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.

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America must demand a great discipline plan. Our education system is being paralyzed by poor discipline. School discipline is the huge elephant in the room that no one will acknowledge. Everyone knows that the elephant is there but no one will step forward, because if you admit to having a discipline problem, you are now obligated to solving the problem. Very few people are stepping forward to address this problem head-on because they don’t see  any plausible solutions. America, we have a huge discipline problem. I am not afraid to say we have a discipline problem because I have a school discipline plan that works. This discipline plan has changed, low-performing, out-of-control schools into disciplined, safe, and productive schools.

The golden bullet that leads to solving all of America’s educational problems is great school discipline. Therefore, to start the process of solving school problems it is important to know and understand the differences between great school discipline and poor school discipline.

Great school discipline acknowledges a problem and develops  the will to solve the problem. Poor school discipline will not admit to a problem and points blame at others.  Great school discipline is the process of identify and solving big discipline problems and then identifying smaller and smaller discipline problems and solving them. This process leads to safe and productive schools.  Poor school discipline identifies and solves problems as they show up at the office. This process leads to more and more problems of increasing severity showing up at the office. This process leads to administrators being trapped in their offices and an increasingly unsafe and unproductive school environment.

The goals of mutual respect, proper manners, and proper individual and social behavior are constantly demanded by a great school discipline plan. This  plan demands the adults in a school to model, show, and teach these behaviors and skills.  Armed with respect toward students, proper manners, and behaviors, the adults of a school can confront bad behavior and thinking and demand a change in thinking and behavior. Poor school discipline sees these problems but has no mechanism or plan to solve the problems of lack of respect, poor manners, or bullying problems.

Great school discipline has consequences that change student behavior and a plan on how to deliver those consequences in an effective and efficient manner. Lecture And Pester (the first part of the school discipline system that I provide) offers  the mental consequences that changes student behavior. The Proactive and Persistent Discipline Plan (the second part of the school discipline system that I provide) offers an effective and efficient  system of constantly confronting students with the Lecture and Pester process. When these two processes are combined students change their behavior and schools become safe and productive.

Poor school discipline is the result of not having a process or philosophy of  mentally challenging students about their wrong behavior or thinking. Changing student behavior with detention halls, suspensions, and Saturday classes will not work with today’s student and  is a low percentage game. Throughout the school year the percentages decrease as students lose respect for the discipline system and the adults trying to enforce the discipline system. This downward process leads to bullying, out of control schools, community frustration, and low performing schools.

Every student in a school has a problem. Half of great school discipline is identifying and solving student problems. Often there is a underlying problem in a students life that causes a discipline problem. A great discipline plan is in the business of solving problems. When a school discipline plan solves problems more and more students bring more and more underlying problems forth to be solved. This leads to an upward spiral of happier students with less discipline problems. This upward spiral leads to high performing students and schools.

Great school discipline is a constant upward spiral. A great school discipline program does not stop when a school is safe and controlled. Every hour of every day, a great school discipline plan demands a higher level of achievement, responsibility, and self-discipline from each student, parent, teacher, and administrator. A disciplined school and student body will naturally develop programs and goals of ever higher success.

The underlying common factor for all of our education problems is poor school discipline. When the discipline problem is solved, the other educational problems in the school can be solved.

One of the big catch phrases in education is ” silver bullets.” Everyone is in search of silver bullets to solve problems in the educational battlefield. One group is looking for the silver bullet for the dropout problem. Another group is looking for the silver bullet for the bullying problem. Other groups are looking for silver bullets in the areas of student achievement, school budget shortfalls, teacher retention, etc. There appears to be silver bullets out there, somewhere, on the educational battlefield, that will solve our educational problems.

Some groups believe they have found the silver bullets that have the power to transform education. Bill Gates and the “Billionaire Boys Club” have found the silver bullet of Charter schools. Charter Schools have a nice, bright shine of silver bullets, but they have  lead cores. Generally, charter schools are artificially created success stories. High achievement, success, and good discipline is achieved by selective entry of “good students” and dismissal of “wrong” students. The Charter School Solution does not solve the problem of where are all the low-performers, discipline problems, ESL students, LEP students, special education students, etc. will go to school. If public schools disappear, the Charter Schools Solution is doomed to failure. The ‘Silver Bullet Charter School Reformers’ will discover their false solution was standing on the shoulders of hard-working, dedicated, and self-sacrificing public school teachers.

Mayor Bloomberg has found some different silver bullets. It appears all he needs is enough silver bullets to shoot all the bad teachers and union members and his educational problems will go away. Hopefully, he will have enough silver bullets for all the new “bad teachers” that appear and are created by poor test scores, bad  administrators,  lack of funding, poor school discipline systems and plans, low- performing students, or any other education problem.

