We all purchased a copy of your education book, and as the humanities teacher on our 7th grade team I taught the levels to the students. So far things are going pretty well, but I have two burning questions for you.
First, I am a little unsure on how the steps are implemented. As you know, uncertainty in a discipline program can be a dangerous thing! Basically my question is this: Does a student have to misbehave three times in one class period in order to receive a diagnostic? In other words, is every day an absolute clean slate? What about a student who regularly is asked to check for understanding? Ever skip the essay and go right to the diagnostic?
I did not make explicit to the students what the levels of response to misbehavior would be (essay, diagnostics, letter home, etc.). While a few students have discovered this, I am beginning to wonder if I shouldn’t go over what happens with the diagnostics, etc. with the classes. What do you recommend? Should they know ahead of time that the diagnostics would be sent home after the second?
Also, do you commonly conference with students in response to a diagnostic? I have given one so far, and I really want to discuss the student’s responses with them.
Regarding IMPLEMENTATION, to see how the levels of social development can be implemented to promote both responsibility and learning, see “A Letter Worth Reading.”
Regarding UNCERTAINTY IN A DISCIPLINE PROGRAM BEING DANGEROUS, on the contrary, uncertainty in disciplinary situations can be the most powerful approach—which is contrary to what is most often espoused.
Not knowing what will happen in a discipline situation is so much more effective. To prove the point, try the following on a misbehaving student. Just say, “Don’t worry about what will happen. We’ll talk about it later.”
The student will immediately stop his misbehavior and think about what will happen. You have accomplished your goal—having the student desist in the inappropriate behavior and do some reflecting. This becomes a self-correcting strategy.
Regarding A STUDENT WHO REGULARLY IS ASKED TO CHECK FOR UNDERSTANDING, after the student has identified the inappropriate level chosen to act on (level B. making own standards), simply tell the student that it is an unacceptable level in your classroom. Then ELICIT a consequence by saying, “What do you suggest we do about it?” Follow this up with, “What procedure will you use if you feel the same urge again?”
By ELICITING a consequence in discipline situations, rather than imposing one, the youngster has ownership of it. By the student’s coming up with a procedure to direct the inappropriate impulse, you will have assisted the person in becoming more self-disciplined.
Regarding EVERY DAY BEING A CLEAN SLATE, yes, every day is a new day. Remember that the objective is to promote responsible behavior. Punishment would only create resentment and serve no useful purpose.
Regarding SKIPPING THE ESSAY AND GOING RIGHT TO THE DIAGNOSTIC, when a student has completed a few essays and you believe that escalating the ante is necessary, use the Self-Diagnostic Referral—but only after you have checked for understanding first. That is, the student first needs to recognize the level the student is choosing to act on. This serves as a warning. If the student then continues to act inappropriately, use the form.
Regarding SHOULD THEY KNOW AHEAD OF TIME THAT THE DIAGNOSTICS WILL BE SENT HOME AFTER THE SECOND ONE, let the students know that you have no desire to inform their parents when they act irresponsibly. Your desire is to have them act at level C or D of the social development hierarchy.
However, at a certain point if two or more Self-Diagnostic Referrals are necessary, you owe it to their parents to keep them informed. So ask students, “If you were a parent, wouldn’t you want to know if your child were acting on a level not in his best interest, rather than on a level that a growing, maturing person would be acting on?”
Don’t tell the student you will be mailing the information home because this type of student may intercept the mail. As described in the book, the referrals went home along with the parent note and a copy of the levels of social development.
Regarding CONFERENCING WITH STUDENTS IN RESPONSE TO A DIAGNOSTIC, go over the Self-Diagnostic Referral with the student. During the discussion, emphasize that you have no intention of changing the person. You couldn’t even if you wanted to. A person can only change himself, not others.
But, only levels C and D are acceptable in the classroom. Tell the student, “If you choose to act on an unacceptable level, I will do everything possible to help you make a better choice. So let’s discuss what you recorded on the Self-Diagnostic Referral, and let’s see what we can do to assist in you.
Keep in mind that good relationships can dramatically change behavior. So, yes, a personal conversation can lead to enhanced relationships.
Persevere and be positive with your students. Let them know that you will not give up on their ability to become responsible young people.
Finally, emphasize and discuss level C. Most of them are on it. They want to conform to their peer influence, which often is at odds with what they know to be the APPROPRIATE (emphasize this word) thing to do.