Paradigm Shift to 95%-99%

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.

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