining and depressing. Yet whenever the old “rewards and punishment” model seemed to be ineffective, I would double down on it. All I got for my titanic effort was more stress and worse behavior from my students.
About 3 years ago, I started to wonder if there was a better way to managing student behavior. I started reading websites, books, anything I could find. I really felt desperate. One helpful book I read was “Teacher and Child” by Haim Ginott. It helped but still didn’t really provide a comprehensive system I needed in order to fully implement the total change that I knew I needed. Finally, about two years ago, I found your book “Disciple without Stress.” I read it with great interest over Christmas break, 2012. When I returned, I started teaching my students the ABCD levels and tried asking more reflective questions. It was slow going for a slow guy who’s been doing it wrong for 20 years, but I felt some improvement in my students that first year even though I’d already made a bad impression during the September – December before I bought your book.
Last year, I could feel things were changing. I started the year off on the right foot, and I was getting better at offering the students choice through reflective questions. I even started to build choice into their classwork and homework. I remember telling my daughter, “This year is different. I’m getting it. I’m doing it.”
Its really painful when the people you care about dislike you because they think you dislike them. That’s what coercion does to a relationship. Well, the first week of school this year I was walking my brand new students to the book room. An entire class of my students from last year approached us as they left the book room. Because of my long history of coercion (I was the king of referrals), almost as a reflex I braced myself for awkward silence or a few bitter obnoxious comments from last year’s students. Instead, I could hardly believe what happened. As they approached, they ALL smiled and yelled “Hi Mr. L! How are you? We miss you!” I was in shock. I’m actually crying right now. I can’t tell you how much it means to me that those I worked so hard for actually know I did it because I care. And Marv, it wasn’t just a fluke; the same thing has happened about 8 more times. Whenever I see a group of my old students, it’s obvious they are excited to see me. I can’t thank you enough.
I finally realized how to use Positivity and how crucial it is. Even though I’m naturally a very positive person, I was lagging when it came to incorporating it in my class discipline. Then about a month ago, I had a revelation. I was asking a poorly behaved football player some reflective questions and he was becoming agitated by it. I admonished him, “Levon, listen; you’re a great guy; you know it, and I know it. I’m just trying to get you performing back up to your usual amazing level.”” His whole face changed from frustration to a big, broad smile. Wow!! THAT is the magic of Positivity: it keeps them in the game. For many kids, asking them to be self responsible is something totally new so they get frustrated. But Positivity is the magic that reminds them that I’M ON THEIR SIDE. Their frustrations just melt away.
So this year, I’m the master of student discipline–after YOU, of course. As I was getting ready for Back to School night, I was thinking, “Wow, I wish someone had told me all this 15-20 years ago when my own children were young.” Then I realized I was about to have an audience with a bunch of people who could really benefit from this. I added a slide to the end of my presentation with photos and information on your two books. I told the parents how your book had “transformed” my teaching, and basically shared all the above information with them. Hopefully, you’ll get some book sales from it.:-)
As a side benefit, your system makes me look like a rocket scientist whenever I talk with parents. The other day I was on the phone with a parent and said, “Your daughter has been having a challenge when it comes to keeping her phone out of sight. I’ve asked her a number of times how she’d like to solve this. She’s tried a few things, but it continues to happen. The last thing she chose was for me to call you if it happens again. So that’s why I’m calling, because your daughter asked me to.” You could almost hear her jaw drop, Marv. Your system makes me look like the smartest guy in the room.
I’ll probably be teaching another 10 years or so. Thanks to you, when I retire I’ll leave a legacy of love and inspiration rather than coercion. I can’t thank you enough. I really don’t know how one person could have the wisdom to synthesize such a powerful comprehensive system. But I know your writings will transform countless classrooms and families.
Long Beach, California
How this discipline program improves relationships and uses authority without stress or coercion is available at Discipline Online.