September 11, 2012
Dear President Obama, You will not become the education president of the Twenty-First Century by pursuing education excellence with your Race To The Top education plan. In Texas, We have had decades of competing in these race to the top type reform programs. Tags, Taas, Teks, etc. offer the same carrot or stick approaches and philosophies of education. Anyone that would use testing and test results as final indicators of success or worth have not fought the battle in our inner-city schools or poor school districts. The developers of these education programs went to Ivy League colleges, Private Schools, or very rich public schools. They see success only in terms of the model schools and education programs they grew up with. Only when one has grown up with these Silver Spoon Schools, as their educational base, would these test based plans become the central focus on student, teacher, administrator, and school success. Growing up with the highest test scores narrows one’s perception of school problems and solutions.
How much input did inner-city communities have in developing or implementing the Race to The Top Program? Are the real problems faced by students, teachers, and administrators being corrected by testing to determine success? Are the safety and discipline in the school issues being corrected, by this race for high test scores? Will the emotional and mental stability of students improve and thrive in this high stakes Race TO The Top Testing?
What will be the results of this Race To The Top Program? First, great successes will be claimed, much like the great successes of No Child Left Behind. Everyone will pat each others Ivy League backs, and proclaim, “We have turned the corner on our education problems.” Next, huge scandals in the areas of cheating on tests or fudging the statistics of test results will occur. Scandals happen when money is tied to high test scores. Finally, there will be winners and losers, but the education system is little changed. When the education system is little changed, Race To The Top has triggers in the plan to accelerate the push to Charter Schools and the privatization of Public Schools. Was this the plan all along?
President Obama do you really want to fix our schools and the educational problems in America? If you want to solve our education problems, you must fix the discipline problem in our schools. When you fix the discipline problem, communities will come together to solve other problems. Fix the discipline problem and America is halfway there to solving any other school or educational problem.
President Obama, this could be your lucky day. There is a school discipline plan that can bring discipline back to all of our schools. If you divert 25 million dollars into this school discipline plan, American schools will be safe, highly productive and successful, within one year. Perhaps, you could allow me to keep one or two million dollars, it would be nice to be a millionaire. Better yet, could I keep 1% of the money, that this discipline plan will save our schools. Billions of dollars now wasted by schools with current discipline systems can be saved. It would be even better to be a multibillionaire!!
A huge amount of the school budget problem can be solved with good discipline in our schools. All other school problems are on the road to being solved when the discipline problem is fixed.
President Obama follow your “Race To The Top” program and you will be another George Bush, “No Child Left Behind”, type of president. Adopt and use a discipline plan that works, and you are on your way to becoming, the educational president of the twenty-first century.
September 7, 2012
November 8, 2011
I worked hard for you in the last presidential election. I was one of the top five callers in your Texas Phone Bank for the 2008 Democratic Primary in Texas. Your book and speeches were inspirational. Here was a voice that wanted donations from the poor, huddled masses in order to take on the lobbyists, corporations, banks, and Wall Street. As a teacher, I was excited and could hardly believe that there was a man in politics ready and willing to change education.
Three years later and little has changed. As Yogi Berra would say, ” It feels like deja vu all over again.” Or more like George Bush all over again. The lobbyists are stronger than before. The banks, corporations, and Wall Street are as greedy as ever and have no ethics or morals in the pursuit of higher profits.
Schools and education are worst off under your administration. The NCLB of George Bush was continued. Arne Duncan and RTTT have been national disasters. On your watch, public schools have become bigger whipping boys for the nation’s problems. Worse of all, your solutions for public education come from the elitist and snob point of view, of a rich, private school graduate. The solutions offered by your administration has had little to no input from the people in public education. There is no way you would have championed your current education solutions if you had listened to public school teachers and administrators. Perhaps, the reason you did not listen is you only paid attention to the big money behind the solutions of Charter Schools, privatization, vouchers, testing, etc.
Now an election is nearing. I get messages that you want my support and money. You have rediscovered the common man. You are speaking for and listening to the poor huddled masses. Really!?!? Where have you been these past few years? This sounds like deju vu all over again.
President Obama have you had an epiphany or are these more false promises?
