Posts tagged “classroom management

Zero Tolerance Is Out, Making Amends Is In

The cover article of a recent ASCD Education Update newsletter was titled, The Path to Least Suspensions, which got my attention, although it was the subtitle – For minor offenses, zero tolerance is out and making amends is in – that really got my attention.

Rather than harsher responses involving punishment, schools are “embracing alternative student discipline” which includes strategies like volunteer opportunities, cool-off periods designed to de-escalate a problem before it turns into something bigger, and cultural competency training.

Schools are beginning to view discipline differently, with some seeing it as a commitment to restorative justice. “Unlike traditional punitive discipline policies,” the article explains, “restorative justice focuses on repairing a harm that was committed—whether to another student or teacher or to the school community –rather than simply meting out a punishment.”

Donna Chewning, a school mediator in Richmond, Virginia, admits that “restorative justice can sometimes be misunderstood as being Kumbaya for everybody,” but points out that “schools and districts that have embraced restorative practices are seeing notable outcomes.”

Other strategies mentioned in the article that seem complimentary to Choice Theory include –

+ Restorative Circles, which sound similar to a Problem-Solving class meeting.

+ Time out or cool off areas that are staffed by adults who are there to support them, rather than punish them.

+ In-school, instead of out-of-school suspensions.

+ Teachers learning to use restorative dialogue with students to build relationships and better understanding.

+ Asking reflective questions like What actually took place? How were people affected? What responsibility can you take? How can we come to a solution so this doesn’t happen again? and How can we get along better?

A key piece of restorative justice is about students righting their wrongs or making amends. “Students can clean up the mess that they made,” Chewning says, “and in doing so can learn something.” Students might ask to be sent home for a couple of days – Just suspend me they plead – instead of working through the restorative justice steps, however schools are sticking to the process and seeing good results.

Making amends sounds a lot like Restitution, a school discipline practice Glasser rejected, along with all other forms of school discipline programs, in 1996. I wrote about Glasser’s 1996 decisions in detail in his biography – Champion of Choice. The strong position he took causes me to pause when I see articles like this one. He was convinced that any focus on the student being the problem or on changing the student would backfire and cause more harm than good. Discipline programs at their core, he pointed out, were all focused on changing the student.

It is possible that the trend toward making amends instead of punishing students is showing improvement compared to the awful results of the coercion/punishment system it is replacing, yet at its core can still be missing the mark. The idea of making amends is a more humane, more need-satisfying approach, but it, too, will ultimately backfire if educators are applying it in an externally controlling way. This is what Glasser was trying to alert us to.

Teachers have admitted to me that, after learning about Choice Theory, they eventually resorted to using “internal control” strategies in an externally-controlling way. After experiencing a Choice Theory class they were good at first with being more Choice-Theory-like, but then they felt themselves slipping back into old habits. There is something remarkably appealing about external control.

Making amends can be applied in a spirit of external control, which is not good, however I think it can be applied in a spirit of internal control instead, which can be powerful. It is powerful, for instance, when you see a student resolve a wrong and in the process also see shame being replaced with dignity; it is powerful when you see confidence return and relationships restored.

The book Education, written by Ellen White in 1903, described this very situation –

The true object of reproof is gained only when the wrongdoer himself is led to see his fault and his will is enlisted for its correction. When this is accomplished point him to the source of pardon and power. Seek to preserve his self-respect and to inspire him with courage and hope.   Education, p. 292

The spirit of Choice Theory has to be present for the process of restoration to work. Making amends is better than traditional punishment, but if applied coercively will lead to resentful, rather than restored, students.


Happy Fathers’ Day!!

Today is graduation day (June 18, 2017) at Pacific Union College, where I teach in the teacher credential program. We have an outdoor graduation and it is slated to get to 105 degrees today. It is only supposed to get to 92 by the time the ceremony is over, though, so bring a jacket.


Looking forward to The Better Plan 1 class beginning a week from tomorrow here at PUC (June 26-29). It is very need-satisfying for me to witness people in the process of discovering how Choice Theory can change their lives in significant ways!