President Obama and Arne Duncan have found their silver bullets in the ‘Race To The Top’ agenda and  ‘No Child Left Behind’ (NCLB). ‘The Race To The Top’ silver bullet has at its core  testing and the belief that only the  results of  tests can be the true indicators of success or failure. Only through constant testing can true silver be discovered. Everyone and everything must be tested and a value and a consequence assigned for each result. Poor test results demands a teacher to be fired, a neighborhood school closed, or a state denied funds. High test scores justify the argument and rational behind merit pay, charter schools, privatization of schools, and federal funding of schools. NCLB is the moral lightning rod and justification behind the ‘Race To The Top.’ They believe the combining of these two programs will lead America to the educational promised land.

There is such moral smugness about these programs created by the people at the top,  who as children were never left behind.  Race To The Top allows the blame for the achievement gap to be transferred to ” bad teachers”, ” bad administrators”, and “bad schools”. The inconvenient truth is the policies and programs created by people at the top have created these problems. For decades, we have know the schools with achievement problems. They are the schools with low funding, crumbling buildings, few resources, large class sizes, and segregated student bodies.

With the transfer of blame to others, Race To The Top policy makers can come up with more top down solutions for the problems. These solutions appear to be more and more testing, firing of teachers, closing of schools, privatizing schools, and providing funds to those that buy into Race To The Top policies.

No Child Left Behind works much the same way. The thoughts and concepts behind NCLB are noble and just. The problem is that much like Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No To Drugs” campaign, NCLB is too simplistic and not based on reality. Nancy never had to walk home from school in a neighborhood controlled by violent gangs pushing drugs. Nancy was never in a situation where a no response could lead to a serious beating or death.

NCLB  is often used in a” bait and switch” way to transfer blame. The bait of NCLB is the truth that children have been left behind. The switch occurs as the truth is twisted to serve different agendas. The inconvenient truth, for the people at the top,  is the educational philosophies, policies, and programs created by people at the top has left half the children in America behind. The convenient truth is these same people are not held responsible for the failures of NCLB. Another convenient truth is that the parents, teachers, students, and schools that have suffered the most can now be made the scapegoats.  These scapegoat  groups should, next,  accept the blame for the problems in education.  After accepting the blame, these groups should also accept the punishments, sanctions, and new solutions presented by the people at the top.

Race To The Top and No Child Left Behind are doomed to failure. The people at the top confidently assume they have the answers to America’s educational problems. They came up with these answers without teaching , being a student, or living through any real life public school issue or situation. The elitist thinking of these programs is exposed in their solutions to educational problems. The solutions of charter schools, closing neighborhood schools, firing of “bad” teachers, etc.  are based on their school experiences.

This arrogant and elitist thinking never allows them to extend a hand down to the people that suffer the consequences of their decisions. This elitist thinking assumes that no solutions, thoughts, or educational programs could come from people living on the bottom rungs of the educational ladder. Only when the leaders at the top reach down and allow ideas, discussion, and solutions to bubble up from the bottom, will solutions to educational problems be found.

It appears everyone in education is looking for silver bullets to solve education problems. The truth is these silver bullets won’t work until you find the golden bullet. The golden bullet is fixing school discipline. America must demand good school discipline. When the school discipline problem is solved, all groups will be able to come together and work together to find and use the silver bullets.

P.S.      If you know anyone at the top, please let them know I have a discipline system and plan that will solve America’s discipline problem.

Hope:
1) to look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence
2) to believe, desire, or trust
3) to feel that something desired may happen

The  educational battle has heated up. Large foundations and “big money” people have entered the fray. Education reformers are to be found in many different forms with ever increasing passion and anger. Old voices and new voices argue passionately over every issue, every success, and every failure. The problems appear to be too big and too many to be solved. The arguments and anger of the combatants becomes more heated. On every issue there is less willingness to compromise or even to work together to solve the problem. The feeling of hopelessness, despair, and loss of hope grows in everyone. There appears to be no way to solve these problems.

Wait a minute, I have been through this process. This same educational battle was waged on a much smaller scale at Austin HS in the early 90’s. The Shared Decision Making Committee (SDMC)  made up of parents, students, teachers, administrators, and community leaders had fought the same educational battles. The SDMC, after many heated arguments and anger, eventually  realized what was the real problem.

