Schools Can Not See The Discipline Problem Because of All The Discipline Problems in The Way

June 18, 2010

Hands down, poor school discipline is the underlying cause of all our problems in education. If we solve the discipline problem, we will go a long way to fixing any problem in education.

If discipline is the real problem, how come we have not solved the problem? I believe it is because we can not solve a discipline problem that was created by the current school discipline programs and ways of thinking about discipline. We must think in new ways and create a new system of school discipline to solve our school discipline problems. What are some different way of looking at discipline problems in schools that may help solve school discipline problems?

The first step is to stop pointing fingers at each other. Our current discipline problems were not created by a lack of effort or desire by the different groups involved in education. Parents, students, teachers, and administrators in low-performing schools understand, desire and desperately want safe and well-disciplined schools.

One of the first things I do when I bring a school under control is not allow a transfer of responsibility to occur. A student tardy to class is not allowed to transfer the tardy problem to the school, teacher, other students, or any other factors. He or she had to admit to a problem then accept responsibility for the problem. Accepting responsibility for ones own behavior is the first step toward better behavior.

The same thing happens in the school system. The blame for poor discipline is transferred to other groups. We need to accept our own responsibility for the discipline problem and begin to solve the problem by working together.

After we have accepted responsibility and stop pointing fingers at each other we will discover a strange truth. The truth is we are not the problem. The real underlying problem is an ineffective and inefficient system of school discipline that does not work.

The second step to solving a discipline problem is to admit to having a discipline problem. Just as an alcoholic must admit to the problem, schools must admit to having a discipline problem. As one Houston ISD school board member said to me once,  ” If a school admitted to having a discipline problem, they might feel obligated to solving the problem.”  Without admitting to a problem, the problem will always be minimized.

I have been in schools where you could tell the bell was going to ring when the halls became less crowded. Everyone was returning to their classroom to pick up their books, go to their next class, and then walk the hallways all period. Hundreds of students at Austin High School attended two or three lunches a day. The assistant  principals offices were full from first bell to last bell. Graffiti covered the walls. All the restrooms, except for the ones by the cafeteria, were locked all day due to vandalism. As teachers, all of these problems were in plain sight. We averted our eyes and retreated to our areas of safety in our classrooms or offices. These behaviors occur because of the strange logic and politics of schools. The first one to admit to a problem will be blamed for the problem. After being blamed for the problem, the group pointing out the problem are the ones obligated to solve the problem. For example, teachers complain there are too many students tardy and not coming to class. Administrators will say teachers are not forceful enough and need more in class detentions and sanctions to solve the problem. The solution is more duty stations and hours in the hallways for teachers.

If administrators admit to a tardy and non-attendance problem, teachers will say they have constantly sent lists and students to the office and nothing changes. The problem is growing worse. Administrators need to be more forceful and put everyone into detention or expel them and that will solve the problem. Parents complain about the hallways and school safety. Teachers and administrators will say students are not being disciplined at home and come to school with no respect for authority, rules, or adults. Therefore, parents need to be more forceful and actively involved in their children lives. By not admitting to a problem the recovery process never occurs. As educators, we find ourselves in isolated groups blaming problems on everything and everyone else.

The final step is to identify the real problem. The real problem is we cannot see the discipline problem for all the discipline problems in the way. The huge problems we have in our schools are created by our inadequate school discipline systems. America can solve problems with school financing, dropouts, achievement, etc. by fixing our school discipline systems.

I make these statements because I have brought schools under control. I have made schools safe using my discipline system. By myself, within two months, there was no tardy problem. The school was gaining 20,000 extra hours of students in class per month. Average daily attendance went up several points. Test scores went way up that year. The AP offices, instead of having 20-40 problems every hour, had 2 -5 students per hour.

My successes at Austin H.S. and Deady M.S. changed the way I look at school discipline and schools. Low-performing schools can become high-performing schools. Out of control schools can change into safe and friendly schools.

The epiphany moment came when I realized present day school discipline systems are creating huge problems. These huge problems cause us to blame others, not admit to problems, argue with each other, and not co-operate with each other. These huge problems get in the way of seeing the underlying cause of the problems. The underlying cause for school problems is a discipline system that has poor consequences for bad behavior combined with an ineffective and inefficient school discipline system.


One Response to “Schools Can Not See The Discipline Problem Because of All The Discipline Problems in The Way”

  1. Richard said

    You don’t identify the real problem until your final sentence. That should’ve been your opening sentence! Until students believe that poor decisions are followed by consequences that they dread or fear, they have no reason to avoid making poor decisions. Kids don’t like to be told that they aren’t allowed to do something. It has been my experience, (in secondary schools), that a class of 30, tends to have 6-8 students, for whatever reason, (usually a solid home/family life), with the intention to learn/make grades/be successful. The desire of the remainder of the kids is to socialize, have fun, and get away with all they can. The teacher is compelled to spend the greatest portion of their time and effort, desperately, and usually unsuccessfully “riding herd”, thus stealing valuable time and effort from those 6-8 “real students”, that want to learn; want to succeed; and will eventually be the adults that are the engine of this nation, while carrying the rest of the kids, now adults, on their backs.
    This is a sad truth, but it is not news. The problem lies with the people who are in charge… who are vastly overpaid and out of touch with reality. Gather up a large team of quality, 35 year teachers, who live and breathe children, and schools, and communities. They will come up with effective answers that are based on love, concern, experience, and most importantly – reality! Untie their hands and they will employ the most useful tool God has given us … COMMON SENSE !!!
    It will never happen. Administrators, and lesislators… deep thinkers all, will invent new programs, instate new rules, throw more money at teachers, and numerous other additional ambitious remedies. Brilliant people with great depth and foresight, but they lack or undervalue … COMMON SENSE ! Don’t add … SIMPLY !!!
    I taught at a large high school for 2 years. In a space of 5-6 years, it had fallen from Exemplary to either Acceptable or Unacceptable. The community overhauled administraton and teachers in an effort to regain their former status. The pressure was on. Every other week, all two hundred teachers met for an hour or two after school. The first words at each meeting were, “Folks remember, FAILURE IS NOT AN OPTION”! It doesn’t take students long to catch on. In addition, administrators were going out of their way to avoid employing serious consequences. I presume that was to further please the community. When students don’t fear failure and don’t fear behaviorable consequences, teaching is more than difficult !!
    In many ways, schools are a microcosm of society. If we cave to any more special interest groups;if the youth of our country is coddeled any further, we will be able to watch the acceleration of the tearing of the moral fabric and accomplishment driven spirit of our once great nation!

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