The two books that I have written — Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Educators (2005) and William Glasser: Champion of Choice (2014) — both comment on issues related to today’s blog post. There is a chapter in Soul Shapers called Getting Into and Out of Trouble that presents the process of redemptive discipline; and the chapter in Champion of Choice called Decision in Australia gives a comprehensive explanation of Glasser’s decision to reject school discipline programs. Both books are available in hard copy or digitally.

Always Default to Compassion

By my definition, she is a special missionary. The article she wrote doesn’t talk about which religion she follows, or that she is of any religious persuasion at all. Yet, as an urban middle school teacher where 99% of the students, because of grinding poverty, receive free lunch, she fits that definition in my book.

Elizabeth Peyton teaches at an urban middle school for refugee and immigrant kids. In describing herself she writes, “I spend all day with the most challenging, hilarious, exhausting group of people I can imagine, and I’m extremely grateful for it!” Her love, enthusiasm, and insight caught my eye and the points she made in her article took on a special significance to me.

A 12 year veteran teacher, Peyton admits that early in her career she tried to rely on everything from discipline models that sweated the small stuff to positive reward systems that affirmed the good stuff. Such strategies might in some way work for some, but she has embraced another approach. “Here’s the secret I’ve found for working with poor kids,” she writes. “You ready? It’s pretty simple. Always default to compassion.”

What does compassion look like and sound like? She offers –

A kid shows up late. “Everything ok. We missed you.”

A kid doesn’t have his homework for the fourth time this week. “Hey, is something going on that making it hard for you to get your work done? This is really important, and I want to make sure you’re able to do what you need to do.”

A kid throws a tantrum in class. “Wow, you’re really struggling with self-control. Can you tell me why? Are you hungry or tired?”

For those whose basic needs are being met, it is all too easy to underestimate the trauma kids experience outside of school (and sometimes, unfortunately, in school). When mom and dad are under stress, when living conditions are at risk on a daily basis, when it is “tough to sleep because people are constantly screaming or shooting off guns in your neighborhood,” it is hard to get homework done and even to be able to concentrate in school.

Peyton shared a situation she worked through that really represents what she is trying to say –

Starting with compassion increases the odds that you’ll find out what’s really going on and be able to actually help your students. A couple of years ago, one of my girls stopped doing her homework and paying attention in class. As a new teacher, I’d have assigned a detention and hoped that solved the problem.

Instead, I asked her what was going on. I found out that her dad – her sole surviving parent – had been arrested the week before for driving without a license. This seventh grader had been living on her own for close to a week, and getting herself to school on time every single day, but the food was running out and she was hungry and afraid. We bought her groceries and bailed her dad out, and her grades went right back to where they should have been.

Compassion builds relationships,
where a more aggressive approach will burn bridges.

Will kids ever take advantage of this kind of compassion? Peyton says that it has happened to her, but not very often. Compassion more often leads to the truth, and for that reason, she points out, “it’s better to err on the side of understanding than to be overly harsh.”

Punitive discipline is harmful wherever and whenever it is used, but especially so to vulnerable students. In the end, Peyton offers, “Compassion is the way out. I don’t promise it’ll solve all your classroom management problems, but it’ll go a long way. Treat a kid like a decent person and, more often than not, he or she will act like one.”

I don’t know if she has had Choice Theory training, but if not, Elizabeth Peyton is well on her way to being a Choice Theory teacher. Because they tap into principles and the deeper truths of life, she discovered the ineffectiveness and harm of the Deadly Habits and the effectiveness and healing of the Caring Habits.


Besides William Glasser, an architect of Choice Theory, I recall another choice theorist who would very much agree with Ms. Peyton. That other choice theorist, Ellen White, an insightful, and even inspired educator, wrote in 1903 –

In gentleness teachers will set before the wrongdoer his errors and help him to recover himself. Every true teacher will feel that should he err at all, it is better to err on the side of mercy than on the side of severity.   Education, p. 294

I wrote a book comparing William Glasser’s ideas to those of Ellen White, an unlikely duo, yet their beliefs are amazingly similar. That book is called Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Educators (2005). Should I ever update Soul Shapers, I would definitely want to include the ideas of Elizabeth Peyton, too.


