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.

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.

 

It’s time for a paradigm shift in education. The current ways and policies for solving discipline problems in American schools are leaving us empty. Things must change and paradigms must shift if we want to see radically effective changes in discipline in our schools. It starts with us and the way we think. In this blog, I’ll discuss why we need a paradigm shift and how we can do it.

The use of Lecture and Pester with Proactive and Persistent School Discipline changes schools. As the tardy problem disappears, you are now able to work on other big problems, such as: chaos in  the cafeteria, the dressing room in the gym, late arrivals to school, etc. These problems are recognized and finally given attention to and become minor problems instead.

As problems in these areas become small, a transition to the second phase of the discipline plan begins. Administrators and hall masters bring these discipline processes to the door of the classroom. Teachers and administrators agree, that if a classroom is controlled and focused during the first five minutes of class, the rest of the period will be the same.

Teachers and administrators work together to identify and solve big and small problems at the classroom door. School discipline quickly becomes more effective and efficient. Massive hours of work are eliminated as there are less referrals to the Assistant Principals’ (AP) office, which also causes a major reduction in paperwork. A teacher’s authority and classroom discipline improves as students realize the problem will be addressed  immediately at the doorway, with the AP and teacher working together, in front of classmates.

As the adults of the school bring a school under control and discipline is established in the classroom, the next phase of the discipline program begins. Just as a self-disciplined person can set goals for higher achievement, so can a school set goals for higher achievement. The school can ask students to strive for a higher average daily attendance goal or have a study hall with 500 extra hours of study each week. Whatever the goals, they can be focused on more, now that the discipline problem is under control.

The use of this discipline program changes how people look at schools and educational problems. This program creates new paradigms about solving the daily problems of our school system. It is time for a change and the current system of solving these problems is not working. Paradigm shifts must happen to see these discipline problems solved and American school systems under control!

First, we realize that 99% of our students can become self-disciplined and productive. We learn that 99% of our teachers can have disciplined and productive classrooms. We are amazed as administrators become effective disciplinarians. A paradigm shift occurs when we realize the discipline problem was not us. A poor discipline plan and system was the problem. This leads to other paradigm shifts in thinking about other  educational problems.

Let us start with a paradigm shift in thinking on how to solve the drop out rate. The first step has already been taken. Students walk out of a school when they feel the school is not safe and/or a waste of time. The school is safe now and is setting higher goals for student achievement. When proper school environments are created, dropouts will walk back into the school.

When a school becomes well-disciplined another paradigm change of thinking takes place. The realization that a majority of schools in America are boring, dismal, and provide few fun activities for students. Pep rallies, fun assemblies, and exciting events rarely, if ever, happen in schools today. Administrators and the school faculty are scared to bring students together in large assemblies when a school has little discipline. With disciplined students, the school needs to provide as many fun, exciting, and educational events as possible.  When schools become fun and exciting, the dropout numbers will go down drastically.

Fun and exciting schools improve discipline. First, students do not have to create  excitement to break the oppressive cycle of boredom. Gang fights, fist fights, and confrontational behavior currently be used to relieve boredom can be greatly reduced. Also, having the consequence of not allowing a student to attend a fun event is a powerful persuader to follow school rules.

When I had the paradigm shift that 99% of students can become self-disciplined, I had another paradigm shift in thinking. I realized the way we tie together grades, discipline, failure, and punishment together must be overhauled. Texas House Bill 72 has been a success and an extreme failure at the same time.

I was there when former Texas Governor Mark White spoke to the Texas Legislature Education Committee. He was presenting arguments to keep House Bill 72 and the No Pass- No Play amendment in force. He spoke powerfully and eloquently about his classroom failure and removal from the football team. Governor White then went on to make an argument for No Pass-No Play. The argument and linkage for No Pass- No Play is generally:

fail a subject–>expulsion from extra curricular activity–>desire to get back to activity–>change behavior–>study hard–>earn a passing grade–>be accepted back to banned activity–>success

This No Pass- No Play scenario may work in highly successful schools and suburban schools. The success rate of students is high, so only a small percentage of students have to deal with No Pass- No Play. Extra curricular activities and sports teams are big and successful. Failing students have a large desire to get back to the activity. The No Pass -No Play linkage works in these schools and they become schools of success.