October 28, 2011
Teachers of the inner-city, how many people truly understand your situation and your hardships? Where are the collective voices of America speaking up for you? How many of these antagonists and policy makers of public schools spent hard years of labor in these schools? I will make a 100 to 1 bet, not many of them have done so. If they had truly worked in a hard inner-city school, they would never try to solve America’s education problems with the solutions they offer. If they had worked as teachers they would offer solutions that are more democratic in thought and purpose.
There is a strange dichotomy involved in the battle over public schools and educational issues. The people at the top of the education ladder ( a great many from private schools) have directed and controlled the policies, funding, and educational philosophies of our schools. They have contributed greatly to the present problems in education. These same people, who have never lived or experienced the hell created by their decisions, are quick to transfer the blame for the problem to the groups most effected. The people living the hell are blamed for the hell and should, therefore, accept new decisions and policies for solving their problems without their input. If the people at the top want” no child left behind,” then provide a level playing field with money, resources, facilities, and opportunities between suburban schools and inner-city schools. If you can not provide a level playing field, for any reason, then shut up and accept the blame for the problems.
The next strange dichotomy is the lack of a unified voice and collective action by the groups suffering the most. One would think the person or groups in education, that suffer the most, would have a strong voice raised in protest. Only when a person has been in the stomach of the education dragon does one realize how difficult it can be to speak out, to question, or to effect change.
As a co-steward of the union at my school, I have seen many teachers lives and careers change drastically from saying “no” one time, or being defiant one time, to an administrator. How many teachers working sixty hours a week, working multiple duty stations, volunteering to work outside school activities have been ostracized and criticized for saying no to another duty or activity? How many teachers have had their loyalty or dedication to their students questioned or doubted after refusing to do one more duty station? Many teachers have found themselves on the fast track to poor classroom observations, floating teacher status, and removal from the school, after saying no one time? In such educational environments teachers and administrators have not found their collective voice or will. The very same teachers and administrators that encourage their students to question, to speak out, to stand tall, to challenge wrong can not do this for themselves, the schools, or their students.
One last strange dichotomy is perhaps the strangest of all. Public schools and teachers have become the bedrock and foundation of our democratic society. The ideals, values, and hopes of liberty and democracy have been taught, learned, and transmitted by teachers throughout the world through our public schools. Our schools, school systems, and teachers have been the role model and hope for people and nations around the world for decades.
Our schools today have major problems. There is not one major problem, I know and believe, that can not be solved, by our schools, when proper discipline is re-established in schools (read earlier posts). When real discipline is established in schools we can all work together to save our schools, our core values, and America.
But, who is stepping forward to save our schools, our core values, and America? Business corporations, holding companies, and billionaires have stepped forward with solutions. What are the solutions they offer? They suggest and want privatization of public schools (Corporation values of success and profit) and constant testing as the only true indicators of success and worth. What is the history and track record when business goals, values, and profit are mixed with democratic ideals and liberty? The picture that emerges is not always a pretty one.
Our forefathers wrote the Declaration Of Independence, the Constitution of the United States, and the Bill of Rights as a response to the exploitation and suffering created by British Corporations. The American Revolution was a response to the power, greed, and exploitation of British Holding Companies.
The world experienced four hundred years of colonization, greed and profit taking. British Corporations have left hundreds of years of profit and loss statements in India. They also left records of the vast suffering and millions of lives lost due to corporations greed, power, and profit margin.
How many revolutions in history and present day have had the underlying root cause, the greed, power, profit margin, or human exploitation created by corporations?
Teachers of America, the time has come to stand up for ourselves and our basic freedoms. Only when we stand up to protect our rights and freedoms can we pass them on to the next generation.
October 27, 2011
Bullying is a hot button issue in America. The bullying problem, in schools, has grown larger over the decades. Every week or every few days another sad story of a bullied student hits the air waves. Parents of bullied children are angry and frustrated. These same parents feel helpless and have little hope for any real change in the bullying problem. These same feelings are also felt by teachers, students, administrators, and community leaders. America, we don’t have to feel hopeless, frustrated and helpless when facing a bullying problem. All we have to do is learn how to bully a bully.
The first step in solving the bullying problem in schools is to bring back and establish good manners and mutual respect of others. Teachers and administrators must model and use good manners when working with students. When modeling and using good manners, the adults of a school can then demand that students use good manners in return. The same principle works with mutual respect, show respect to a student and you can expect and demand respect in return.