Just a reminder: I will be teaching a summer class at PUC based on Choice Theory concepts called The Better Plan. It would be great to have you be a part of it. Get in touch with me if you have questions.

The Better Plan 1   June 26-29


 It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.
e.e. cummings


Dog Saliva, Pecking Pigeons, and Children

Gwen Webster is standing in the open doorway of her fourth-grade classroom. One moment she is looking out to the playground where most of her students are playing and the next moment she turns to look into the classroom where two students continue to sit. She has kept the two students in because they have not finished their assignment. She had certainly warned them of this possibility, but they wouldn’t get to work, so now she has determined to “increase their concern about finishing the work.”



Except, as she looks back into the classroom, neither Vaughn nor Laurel seems the least bit concerned about their work. And so Gwen stands in the open doorway, fretting just a bit about the cold of the winter morning air exchanging places with the warmth of the heated classroom through that open door, and fretting just a bit that she can’t be with her colleagues, whose classrooms shared this recess time, chatting in a small group out by the playground equipment.

As her frustration grows, Gwen Webster begins to think about other ways to make these kids get their work done. Tony got his work done, although as she looks at the disheveled worksheet that he thrust into her hand before zooming out the field to play football with his classmates she realizes that what he completed barely merits a passing score. Yet he turned something in. What is with these other two kids? she thinks to herself. And so she stands in the doorway, her left side feeling the warmth of the classroom, her right the chill of the winter air, and continues to think about what she needs to do to get Vaughn and Laurel to finish their assignment.

She looks at Laurel, who is quietly reading a book at her desk, seemingly oblivious to her teacher’s concern. And then she looks at Vaughn, who is quietly yet angrily sitting at his desk. Well, he can be as angry as he wants, she again thinks to herself. As far as I’m concerned, he can sit there until the cows come home, but that assignment will get done. She looks at her watch. Still 10 minutes to go for recess.



This excerpt from Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Educators (2005) is based on a common classroom occurrence – that being, students don’t complete work so the teacher comes up with a response intended to make them do it. Let’s continue with the excerpt and see what we can learn from Gwen Webster.


   Earlier in the morning she had threatened to keep students in from recess if they did not finish their assignment. A number of the students got to work and finished it on time. Was it wrong for Gwen to think that she made them do their work? They hadn’t been doing their work, but she intervened and made them do it. Right? As you are thinking about this, let’s examine the experiences and thinking of several of Gwen’s students, including Laurel and Vaughn, who are still sitting at their desks.

Avery is one of the students out on the playground. He is an excellent student and actually was enjoying the social studies worksheet. He does well in all of his subjects, even the ones he doesn’t particularly like. He likes to read and is good at organizing his thoughts and writing them out afterward. He knows he is considered smart by others and wants to continue to be viewed that way. The approval of his teachers and parents is important to him. When his teacher was threatening his classmates to get to work, Avery was so focused on completing his assignment that he was only vaguely aware of what she was saying. He was now out on the playground, but the fact that he was out there had nothing to do with his teacher threatening him and making him do his work.


Kendra is also out on the playground, even though she is not known for being an excellent student. Kendra is actually quite bright and is, in fact, gifted in the areas of music and art. She isn’t that exited about reading, and struggles a bit with writing her thoughts out, unless it is lyrics to a song. She was one of the students that got to work when her teacher threatened to keep people in who didn’t finish the assignment. She likes recess and figured the work wasn’t that big of a deal. She also didn’t want to get on her teacher’s bad side. Better to do it now, she figured, than to have to do it at home later. One of her favorite TV shows was on that evening, and there was no sense in jeopardizing that. She didn’t consciously process all of these thoughts, but regardless, she ended up choosing to finish her work on time.