Austin HS had every educational problem. The SDMC set up sub-committees for every educational issue. There were sub-committees for the school budget, school pride, student achievement, teacher performance, discipline, dropouts, etc. The sub-committees  and SDMC argued and sought solutions for every school problem for weeks. After months of meetings, very few solutions had come forth to solve our school problems. One huge truth had emerged from all the sub-committees and SDMC meetings. The underlying cause of most of our school problems was the school discipline problem. Until we solved the school discipline problem , we could not solve the other school problems and educational problems. The same truth applies to America, if we want to solve our problems in education, we must solve our school discipline problem. Fortunately, for America there is a school discipline plan that can solve our school discipline problem.

One saying goes, “Necessity is the mother of invention.” This saying rang true for the Discipline Committee of Austin HS. We, as a committee, argued and sought solutions for our discipline problems. Only when Ms. Judy Dew stood up and read a definition of discipline did we start to solve the problem. It’s the definition of discipline I still use today : a set of consequences for bad behavior, often unpleasant, that will make a person change their behavior. The ultimate goal of  discipline is to become self disciplined.” Contained within this definition are all the reasons America has a discipline problem and all the solutions to our discipline problems.

Eventually, I developed the Lecture and Pester methods and the Proactive and Persistent School Discipline System. The Lecture and Pester process delivers the unpleasant consequences that changes students behavior. The Proactive and Persistent School Discipline System is the process of identifying the biggest problems and going after these problems. The combining of the LP processes and P&P Discipline processes are efficient and effective in solving the school discipline problem. Quickly, 90-99 % of student discipline problems disappear without taking students to the office, detention halls, Saturday classes, etc.  The combining of these two systems puts time, numbers, and control of the discipline problem on the side of the adults.

Using L&P with P&P Discipline, I was able to, by myself, clear hundreds of students from the hallways, decrease the tardy problem to zero, increase in class instruction time by 20,000 hours each month, stop bullying, cut visits to the AP offices by 90-95 % , and save tens of thousand of dollars each month in vandalism and graffiti costs.

This is why I have hope for America. If I can affect these changes in a school by myself, what could parents, teachers, and administrators accomplish working this discipline system together in a school? What would be the results if every school in America used this discipline plan?

I believe every school in America can be made safe. I believe we can eliminate the bullying problem in schools. I believe the cost of disciplining students can be reduced by several billions of dollars each year. I believe this saved money can be used to solve school budgeting problems and other school financial problems. I believe that by solving the discipline problem, we will bring different groups together to solve other education problems. I believe solving the school discipline problem will lead to solutions for all other school problems.

There is hope for America’s public schools, and it is one discipline plan away.

At one point, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg was on the Morning Joe Show on NBC. He was talking with Mika and Joe about education. Mayor Bloomberg stated that a major problem with education was the tenure of teachers, which protected bad teachers and that the unions were involved by being protectors of bad teachers.

Mayor Bloomberg’s statements have grains of sand truth to them. There are bad teachers protected by the union. As co-steward of a school’s teachers union, I was uncomfortable standing up for a teacher who was doing a poor job. On the other hand, Mayor Bloomberg’s statements  have a beach full of misunderstandings of low-performing schools and the teachers in these schools. The truth of the matter is that the mayor is not the only person with perceptions that are often misguided. Many others think if we get rid of bad teachers and close low-performing schools the problems of our schools will be solved. However, in my experience as a teacher in an inner-city school, closing low-performing schools and firing bad teachers will not solve the problem. The two factors are products of bad discipline within our schools.

In order to solve this problem, it will require a new paradigm on how to handle discipline and how we look at low-performing teachers, schools, and school districts.

As a teacher, chairman of the discipline committee, and co-steward  of the school’s teacher union, I have different thoughts about good teachers and bad teachers. As I attempted to recruit teachers for the union, a constant repeated argument was, ” I will not join the union because the union protects and supports bad teachers.”  These teachers had a list of the usual suspects. One name on that list was Ms. Grouchy.

Ms. Grouchy was in her 60’s and close to retiring. She was quiet, polite, and unassuming in her manner. Her dress was professional yet simple. Her classroom was an isolated room in a dark corner of the first floor. This room was surrounded by two stairwells and a men’s restroom. Ms. Grouchy kept a low profile. She was known in the teacher’s lounge, but talked mainly to old friends or trusted colleges. As I gained knowledge from my teaching experiences, from discussions of the discipline committee and Shared Decision Making Committee, and from resolving conflicts as a co- steward of the union, a truth emerged. Ms Grouchy was one of the solid rock foundations of Austin High School.

Ms. Grouchy was an English teacher. Her classes were made up of the most academically challenged students. Students were placed in her classes with every type of educational label. Also placed in her classes: probational students from the juvenile criminal system. Discipline exchanges between schools ended up in her classes. She also had many gang members in her classes.