The No Pass – No Play section of House Bill 72 has been a disaster for education in inner-city schools. The education philosophy created by No Pass – No Play has created schools of failure in the inner city. The argument and linkage of  No Pass – No Play works in reverse in low-performing schools. How can this be so? First, at any given marking period at least half the school is ineligible for extra curricular activities. Therefore, most teams and organizations are small and unable to compete at a high level. Students on these teams are ridiculed, harassed, and called fools for being on a team by half the school. A downward cycle of less participation, more failures, and less competitive teams is created. No Pass – No Play produces  failing environments and messages. The immediate message, to half the school, is you are a failure. Because you are a failure, you can not participate in school activities and you are not part of the school.  The feeling grows that the school and teachers are “out to get me,” they will not allow me into an activity where I can be happy and successful.

Half the students in the school are labeled failures and never allowed into programs where they may experience success. The adults of the school lose control over  half of the school population. The process of success in one area being transferred to other areas and subjects never occurs. Students see themselves as incapable of being successful.

So who is around to pick up the students who are rejected, disfranchised, unwanted, angry, and not in an adult managed activity? The gangs are there telling these students they are valuable to them. The school cares little for you but we care. The school is a failure and had the nerve to call you a failure. We know you have skills and you can be successful with us. If you come join us, we will make you successful and respected.

The gangs are in the schools giving the students the messages the schools should be giving to them. The problem is the law of the land (HB 72) sends the wrong messages.  HB 72 does not allow the adults of a school to reach half of the school with the right messages.

How do we correct this situation? It requires paradigm changes in thinking. We must develop school strategies and ideologies that are inclusive not exclusive. Every student must be allowed to develop his/her special talent or skill. When you believe that 99% of a student body can become self-disciplined, the paradigm change occurs.

The only real connection between grades, discipline, and success is that a self- disciplined person is usually a successful person. A disciplined person has failures, but has a process of behavior, thinking, and goal setting that leads to success. Schools must allow all students a chance to experience success. By experiencing success in one area, students can begin to develop the behavior, thinking, and goal setting processes to be successful in other areas.

Schools must become inclusive and allow success. How is this done?  One step to take is to change the eligibility requirements for extra curricular activities. After age, there should be only two requirements for participation in school activities and extra curricular activities.

1)Come to school according to attendance policies
2) Do not be a discipline problem

If after you read these two requirements and immediately thought of a massive breakdown in student and school discipline, you need a discipline system that allows 99% of you student body to be self-disciplined! You need a paradigm change in thinking, about how to solve the school discipline problem in America.

If a student fails all his subjects, he is still eligible for extra curricular activities. Now teachers and coaches are not restricted in allowing students into activities, where they can be successful. The sports teams, band, cheerleaders, debate teams, etc. can become bigger, competitive, and successful. Cycles of success are created in students and the school. Student success in one area allows transfer of success to other areas of endeavor. Teachers can give a true grade without major conflicts with coaches, administrators, parents, or students. Classroom behavior improves as conflicts between students and teachers over grades is greatly diminished. The massive classroom problems caused by exclusion from school teams and activities for poor grades is eliminated. There are less attitude problems that disrupt the education of all the other students in the classroom. As conflicts over grades are greatly reduced, teachers can reach out and help more failing students change their behavior and become successful.

Increased student achievement, competitive teams, and  feeling you are part of the school builds school pride and community pride. Administrators, teachers, and coaches, eventually, have 99% of the school under adult control and authority.  The school and local community can come together to set higher goals for student achievement. We have created a school of success.

A large amount of schools in America are in big trouble and can see no way out of the problem. There is a solution. The solution is  a few paradigm changes of thinking and one school discipline plan away.

 


Have you ever wished you could be Joe Clark and turn a tough, unsafe, out of control, low-performing inner-city school into a safe and productive school? I don’t have to wish, because I have done what Joe Clark did at Eastville High School. One scene in the movie Lean On Me depicts Joe Clark and dozens of police removing the bad “element” from the school auditorium stage and the school. My story is different because I had minimal to no help from the school administration or police of the school. I am no superman, but I believe I have built a better mousetrap.