Tony was another matter. He is kinesthetically gifted and seems to be a classroom leader, although his leadership is not always appreciated by his teacher. Actually, he is smart in other ways, too, but so far people have caught only occasional glimpses of the kind of quality work he can produce. He is a good reader and writer when he wants to be.


On this particular morning he and some of the other boys had been talking about the football game on TV last night, and that had led to some bragging and such; next thing you know, teams had been divided in preparation for the “big game” during the morning recess. Tony took this pretty seriously and was working on getting ready for the game, assigning positions for the guys on his team and making new plays instead of completing his assignment. When he first heard his teacher threatening to keep students in from recess, he looked at the clock and figured he would have time to get it all done. But as recess time grew closer, his thinking changed from I still have time to get this done to She won’t really make us stay in if we don’t have it done.

A conversation Tony overheard between his teacher and Vaughn convinced him that she was serious, though it was too late. Tony panicked as he saw that only kids handing Mrs. Webster a completed assignment could head to the playground. His powers of intelligence kicked in and he scanned the paper to assess what he could do to fix the situation. He quickly realized that while reading the assigned section in the textbook would improve the quality of the answers, one could actually answer the questions without doing the reading. This he quickly proceeded to do.

He presented the assignment, a bit crumpled and a bit hurried, to his teacher while glancing out to the playground to make sure that the teams looked right. “Oh, all right, go ahead,” Gwen Webster said, indicating for Tony to head for the door of freedom to the playground. She could see that his answers were hurried, but he did turn something in. His worksheet might have been hurried, but the three pages of football plays stuffed in his pocket were really quite good.


All of Tony’s plays were designed on the principle of faking out the other team. Send all of your players to the right, except for a halfback who delays and then goes out to the left. The play is meant to make the defensive team think that the play is heading a certain direction when actually it is going the exact opposite direction. Gwen Webster had just been faked out. As she stood in the doorway telling Tony he could go out to the playground she wasn’t satisfied with the quality of his work, but she did feel that she had succeeded in “making him” do it and turn it in. In fact, this was not true. Tony had reasons of his own, motivations that were important to him, that prompted his choice to get his work done.

That brings us to Laurel and Vaughn, still at their desks, and still not having started the assignment. Laurel sits with her knees curled up to her chest (not easy to do on a classroom chair) and reads a book she has brought from home. She is an excellent reader and a good student, even an excellent student at times. She has an inner strength about her that is noticeable, a self-awareness, if you will. Her answers are thoughtful and usually come from a perspective that is unique compared to that of the rest of her classmates. Her classmates are important to her, and she is also aware of and talented with social connections. She has a tendency to be “up” or “down,” though, which can be hard to figure out until you get to know her.

On this morning a couple of things are on Laurel’s mind. One is not so important, the other is very important. The less important thing is the fact that she left her house this morning without her jacket. She thought she had left it in the car the day before, but when she got to the car it wasn’t there, and they were already running late, so she arrived at school without it. The more important thing has to do with the fact that she and Stephanie are in a tiff, and now some of their mutual friends are involved. Laurel thinks, is sure, in fact, that they are going to snub her at recess. Stephanie is acting as if I should apologize to her and it telling our friends that, when in fact it should be Stephanie apologizing to me, Laurel thought to herself as she sat at her desk, curled up and reading. She didn’t want to have anything to do with any of them. So there! she added silently, yet emphatically.


Without insightful probing, there isn’t much chance that Gwen would know what is going on in Laurel’s thinking. And the issue for us at the moment isn’t what Gwen could have done or said as much as it is the need for us to realize that Laurel is motivated by thinking and perceptions that are important to her. The teacher’s threats did not overrule the fact that she did not have a jacket and didn’t really want to go outside, or that she was in a tiff with her friends and would just as soon not have to deal with them right then. Laurel is an example of a person who makes a choice, even in the face of threats or punishment, for reasons that have to do with internal motivation.