Students in today’s world are bombarded with negative role models and wrong behaviors through all the different medias and social networks. Too often the message is it is cool or acceptable behavior to be cruel and bullying. Students develop an attitude that they must be hard, unforgiving, and a bully to get by in school or accepted by other students. All too often this is the truth. Most schools do not know how to solve this bad behavior problem. When schools try to solve a behavior problem (bullying) with detentions, suspensions, conferences, etc. , bullied students know the bully will only come back meaner, smarter, and more unrelenting than before. The downward cycle of more bullying, being more afraid, more stressed out and feeling more helpless occurs to the victims of the bully. Bullies become more empowered and feel they are invincible. These cycles grow worse and eventually a tragedy occurs.
As manners and mutual respect are demanded in a school a more confrontational stance against bad behavior and bullies must be adopted. Where bad behavior is seen, felt, or heard that behavior must be noticed, confronted, and dealt with. The Lecture and Pester process (previous post) must be used to confront bad behavior. Using Lecture and Pester an adult and student can work together to correct wrong thinking, wrong attitudes, and wrong behavior. The passive approach created by the Behaviorist Theory (previous post) must not be the main way to correct wrong behaviors.
A true bully thrives in an environment of constant turmoil and strife. Administrators, in too many schools, have too many problems and can not react to bully problems until some blood has been shed.
When good manners and mutual respect is demanded, bad behavior confronted, and the Lecture and Pester processes are used to change bad behavior while establishing self-discipline, 95-99% of a school’s discipline and bullying problems will disappear from a school. The remaining 1-5% will find their bad behavior increasingly harder to maintain each and every school day of the school year. Teachers and administrators can respond and pressure a bully about every wrong word, gesture, or terrorist threat made to any student. Bullies feel the pressure from constantly being scrutinized, challenged, and questioned about each wrong behavior. Bullies discover the need to change their behavior. When schools use these processes, schools will discover they can stop bullying by bullying the bully.
December 17, 2010
This blog is titled School Discipline Made Easy. The title reflects a paradigm shift in thinking about discipline in the public school systems of America. If a person, school, or school district wants to make discipline made easy, they must believe that 95 to 99% of their students are capable of changing their behavior and capable of being good people.
Approach an administrator, teacher, parent, or student in an out-of-control, low-performing school and say that 99% of the student body is capable of good behavior and they will shake their head in disbelief. They wonder what mamby-pamby planet of make believe you are coming from. They live in a real world of overflowing AP offices, thousands of students being late to class, and hundreds of students walking the hallways throughout the school day. The coping mechanisms for these schools, and school districts are denial of a problem, minimize the problem, or turn a blind eye to the problem. When these coping mechanisms cease to work and pressure builds to solve the discipline problem the next step is to transfer blame for the problem to other people or groups. The final result is everyone becomes frustrated, disillusioned, and mad at everyone else and the discipline problem grows worse. A downward cycle of worse discipline, more blaming, and transfer of blame to others is created. This downward cycle has been going on for decades. When one has a paradigm shift to the belief that 95-99% of students can change their behavior, that person begins to understand that our main school problem is not demographics, race relations, school budgets, student achievement, etc. These problems have become huge and unmanageable as a result of poor school discipline. Present day school discipline plans and discipline theories have gotten America into our present dilemma and sad state of circumstances.
Ask these same school groups what percentage of the student body are “good” students and the answer can range between 30 and 70 percent. When I went into the hallways of Austin High School, I felt if 80 percent of the student body would go to class, I had achieved a huge success. These low percentages reflect the results of combining Behaviorist Theory (see previous post) with discipline systems that are ineffective and inefficient. Our school discipline systems are ineffective and inefficient because they don’t deliver consequences that change student behavior in a timely manner, time after time.
What are the results of this bad school discipline problem? Downward cycles of less achievement, less cooperation, more frustration and anger are created. Administrators, teachers, students and parents work harder and harder with less and less success, for their effort. Next, the different groups of the school become frustrated and upset about the poor school situation and blame each other. Business leaders and Foundation Leaders seeing the dismal results and realizing schools need to do better to compete in today’s world, enter the conflict. Unfortunately for America, most of these same leaders don’t have a true picture or understanding of what is happening in America’s schools. The solutions of privatization of schools, Charter Schools, more testing, firing of “bad teachers”, etc. will only make our education problems worse. These solutions don’t go after or solve the core problem of American education, the discipline problem.