The old proverb of “build a better mousetrap and the world will beat a path to your door” does not apply to education. I have devised a school discipline plan that works and no one is beating down my door!

I first used this discipline plan at Austin High School (AHS) in the Houston Independent School District (HISD). AHS made national news two years prior when the students staged a walk-out. The walk-out was a protest about their school situation and problems in the school. Two years later, the school was again out of control and unsafe. At the time, I was the chairman of the School Discipline Committee, right in the middle of huge problems. These huge problems forced me to develop a school discipline system that is efficient and effective. I have titled the system  Lecture & Pester and the Proactive and Persistent School Discipline System. Using this Lecture & Pester techniques and the Proactive and Persistent School Discipline System, the school was made safe and calm. This process of becoming a safe, calm, and productive school was accomplished in weeks, not months or years.

In the spring of 1996, The Teachers’ Union, with the approval of HISD, transferred me from AHS to Deady Middle School (DMS) for one month. DMS was experiencing large fights called “rolling thunder” that started at one end of the school and traveled the hallways throughout the school. Many innocent students were being hurt. Graffiti covered every square inch of the walls in the boys’ restroom, from more than twelve feet off the floor. Students must have stood on each others’ shoulders for hours to create this art work. The teachers were even afraid to go to the parking lot by themselves. For many, DMS was a hopeless situation. Two weeks after I entered DMS and applied the Proactive & Persistent Discipline System, the school was safe and under control and I returned back to AHS. Unfortunately, no one learned the techniques of the school discipline system, and two years later, a student was stabbed in the ear with a screw driver and died in the hallways of DMS.

These out of control, unsafe, and unproductive schools exist in every city and state in America. Would you believe me or label me crazy if I said every school in America can be safer, under control, and much more productive two years from now? Would you believe that eight parents trained in the this discipline system could tame a school in weeks? How can 4-6 Assistant Principals bring a major school under control in two or three weeks? The use of my school discipline can produce such results.

America, here is the rough blueprint and philosophy behind my school discipline system. The beauty of this discipline system is that it adapts to all issues and problems, while striving for new higher discipline goals.

The driving power behind the school discipline plan is called Lecture and Pester. Lecture and Pester provides the unpleasant consequences that will change 99 out of 100 students’ behavior. Lecture and Pester is the process of

  • Asking questions
  • Solving problems
  • Preventing transfer of blame
  • Using manners
  • Showing respect
  • Accepting responsibility
  • Establishing goals
  • Establishing self discipline

A student who is capable of changing his behavior and becoming self-disciplined should be considered a good student.  Lecture & Pester turns 99%of the student body into good students. Some students take a little longer to become good students. Students that don’t change their behavior find each new encounter with Lecture & Pester more unpleasant and frustrating. There are few consequences more unpleasant to teenagers than to be questioned, lectured, and pestered by adults about their discipline problems, time after time.

Here is one Lecture and Pester scenario to help explain the process.

Lecturer and Pesterer (LP): Excuse me, sir? (manners) Why are you in the hallway after the bell? (problem)

Student (STU): I’m just late to class. (minimizing)

LP: Well sir, just being late is not good enough. Just being late is not good for you or the school. Just is not good enough. (higher expectations)

STU:  What is your problem? Why are you doing this? This school is no good. Look at all the other people in the hall. (transfer of blame and responsibility for problem)

LP:  Well sir, we have decided to try and make the school better (establishing goals.) The first thing we need is to get everyone into class on time (setting goals and appropriate behavior). I can see there are a lot of people in the halls. I will be catching up to them, but I stopped you and you are tardy to class (school goal-personal goal). Can you get to class on time? (beginning the self discipline process).

STU:  Yes.

LP:  Excuse me sir. Yes what? Yes sir? (establishing manners and mutual respect- developing adult control)

STU: Yes.

LP: Yes what?

STU: Yes sir.

LP:  Thank you. Are you telling me that you can do this by yourself? (establishing self discipline)

Stu: Yes sir.