Vaughn is another such example. Vaughn sits at his desk, still and seething. His little heart is beating a bit faster, and if he had a pencil in his hand at the moment he would probably break it. Vaughn is actually quite bright, but most people miss his brightness and focus on his troubled life. Vaughn is at school because his grandmother is paying for the tuition (she can barely afford it on her fixed income, but the church is helping a bit, too). He lives with his mother (another story in itself) and his little sister. No one seems to know anything about the missing dad.


Although young, Vaughn already feels that he has to fight to get his “place in life.” He lives by the adage that “it isn’t important that you get good attention or bad attention, as long as you get attention.” To be sure, most of the attention that Vaughn gets is bad attention. Other students care about what their teachers think of them; Vaughn doesn’t seem to. Other students want to go to this school; Vaughn doesn’t. He seems to range from defensive to aggressive, and adults seem to talk a lot about what to do with Vaughn.

He doesn’t read much, as there are almost no books at home. He doesn’t write much either, although he is certainly capable of both. He looked at the social studies worksheet when the teacher handed it out, but nothing on the worksheet grabbed him. It was just one more thing that he was supposed to do in school. He delayed a bit in getting started, since he was somewhat involved with some of the football talk going back and forth. Ted had encouraged him to get his assignment done so that he could be on Ted’s team.

Vaughn was actually getting his textbook out of his desk to get started when Mrs. Webster first announced that anyone not finishing the assignment would not go out to recess. The more he thought about what she said, the more it bugged him. People are always trying to make me do stuff, he thought to himself. I don’t want to do this stupid worksheet anyway. She can’t make me do it. Better yet, maybe they’ll kick me out. At his young age Vaughn had only a vague appreciation for his own reputation, although that sense was growing. Something inside was driving him to be unique, to be himself, to create his niche.

“People behave for TOTALLY personal reasons.”

   Gwen was beginning to engage in a “fight” with Vaughn, though not on purpose. She would not have described it as a competition, but that is what it was. If pressed, Gwen would have said that “for Vaughn’s sake I am going to win this thing.” Again, the key at this point isn’t reviewing what Gwen was doing. The key is understanding that Vaughn sat there seething and determined for reasons totally inside of himself. Regardless of her arsenal of stimuli, Gwen was not going to make Vaughn do much of anything.


The story of Gwen Webster, Laurel, and Vaughn explains how people behave for totally personal reasons – not occasional personal reasons, not some personal reasons, not even for mostly personal reasons. Again, people behave for totally personal reasons. This is the key to internal control psychology. It is a key to understanding and applying Choice Theory.

Boss-managers firmly believe that people can be motivated from the outside:
they fail to understand that all of our motivation comes from within ourselves.
William Glasser

This excerpt from Soul Shapers is taken from a chapter entitled – Dog Saliva, Pigeons, and Children – which explores the effects of stimulus-response strategies in homes and classrooms. Soul Shapers can be easily accessed through Amazon. I was recently informed by my students that a cheap digital copy of the book is available through Google Books.


Learning to Choose

It’s important to provide students with choices, right? Students like school more and their learning improves when they experience elements of freedom and choice in how they are managed and in how they attack their assignments, yet teachers often struggle to provide such choices. They decry its inefficiency or share examples of how students can’t handle choices. Teachers simply want their students to choose to learn, but the thing is, have teachers helped students learn to choose?


The new ASCD book selection, Learning to Choose, Choosing to Learn (2016), by Mike Anderson, explains not only why learning to choose is important, but also introduces strategies for teachers to begin sharing learning choices with students.

Key points from the book include –

+ Students Self-Differentiate
All human beings are motivated to learn – when the learning is relevant and when it isn’t too easy or too hard. Because of this, when given appropriate options for reading, researching, or completing assignments, students can be helped to self-differentiate. Students can learn to know the level at which they function best and strive for the same learning objectives as the rest of the class.

+ Student-Centered Choice Can Exist with Academic Standards
Standards provide a content learning target, which is very helpful, but this doesn’t mean that students cannot have choice when it comes to how they will reach for or hit the target.