As I talked with students in my classes, a different picture emerged of Ms. Grouchy. “Ms. Grouchy gave me money to buy me lunch.” “Ms. Grouchy shared her sandwich with me.” “Ms. Grouchy found a winter jacket for me.”  “Ms. Grouchy convinced me to stay in school.”  The list of accomplishments by Ms. Grouchy was large and varied.

Another aspect of Ms. Grouchy influence became clear to me as I implemented my school discipline plan. I rarely encountered students from Ms. Grouchy’s class being tardy or walking the hallways. Students for honors classes, magnet programs, and principal’s pet teacher show classes were everywhere in the hallways and recesses of the school. A teacher with the lowest performing students, problem students, and probationary students had good discipline in her class. How could this teacher be considered to be a bad teacher?

These injustices occur when teacher performance and value are based on test scores and rankings.

Ms. Grouchy’s value and successes would not be honored by the school. Most likely she never earned teacher of the month let alone teacher of the year honors.

Honors classes, magnet classes, and pet programs are established to create  success. Teachers of these classes are the ones who generally get the accolades and awards. These same teachers are usually the most vocal critics of the union and our support of bad teachers. If these same critics had to teach Ms. Grouchy’s classes, most would soon be labeled low-performing, bad teachers. The superior discipline techniques many elite teachers smugly tout would be of little use in Ms. Grouchy type classes. How good would they be without a class of selected high performers (honors)? How long would they rate superior without the ability to say ‘no’ to who can be in their program? How long would they last without the ability to remove a non-achiever or discipline problem from their class?

We need a change in thinking about who is working hard, who is successful, and who has discipline in their classes. First, all teachers work hard and many low-performing teachers work harder than many honors teachers. Second, successful teaching is not just test scores but also the art of inspiring, directing, and helping students overcome their problems. Third,  ineffective school discipline systems are the underlying causes of the bad teacher and low-performing school problems. The combination of ineffective consequences with inefficient school discipline systems create bad teachers and low-performing schools. I believe that 95-98% of bad teachers can become good teachers with a good discipline system in their school.

The same attitudes and prejudices exists between high-performing schools and low-performing schools within a school district and between different school districts.

Austin High School  was a consistently low-performing school in the 1990’s. Superintendent Dr. Paige paid a visit to the school. This is the same Dr. Paige who would become the education czar under President George Bush. He indicated that Austin High School must change its low-performing status in two years. If Austin High School was still low performing in two years, he was going to transfer every teacher to different schools throughout Houston ISD. The stigma of being an absorbed teacher from a low-performing school was in our future

I did not have the courage that day to present Dr. Paige with a different plan of action. I believed an alternative plan of action should have been to  switch teaching staffs between Lamar High School and Austin High School. Lamar High School  is a high-performing school next to the affluent River Oaks area. All the different variables such as class size, money allocated for programs, demographics, etc. would remain the same. After two years we could see what a difference the high-performing good teachers from Lamar had made at Austin. The Austin teaching staff would have the opportunity to teach in a well funded school, with great facilities, and to a student body with focused successful attitudes.

My predictions for the future was that the Austin High School staff would fare well and would become a high-performing staff and that the Lamar High School staff would become low-performing. Additionally, many of the Lamar staff would leave teaching, leave the district, or transfer to other schools. Discipline issues, frustration, lack of success, lack of resources and money, and fear for their own safety and lives would drive them away. Hopefully, the greatest results would be an attitude shift in how the faculty of both schools looked at the issue of low-performing schools. The Lamar staff would understand and appreciate the hard work and issues low performing schools and teachers face every day. The Austin staff would learn and understand they have great successes every day, and that they are very valuable to America.

Today, I believe teachers are the same in exemplary and low-performing schools. The percentage of good teachers and bad teachers is the same in both schools. My thinking and way of looking at teachers is based on the success of my effective school discipline plan. When I first ventured into the hallways of Austin HS to get the hallways under control, around 80-90% of students were tardy to class every period. Between 40-60% percent of students did not go to class or attended part of a class. Hundreds of students walked the hallways throughout the school day. I thought if I could get 80% of students into class that it would be successful. After implementing my school discipline plan, 99% percent of students were good students because they could change their behavior. The hallways were clear and there was no tardy problem. My thinking and perception of bad students changed. These bad students were the results of poor discipline in our schools. The same conclusion should be made about bad teachers. They are the results and effects of poor school discipline systems. Therefore, if we fix the discipline in our schools, we will go a long way to solving the bad teacher and low-performing school problems.