LP:  Are you saying that your word is good? Are you saying that I won’t have to deal with you again? (establishing goals for self discipline)

STU:  Yes sir, my word is good. (becoming self disciplined and accepting responsibility)

LP:  Okay.Thank you, sir, now please get to class. Do you need help getting into your class?

STU: No sir.

LP:  Okay, good luck. If you need help getting into class come see me. (problem solver)

Lecture & Pester has an infinite number of scenarios, but follows the same basic process. Lecture & Pester will change teenage behaviors when delivered on a consistent basis.

The school discipline plan that delivers Lecture & Pester on a consistent basis is called the Proactive & Persistent School Discipline System. The combining of Proactive and Persistent Discipline with Lecture & Pester will change the bad behavior of 99% of the student body. With patience and increasing persistence the remaining 1% of the student population can also change their behavior.  Highly effective and efficient discipline is created using Lecture & Pester Processes with the Proactive & Persistent School Discipline Plan.

Steps to Setting Up a Proactive & Persistent Discipline Plan In a School

First, someone must identify and admit to having a discipline problem in the school. For example, the tardy problem is a big problem in many schools. Therefore, let us solve the tardy problem.

Second, a group of Hall Masters are taught the Lecture & Pester techniques and Proactive & Persistent discipline processes. They will go through a few hours of learning and then to the hallways for hands-on  job training.

For example, It is time to solve the tardy problem. First we must establish adult control of the hallways. The first steps in establishing adult control are to become the big dog and the big voice in the hallways. The next step is to make students aware of bell system of the school. Therefore, five minutes before the tardy bell, with a big voice and a big dog attitude, start a countdown to the tardy bell. “Let’s go, let’s go, break it up over there…get off the wall…let’s get to class…four minutes to the bell…hurry, hurry…close that locker…say goodbye to your girlfriend…we want a better school, three minutes to go.”  Hall Masters work the countdown to the tardy bell.The bell rings and immediately, Hall Masters go into the Lecture and Pester mode. Tardy students are walked to their class as they are Lectured and Pestered about their behavior. Hall Masters walk and talk and put students into classrooms until the hallways are clear. After the hallways are clear, the Hall Masters have a quick meeting to discuss problems and to develop a proactive plan for the next period.

First period ends and five minutes before the second period tardy bell rings, the process begins again. Students are more aware of an adult presence and control of the halls. The hallways are becoming less of a comfortable place to hang out in. Students are becoming aware of the bell system. The bell rings and students are Lectured and Pestered again.

First period took fifty minutes to clear the halls. Second period hallways were cleared in fourty five minutes. Every hour, every day, every week, every month the hallways become more controlled by adults. In less than a month the classroom doors close, the hallways are clear and controlled, and there is no tardy problem.

The tardy problem was solved without sending hoards of students to the AP office. The massive paperwork, detention lists, detention halls and teacher duty stations associated with other discipline systems were completely eliminated. How and why did the school tardy problem miraculously disappear?

First of all, there are consequences that change behavior. Teenagers hate to be questioned about their behavior. They get tired of trying to justifying their wrong behavior. Each time a student goes through the Lecture and Pester process, the process becomes more difficult. As a history of earlier truths, lies, half-truths, and facts are mixed into the Lecture and Pester process, students run out of arguments, excuses, and justifications for their wrong behavior. Students discover the only way to escape the Lecture and Pester process is to change their behavior.

Second, the Proactive and Persistent Discipline System is an extremely effective and efficient program when compared with other school discipline systems. The largest and most dangerous problems in the school are identified, attacked, and solved. This system does not wait in offices for problems to show up. The system puts time and numbers on the side of the adults in the school. We allow good students (99% to 100%) time to change. Most students don’t change the first time they are caught, they wait to see if you can catch them again. When students understand and feel the discipline system catching up to them, time after time, with a steadily increasing regularity, they change their behavior.

Gangs, disruptive groups, and misbehaving individuals feel more isolated and less powerful each period. As adult control is established, every adult in the school becomes more empowered and respected by the students.