+ Students Will, at Times, Choose Poorly, but Poor Choices Are as Much about Learning to Choose as Are Good Choices
It may be hard to give students the option of making a poor choice, but they can learn a lot as they correct its effects. Rather than standing by and hoping for the best when students stumble, teachers can coach and mentor students at a time when the student is especially open to a better way of doing things.

+ Purposeful, Positive Relationships Contribute to a “Learning to Choose” Environment
Real choices often present an element of risk – do I stay in my comfort zone and focus on what I already know or do I become willing to grapple with new learning, maybe even to the detriment of my grade? Such choices within a classroom are public choices. Students know when classmates are “going for it” on a project or assignment. Such risk is possible when teacher-student relationships, and student-student relationships are warm and supportive.

+ Guide Student Thinking, Not Their Choices
The goal is to help students make decisions for themselves. This is another way of affirming the choice theory belief that teachers need to help students effectively self-evaluate, whether that self-evaluation has to do with a completed assignment or with a decision about whether or not to go to college. The language an adult uses to guide student thinking is subtle, yet important. For instance –

Instead of . . . “This choice is easier and this one is harder.”
Try . . . Choice A involves two-digit numbers and Choice B involves three and four-digit numbers.

Instead of . . . “If you really want a challenge, this one is for you.”
Try . . . “Think about the level of challenge that is the best fit for you.”

Instead of . . . “I think this is the best choice if you are interested in animals.”
Try . . . “This choice involves animals.”

Instead of . . . “If you like to move while you work, this is the choice you should pick.”
Try . . . “If you like to move while you work, you might consider a choice that involves movement.”

Instead of . . . “Meagan, you should pick X.”
Try . . . “Meagan, which one seems like a good fit for you?”

This “Instead of / Try” list is one of many such boxes and tables found in the Learning to Choose book. The author wants the book to provide practical help for any teacher wanting to more frequently speak the language of choice. The book certainly reminded me about the importance of choice in the classroom, and it taught me ideas and strategies that I can put to use right away.

While important in its implications for the classroom, the book also reminded me that learning to choose is not a skill we automatically attain upon reaching adulthood. There are too many examples of adults “stuck in a rut,’ too many examples of dreams not reached, goals not completed or even started, too many damaged relationships and dysfunctional families, and too many occurrences involving hate and violence to be able to claim that the masses have learned to choose well. Learning to choose is a classroom skill, but more importantly it is a life skill. Every child that comes into a better understanding of how to choose becomes a better adult in the future – a better spouse and parent, a better employee or boss, a better neighbor and citizen. This importance cannot be overstated!


A short video about Student Voice and Choice


Get the Glasser biography – Champion of Choice – from Amazon quickly and at a good price. Let me know if you would like a signed copy.





How To Parent Like An FBI Agent

I don’t make this stuff up. One of the sidebar titles in the recent edition of Time magazine (January 25, 2016) read How to Parent Like an FBI Agent. “Some spycraft techniques also work for parenting,” says a former FBI special agent in his new book, The Like Switch: An Ex-FBI Agent’s Guide to Influencing, Attracting, and Winning People Over.


The sidebar listed four main techniques –

Create the illusion of control
FBI agents de-escalate drama by letting subjects call some shots.
Offer kids a list of options, all of which you already like.

Use the scarcity principle
FBI profiling shows that people like things they can’t get much of.
Parents should factor that in when banning an activity or a friend.

Ask indirect questions
Kids (and perps) hate being interrogated.
Instead, try queries like “My friend’s son was drinking. What should his parents do?”

Hang in there
The more time you spend with a person, the more influence you have on each other.
Yes, even on teenagers.


Parenting might be the most challenging of all human endeavors, and remarkably we don’t have to receive any training or pass any performance assessments to become one. As a result, parents are usually pretty desperate for tips and ideas on how to parent better, even when the advice is from law enforcement agencies. (Maybe especially when the tips are from law enforcement.) So what are we to make of these four FBI recommendations? What follows are thoughts through the lens of choice theory.

