What Would Marvin Marshall Do?

A student teacher at Humboldt State University in Northern California asked me at a conference to sign her book and to please include "WWMMD." I obliged and then asked her what "WWMMD" meant. She told me that whenever her college instructor—Mary Lynn Bryan, a National Board Certified Teacher— gives a scenario about a school situation, she has the students respond by first asking
themselves ,"WWMMD?"

Translation: What Would Marvin Marshall Do?

I was rather taken aback. After reflecting on the possible efficacy of the phrase, I thought to ask our daughter about it. She is a social worker who counsels teenagers and is also certified by the William Glasser Institute in Reality Therapy and Choice Theory. I asked,

"Hillary, if you were working with one of your challenging clients and wanted to use Dr. Glasser's approach, would the phrase, 'What would William Glasser do?' prompt you to reflect upon his approach to guide you in the situation?"

She responded with an enthusiastic, "Yes!"

I also asked Kerry Weisner (whose blog is at DisciplineAnswers.com) her opinion of the phrase. To my surprise, I discovered that she had already used it.

Kerry wrote me:

"I have used that myself! Just as you said, I found it brought me back to the three principles of positivity, choice and reflection and allowed me to know exactly what to do. I think it is a helpful thing for people to think about because newcomers often are overwhelmed with all the information in the book—especially if the concept of noncoercion is new to them.

"I found that it was like 'widening the gap' between the stimulus and the response. By asking myself WWMMD?, I was able to stop the typical automatic reactions and PAUSE. In the pause, I had something productive to think about (the three principles) and that led me to come up with something more effective.

"I think that the more I work with Discipline Without Stress the more I fall back on the principles to guide me. If you can truly maintain a positive outlook, offer real choices in a pleasant way and get the student to reflect, there's not usually much need to be going the route of what we think of as traditional discipline strategies—consequences. Our work at the alternate school has been a crash course in this. You quickly learn how to be positive and noncoercive with people who will swear at you and leave the school, not returning for days if you pressure them in any slight way.

"Come to think of it, I have used this same strategy in my regular teaching, too. My partner, Darlene, is so creative that whenever I want to think of a creative teaching idea, I just ask myself, 'What would Darlene do with this lesson?' It works!

"Here's an example. Every year we have a developmental writing test in our district. The whole district writes about a particular topic. There's a different topic for primary, intermediate, middle school, etc. The district suggests that the kids spend several days getting ready for this test by recording and brainstorming and webbing and organizing their ideas on paper.

"At our Grade One level, we find that having them WRITE their ideas is actually counterproductive because they get tired of the whole thing before the big day. For them the process of actually writing is exhausting! Instead we find that the more we have the kids TALK about the topic before they write, the more enthusiastic they are and the better they write. So last year I wanted to think of a way to get them really talking.

"In a previous year I had tried to get the parents involved by asking them to talk with their child about the topic at home, but that backfired. The parents, realizing that this was leading up to the 'big test,' panicked. Instead of simply talking with their kids as I had asked them to do, some had their kids practice writing at home. When the day of the writing test came, the kids were 'written out' and so didn't do very well. All their work was quite stilted.

"So last year, I said to myself WWDarleneD? (What Would Darlene Do?) Immediately, I came up with a great idea. I had the kids make microphones out of toilet paper rolls and then I gave them each a little cardboard clipboard with a little pencil attached. I also had them each make an official PRESS BADGE. They became newspaper reporters.

"I gave them a list of questions they might ask other kids and then they could take turns reporting on the answers. They loved being reporters; they loved the microphones and speaking into them. Kids who never would usually say much loved speaking into a pretend microphone. It was fun. I've never seen so much on-task conversation happening in the room about a writing topic! The next day when they went to write, they already knew what they wanted to say because they'd had so many interviews about the topic. I never would have come up with that idea on my own without first asking WWDD?"


So, in all humility, I pass the suggestion on to you. The next time you are facing a challenging situation, consider pausing and asking yourself, "WWMMD?" The response will always refer to the practices described at The Discipline Without Stress Teaching Model.

More information is available at http://marvinmarshall.com.