Third, administrators and hall masters become problem solvers. If a  student has no first period, we take him to a counselor and find a first period for him. If a teacher dismisses a class two minutes after the bell everyday, we go to the teacher and solve the problem. If a student says a teacher will not let me into class, we will find a solution to this problem. By solving little problems, students become confident to bring big problems to your attention– problems such as there is a handgun in the school or there will be a fight after third period.

Finally, as 99% of the student body becomes self-disciplined, the 1% of students that will not change their behavior are run through the old school discipline system. Old school discipline becomes more efficient and effective as discipline consequences are handed out to students who will not change their behavior.

With this school discipline system, there are only thirty students in a student population of 3,000 that are being run through the old school discipline system. The 30 real discipline problems of the school are processed quickly, put into discipline programs for longer times, isolated to a greater degree, and they are not allowed to return until they agree to change their behavior. These 30 students become powerful and effective messengers, that being self-disciplined is a very good idea.

As a general rule, schools do not allow parents into the school to observe the hallways, cafeteria, or other operations of the school. Schools will cite a fear of safety to you or the students if you are in the halls. This may be true, but if they fear for your safety, why do they allow your child to walk the hallways? Perhaps, they fear more that you will see that the school is unsafe and out of control. The greater fear is that parents may realize the school has no real solutions for solving the problems in the school. The greatest fear is that parents may band together and demand a safe school. American schools are in desperate need of much greater parent involvement.

With the use of Lecture and Pester and the Proactive and Persistent Discipline Plan, parents can be invited into the school. Administrators, teachers, and parents can work together to solve problems. Parents working with administrators can walk good students to class.

A school with a large tardy problem and hundreds of students walking the hallways divides administrators and teachers. Administrators assign hundreds of hours of duty stations, in the hallways and entrances to the school. A faculty meeting is called and a plan for classroom detention halls and in class punishments for tardiness is thrust upon teachers. Next, large hall sweeps occur and offenders are herded into the cafeteria by the hundreds. What are the results of such actions? Students find the weak spots and blind spots in the hallway duty plan. Administrators have created a plan that allows transfer of blame for the problem to the teachers. If a problem occurs in a stair well, administrators check the duty roster and assign blame. The teachers feel they are being put into duty stations that threaten their physical well being. Teachers are put in duty stations with little power or back up to do the job. How would you feel if you are a young, 100-pound female assigned to a isolated, dark, third story stairwell? What can a teacher do when rival gangs suddenly appear and a large fight occurs? Probably, the most prudent action is to run for your life and get ready to accept the blame.

Next, the in-class detentions and punishments run their course. Teachers send tardy students to the AP’s office. Tardy students return to class, thrust the detention slip into the teacher’s face and laughs at the teacher. The teacher and the student know he is not going to detention. Everyone in the school knows the discipline system has slim to no chance of catching up to him.

As teachers, we blame administrators and call them bad, lazy, and jusy plain no good. Should we blame administrators when most are the hardest working people in the school? AP’s are trying to prevent the school from exploding. They are working major problems of gangs, weapons, threats, drugs, etc. while forty tardy problems are sent to their office every period.

All to often, teachers get a second slip of paper from the office. This note informs the teacher that too many tardy problems are coming from your classroom. Maybe, you have inadequate classroom management skills and teaching abilities which cause so many tardy problems. If more students are sent to the office, a teacher assessment will be scheduled to observe your classroom. This is a veiled threat of a bad assessment of teacher performance. Most, teachers understand that any student behavior in class can be interpreted many different ways. A bad observation is the first step in removing job security. Most teachers stop the referrals to the AP office.

Hallway sweeps are now occurring. A thousand students are swept into the cafeteria. All morning is wasted writing detention slips and compiling detention lists for Saturday detention hall. Saturday morning 200 students show up for detention hall. They are the good students. These good students ask “Where are all the students who are always late to class and constantly in the hallways?” The good students are frustrated and mad. Eight hundred students sit home smugly laughing at the school, administrators, and teachers. They know the school discipline system has little chance of catching up to them.

A downward cycle of less respect for the school, administrators, and teachers takes place. More and more discipline problems occur in the classroom and the school. The discipline problems get bigger and more dangerous. Every day the school sits on a powder keg and everyone prays it won’t explode. Then one day a Columbine keg of powder explodes.