America, it is time to start some upward cycles of more discipline, more achievement, and more success. It is time to empower all stake holders and groups involved in America’s educational system. The downward cycles of the blame game and frustration must be replaced with upward cycles of cooperation and hope. We must make school discipline easy.
School discipline was hard when I first entered the hallways of Austin High School to solve the tardy problem. Students laughed at me when I took them to the AP’s office. Students had no respect for any authority figure or adult in the school and had no problem telling me they had no respect. Gangs, misfits, and troublemakers controlled the hallways, public areas, and cafeteria of the school. Administrators and police officers were overwhelmed with problems and rarely left their offices. Downward cycles of more discipline problems, more intimidation of adults, less respect of teachers and others occurred every day.
I had an epiphany that day as to why we have these discipline issues occurring: schools were not providing consequences that changed student behavior. When consequences did not change behavior the school became overwhelmed with more and more problems of ever-increasing severity. In order to clear the halls I had to find consequences that changed student behavior. The solution, surprisingly, was simple. Teenagers hate to be lectured to about their behavior and what was expected of them, and then pestered time after time again, when they did not change their behavior. Students ran out of excuses. Good students (students that could change their behavior) disappeared from the hallways and went to class. The discipline process got faster and more efficient as there were fewer students in the hallways. The students in the hallway found it harder and harder to justify their behavior. The Lecture and Pester process was becoming more irritating and more demanding with each new exposure to the process. More and more students changed their behavior and the discipline process became faster, effective and efficient. The student attitude that they were tougher, smarter, sneaker, etc than the discipline system or the adults of the school was eliminated. A few weeks later there was no one in the hallways and no tardy problem. Teachers in the school noted that the students were much more respectful of teachers and more receptive to listening and learning. All of this change occurring without involving the administration or the school police. School discipline had become easy.
When school discipline became easy the paradigm shift that 95-99% of our students are good people took place. Only 1-5% of the student body needed to go through our school discipline system because they would not or could not change their behavior. Because of this paradigm shift, I have hope for a better future for education in America. When you realize that the discipline system is the underlying cause of our problems, you realize that we can all work together to solve 95-99% of our problems.
November 28, 2010
One definition of discipline: a set of consequences for bad behavior, often unpleasant, that will make a person change his or her behavior. The ultimate goal of discipline is to become self-disciplined.
America’s schools have experienced decades of bad behavior. The bad behavior problem appears to be growing worse with each new decade. As a person who went to grade school in the 50’s and 60’s, I would say there is a huge difference, with each ensuing decade. Teachers retiring in the 80’s and 90′ referred to the 50’s and 60’s as “the good old days” or “the time when teaching was fun.” The bad behavior, defiance, indifference, and lack of respect shown by students to school personnel in schools today would never have been allowed or tolerated in the 50’s or 60’s. How did we get to this terrible state of affairs in our schools? How are we different and how are we the same in terms of how we look at discipline today as compared to the 50’s and 60’s? How can we bring discipline and mutual respect back to our schools?
In the 50’s and 60’s, proper manners and respect for adults was demanded of students. Every adult was to be addressed with a “no maam” or “yes sir.” As in the military, you were expected to show respect and salute the uniform of the teacher. Any challenge to a teacher’s authority lead to severe consequences in the assistant principals office. These consequences, whether the paddle or a firm scolding were unpleasant enough to effect a change in behavior. Students maintained good behavior because they did not want to face these unpleasant consequences. As a result proper manners, good behavior, and mutual respect was the normal state of affairs in the classroom and school.
The 60’s and 70’s brought the Civil Right Movement, the Vietnam War Movement, and the Behaviorist Theory Movement to American Schools. These movements greatly changed American schools. Each movement brought positive and necessary changes in thinking and behavior to America and America’s schools. As with all great issues there were negative changes in thinking and behavior that accompanied the positive and necessary changes. In a future post, I will address the negative aspects of the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War on American Education. The Behaviorist Theory, while bringing many positive ideas and thoughts to America’s Education System, has also had a huge negative result on America and America’s Schools.
Behaviorist Theory Advocates believe that by paying attention to good behavior, you reinforce that behavior. A parent or disciplinarian should never display inappropriate behavior, anger, frustration, or disappointment. By displaying or paying attention to bad behavior, you reinforce that bad behavior. A parent must use only positive reinforcement, create a positive environment, smile, and turn the other cheek when hit in the face. By not reacting or paying attention to negative or bad behavior, you do not reinforce that behavior. Therefore, if you wish to extinguish a wrong behavior, do not acknowledge or punish bad behavior.