These explosions lead to a loss of hope in schools, finger pointing, transfer of blame to different groups, and a general feeling of hopelessness in solving America’s school problems.

America’s school discipline problem and many other educational problems can be solved by using the Lecture and Pester process and the Proactive and Persistent School Discipline System. 99% of our schools can and will be safe and highly productive. 99% of our students will become self disciplined and educated. 99% of our administrators will become heroes in their schools. 99% of all teachers will become good teachers.

I believe  inner city schools can achieve and compete on the same level as suburban schools. I feel that billions of dollars that is wasted on poor discipline can one day be used to further educate students. And sometimes, I believe that I am the only one in America saying these things can happen. A lonely voice declaring there is a solution and a way to solve our educational problems. I hope that others will see the promise, truth, and hope this discipline system can bring to America.

Finally, I have faith in the competitive spirit of America’s Public Schools. If one school or one school district out performs another school or school district using this discipline system, the race to the top has truly started.

The teaching profession  and teachers are a strange mixture. There is no greater profession. Without teachers there would be no doctors or lawyers. Without teaching, humans would be little more than protozoa. Teachers and society inherently understand the value of education.

Teachers have pride in their profession that few outside the profession comprehend or understand. Teachers receiving 40 year pins get standing ovations from the entire staff. As the staff claps, everyone expresses admiration and amazement at the fact that a human being could last so long in such a hard and unforgiving business.

Teachers, stay in the profession and fight on against incredible odds; much like a mother lion protects her cubs. Teachers know that without a teacher fighting for them, many students have little chance in life. This dedication and tenacity is both a blessing and curse.

The blessing of such passion are teachers that take on all challenges and obstacles in order to provide an education for students. These are the teachers who will fight through every humiliation, abuse, evaluation, or lack of respect provided by students, administrators, parents, and fellow teachers. I have known teachers that died  from stress, heart attacks and allergies to chalk dust, as their doctors begged them to leave the teaching profession.

This tenacity and determination to teach can also be a curse and a hindrance to the teaching profession. Teachers will  retreat to the classroom and lock the doors when dissension,  controversy, or issues become a problem. The classroom is the safe protected area where attacks and controversy can be avoided. One  of the quickest ways out of education is to challenge the principal or power structure of the school. Another quick ticket out is to question any policy, law, or theory about education. Also, a quick exit out is to say there might be a problem with discipline, student achievement, merit pay, teacher moral, or anything at all. In order to keep one’s job and help students it is often prudent to retreat to the classroom.

This retreat and isolation to the classroom has saved and prolonged many teaching careers. The retreat to the classroom and the isolation of the classroom is also a great weakness of the teaching profession. Because of this isolation and retreat by teachers to the classroom we have become the whipping boy of America. If there is a problem in education or America, then it is blamed on the teachers. We are the easy target that will not fight back.

Where is the collective will and voice of the American Teacher? When are we going to stand together and say enough is enough? When are we going to get mad enough to unlock the doors, step out of  classroom and fight for our students in the public arena? We are the sleeping giant of the professions. How many more Pearl Harbors do we have to endure before we wake up?

Teachers, we must wake up and take the whip from the insulting hand. The time has come to stand together on the local, district, state, and national levels to solve educational problems.

At the school level, honor and protect all teachers. We should honor and respect teachers of high performing classes and programs. We must also honor and respect teachers that take on the challenges of teaching low performing classes that also include individuals who may be a threat to society. We must not allow different forces and powers to divide the faculty into good teacher-bad teacher groups. There are few truly bad teachers in schools, there are many more bad teachers created by poor school discipline and policies. We must fight as one for the rules, policies, and attitudes that make us and the school the best.

The same process must occur at the district level. We must not allow low-performing, highly accredited school issues to  divide the profession. We do not allow Special Education students to be called low-performing. Perhaps there are schools in America that are more challenging than other schools?

At the state and national level, we must develop our voice and power to determine our future. We allow too many people outside our profession to speak for us. The policies, direction, and attitudes in the education arena are created without a strong input from teachers. Everyone else speaks up for teachers. The next time the Texas Legislature steps up to use funds from Teacher Retirement funds, may we have enough voice, unity, and political power to stop them.

As a nation we are aware of a huge bullying problem in our schools. Are we aware that not only the students are being bullied but also the teachers? As adults and teachers we must stand up to the bullying. The passive attitude of retreat and isolation must be replaced with an aggressive and united attitude. Teachers must develop the voice, unity, direction of purpose, and power to say,”WE WILL NOT BE THE WHIPPING BOY OF AMERICA”.

The sleeping giant of passiveness in the teaching profession must wake up. Only by waking up and standing up can we truly protect and fight for our students, the teaching profession, and the United States of America.

EDUCATIONAL SHELL GAMES

August 18, 2010

Movies from the 1930’s often show the “con game” where the con man has three peanut shells and one pea. The con man is matched up against someone trying to pick the correct shell the pea is under. A great con man is a manipulator and juggler of psychology, motivation, and odds. He knows the pigeon cannot win. The art of the con is keeping the pigeon and the crowd in the game, thinking they can win until they eventually lose. Educational shell games are set up the same way with the added bonus of the con men believing they are helping the pigeons win.

The Charter School concept is an educational shell game. Charter Schools  are the hidden pea under the shell. If you go to Charter Schools, then the gold will come your way. The idea is that Charter Schools will solve our education problem.

Charter Schools are a crooked shell game. They play the game with all the rules slanted their way. Charter schools pick  and choose who attends their schools. Only students that make a commitment to the school and themselves are allowed to attend. Students that fail to maintain this commitment and motivation are dismissed from the school.

Public schools cannot select who they want to teach. Public schools are required to teach whomever shows up. Therefore, when muggers, robbers, stalkers, and other categories of juvenile delinquents are released early from detention centers, they end up in public schools. The removal or expulsion of disruptive and dangerous students enrolled in public schools is a long and difficult process.

Years ago, Austin High School went on a campaign to expel disruptive and dangerous students from the school. Community leaders and politicians quietly and discretely asked the school not to expel so many students. An epidemic of break-ins, robberies, and vandalism were occurring in the neighborhood. Expelled students with too much time and opportunity were creating a serious problem for hard-working families. Austin H.S. cut the number of expulsions to the minimum.

Charter schools, magnet schools, etc. are set up to be successful. They are promoted as the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Everyone associated with these charter schools goes around high-fiving each other and patting each other on the back. All those associated with this charter school sham should take a second look at themselves. The heart and soul of teaching and saving America is the battle in low-performing inner city schools. Two years of teaching in tough schools would drive charter school teachers away from the profession. Real teachers fight the battle in old schools,with limited resources. They use their own money and time to reach as many students as possible. Every day they worry or cry about the ones they can not reach. They suffer further the indignity of being labeled low- performing by grading systems that do not test for real learning or teaching.

Testing is another pea in the shell game. Pass the test and you are high-performing. All schools have to do is pass the test and all of our educational problems will be solved. The gold will come when we have high test results.

We should ask some questions before playing this educational shell game.

How come they keep changing the name of the state mandated tests? In Texas , we have had TAAS, TAKS, TAGS titles for tests.

The first year I taught I was excited because our students had improved so dramatically. The test scores had gone up in every area. The dean of instruction quickly tempered my excitement. He told me the principal had opted out to take the easy Metropolitan Achievement Test. The dean said there were different levels of difficulty to the same test. The principal decided how he was going to explain the test results. Either test results were lower because the test was harder this year or test results are higher because of exceptionally hard work by students,teachers, and administrators.

The constant improvement in schools and districts tests scores and rankings for the past 20 years can not be rationally explained without changing the name of the test. By changing the name of the test are we playing an educational shell game?

Why are colleges saying students are less prepared for college? Why has the time new college students need to be in remedial classes increased over the years? Why do we have these trends in colleges when test scores and the number of exceptional and recognized schools has been going up decade after decade? Why do we put such faith in these tests when there has been no clinical studies to determine if these tests really test what they are suppose to test? Where are the tests to check how well prepared students are for life? Teachers teach the whole student. Teachers teach the rules and values of civilized society. Without the rules, ethics, philosophy social behavior, courtesy, respect for others, desire to learn, will to win, and teamwork taught by teachers and coaches, I believe our democratic society would have disappeared long ago.