The Behaviorist Theory believes students who misbehave are seeking the reward of attention. Even as a child’s behavior gets worse and more dangerous, a parent must not reinforce that bad behavior. Eventually, the child realizes he can not get what he wants through bad behavior and extinguishes the bad behavior. A student changes his behavior through positive reinforcement and rewarding good behavior. Only with positive reinforcement can a student develop a positive self-image and attitude. With a positive reinforcement approach, students avoid the mental and emotional damage done by negative reinforcement. Behaviorist Theorists believe negative reinforcement such as verbal confrontations, scolding, sarcasm, corporal punishment, etc. causes students to develop poor self-esteem, accept hitting as a way to solve problems, creates mental and emotional depression, and will scar their relationships with parents, friends, and society throughout their lives.
This Behaviorist Theory, which might work well with toddlers, has became the underlying action plan and philosophy for America and America’s schools. If you find this hard to believe or have never heard of the Behaviorist Theory before, consider what has happened to discipline since the 1970’s. In the 50’s if you misbehaved in public you were disciplined with a public spanking. Other adults would approach your parents and tell them they had done the right thing. The equivalent of the African proverb ” it takes a whole village to raise a child.” Today, if you spank your child in public, people will write down your license plate number and call Child Protective Services. In the late 1980’s, I was talking to the dad of a physically abusive boy (Bully) that was making life miserable for other students. I suggested he use corporal punishment. The dad told me he had used a belt and the son had gone to CPS and reported on him. CPS had shown up at his house and warned him if he spanked his son again, they would take all his children from the house. He informed me that when it came to his son, he was no longer in the discipline business.
As the Behaviorist Theory inundated the school systems of America, discipline in the schools broke down. Students discovered that they could display a wide variety of bad behavior and expect little reprimand. Students learned they were relatively immune to any severe consequence and quickly lost respect for any adult in the school. Laughing at teachers as they try to maintain discipline with positive reinforcement becomes a game of seeing how far a teacher can be pushed before they break down or explode with anger. Beware new teachers who are fresh out of college, you are armed with the Behaviorist Theory and you are facing students that have very little empathy or respect for adults.
Teachers are expected to maintain order using positive reinforcement. A teacher,who gets angry, shouts at a student, uses sarcasm or any negative reinforcement may be reprimanded by school personnel for destroying a student’s delicate emotional and mental balance. It matters little if the same student is destroying the emotional and mental balance of everyone in the class. Administrators look at discipline problems in the classroom as the result of bad classroom management or bad teaching techniques. Bad teachers are considered poor practitioners of positive reinforcement techniques. Many administrators look at discipline problems in the classroom as consequences of negative reinforcement. A teacher who reprimanded a student may have destroyed his emotional and mental stability, along with his self-confidence causing his discipline problems to increase. Teachers end up in a no win situation–damned if they do and damned if they don’t use behaviorist theory.
Effects of the behaviorist theory are everywhere in school policy and philosophy. The idea that students should not receive F grades and the policy that students can not receive below a 50 on any school work have a Behaviorist base.
How can we bring back discipline and mutual respect to our schools? Schools need to scrap-heap a large part of the behaviorist theory. Unpleasant consequences for bad behavior must be allowed back in schools. By now you must believe I am an advocate for corporal punishment in schools. I am not an advocate for corporal punishment for students in grades six through twelve. I don’t believe in corporate punishment after the age of eleven. Teachers must be allowed to confront students and challenge students about their behavior. Adults must not be forced to cuddle discipline problems, but be allowed to call a jerk a jerk.
Great school discipline starts with the simple process of recognizing bad behavior and challenging bad behavior every time it is encountered. The simple paradigm shifts of not avoiding bad behavior, but instead attacking bad behavior and not asking for good behavior, but demanding good behavior will affect huge changes, for the better, in education. The next process is to show up time after time and provide an increasingly unpleasant consequence to stimulate a change in behavior. The concept that says by not paying attention to a problem and the problem will extinguish itself must be stricken from our educational philosophy. Follow these procedures and philosophy and good discipline and mutual respect will return to our schools.