How does the increasing number of dropouts and lower graduation percentages correlate with 20 years of improved test scores and higher school rankings? Hello!!! Are we looking at a bunch of educational shell games?

All this shuffling of peas in the educational shell game. These fixes will not solve our educational problems. The key to solving educational problems is establishing well-disciplined schools. Charter schools establish discipline by selective enrollment, picking students that have made a commitment, and dismissing students that do not fit into the mold. Public schools will be as successful as charter schools when discipline is established in our public schools.

One final thought, Professor Steven Unwin informs me that the word “education” has  Greek roots. In Greek, education also means “to lead out of.” Therefore, teaching is more than passing tests. Teaching is also leading students out of poverty, out of ignorance, and out of the darkness of despair to the light of hope.

School budgets across America are at a breaking point. Teachers are losing their jobs. Schools are closing. Enrichment programs and extra curricular activities are disappearing. School administrators are searching and asking for more money. President Obama is predicting more teaching jobs will be lost. School districts are facing huge shortfalls or deficits in their financial pictures. Why are we in this current situation?

The main contributor to our current school financial disaster is years and years of poor discipline in our schools. Poor discipline leads to billions of dollars being wasted each year. American schools can solve their financial problems by fixing their school discipline systems.

How can I make such statements? Because of what I have seen and experienced in the school system. It’s devastating. However, I have also implemented a school discipline program that quickly and effectively reversed the loss of money created by bad discipline.

My observations and statements have no statistical backing. Hopefully, common sense and rational thinking will overcome the need for statistical support. Personally, after years in school systems I don’t trust school statistics.

Austin High School  in the 1990’s had 3,000-3,400 students. The school had five full time police officers assigned to the school. Two Houston ISD officers, two Houston Police Department officers and one substance abuse monitor(SAM) made up the police force. Houston ISD has several hundred police officers on their payroll. These officers need cars, offices, command centers, communication devices, etc. Millions and millions of dollars spent each year for a police presence in schools.

Vandalism was rampant in the school. Windows and doors were constantly broken. The plumbing and toilets were persistent targets. The flooding of hallways and bathrooms were not an uncommon occurrence. How many tens of thousands of dollars were used for constant maintenance?

Graffiti covered every wall and door of the school. The plant operator and several custodians worked one or two days a weekend painting over graffiti, and the  anti-graffiti paint was very expensive. Thousands and thousands of dollars were spent every month on this anti-graffiti campaign.

Poor discipline starts adding up to real money when you start factoring in the cost of alternative schools, detention referral centers, after school detention halls, Saturday detention sessions, and extra assistant principals and secretaries to handle heavy work loads. Millions and millions of dollars involved in this process.

The above expenses are some of the more visible costs of poor discipline. The covert costs of poor discipline permeates throughout our society.

The major contributor to our dropout rate is poor school discipline. Students drop out of school when they feel vulnerable and at risk. Just saying ‘no’ and avoiding gangs and bullies are not possible in undisciplined schools. Poorly disciplined schools lead to situations where tens of thousands of instructional hours are lost each month. Schools lose money that come from average daily attendance and higher test scores. When bullies and disruptive students destroy the learning environment of a classroom, how much money is being lost?

The dropout and discipline problem becomes a billions and billions of dollars problem. Communities start after-school programs to try and reach these students. Community colleges and four-year universities are adding more remedial classes and time in an effort to get students to the college level. All these duplicate programs being implemented to get students to an acceptable level of knowledge and life skills. Then, let’s add more billions as the U.S. builds more jails to house those that don’t have the skills or knowledge to make society better. We all know it costs much more to jail a person than educate a person.

Finally, the U.S. loses an unmeasurable amount of money each year as our population becomes less educated. In an increasing competitive world we are less able to compete.

Therefore, if we truly want to balance our school and national budgets, we must fix our school discipline problems.

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.

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.