Create the illusion of control
Choice theory is about truly empowering others. Parents and teachers must share power in age-appropriate ways that leads children to ultimately become able self-managers. There are no illusion strategies in choice theory, no tricky ways to exert control, even as you are acting otherwise. Kids seem to possess excellent “manipulation detectors” and will sooner-rather-than-later sense when they are being coerced into certain behaviors.

“Creating the illusion of control” underscores one of the challenges for teachers. It is no easy thing to shift from wanting to control kids to wanting to coach them into controlling themselves. Choice theory offers understanding and a skill set to help with this shift, but old habits do not die easily.

Oh, my goodness! What can I say? When we talked about this in the Soul Shaper class I didn’t really think it applied to me. I recognized how external control I had been up to that point and I was fully convinced of the value of choice theory and the need for me to make a change – both at home and in the classroom. But thinking this way within the confines of the Soul Shaper classroom and applying it a couple of months later in my own classroom are two different things. I just didn’t appreciate how steeped I was in my need to control! During the Soul Shaper class, Jim Roy would talk about teachers taking the internal control ideas of choice theory and then using them in externally controlling ways in their classroom. We all laughed at the irony of that possibility, never thinking for a second that we were capable of that. Now I know different. I am capable of it, in fact, very capable of it. I started seeing the ways in which I shared the least amount of control possible. In other words, I gave out just enough for the kids to maybe think I was giving them a choice, when I was keeping all of the real keys to power. One thing I have learned during this process is that choice theory really gets to the heart of who I am and what makes me tick.   Sophie T.

Choice theory is not about illusion; it is about authenticity and honesty. It isn’t about fake power; it is about really empowering others.

Use the scarcity principle
Instead of saying “use the scarcity principle,” a choice theory parent or teacher would say “be aware of the scarcity principle.” I agree that withholding something or taking something away from a person tends to increase the desire for that very thing. This is one of the drawbacks of traditional punishment strategies that are based on the removal of privileges, and if that doesn’t work “we’ll just remove more privileges.” Trying to control a person through punishment almost always backfires. Choice theory reminds us, whenever possible, to replace things that have been taken away with viable alternatives. Without new things or alternatives to take the old behavior’s place, it is much more difficult to introduce and maintain the new replacement behavior.

When my kid basically left home at 19 I was shocked. I thought things were pretty good between us. What I didn’t realize was how accommodating he was as a child. I was controlling and even angry, but for years he did what I told him to do. When he got old enough to do what he wanted to do, he kind of flipped me off and left. It killed me, but I couldn’t really blame him. It was my way or the highway and he took the highway.   Carl M.

Ask indirect questions
Questions are good, especially artful questions that help a child or student to self-evaluate and then form a new behavior plan. As I have said before, it is better to get something out of someone’s mouth than it is to put it into their ear. The key lies in the spirit of our questioning. Are our questions more accusation than inquiry; more interrogation than problem-solving? Are we listening to correct and censure or are we listening to understand? Indirect questions are by nature less confrontational and seem to invite discussion rather than argument.

Hang in there
When I saw the phrase “hang in there” I was reminded of the Reality Therapy principle of Never Give Up. This principle, though, has more to do with than simply spending time together, as the FBI approach seems to indicate. Our ability to influence is more about the quality of our connection with our child or student than about the amount of time we spend together. When asked how long “never give up” means, Glasser wrote that “each of us must define ‘never’ for ourselves, but a good basic rule of thumb is to hang in there longer than the student thinks you will.” I don’t know if this is the best explanation for never give up. For me, it means just what it says. As long as another person is willing to keep trying, to consider a new plan, I think I would want to keep trying, too.


The words kids and perps appearing in the same sentence should alert us to a possible conflict, although a good sentence might be – The better we treat kids, the fewer perps there will be.


The Ship Is Turning

Connection - Brene Brown

Large ships, like oil supertankers, are not very nimble. Their size (1,200′ and longer) and their weight (some carrying almost two million gallons of crude oil) and their speed (over 20 knots) combine to create momentum that requires serious planning ahead when it comes to stops and turns.  Stopping a loaded supertanker can take five miles or more (even with the gears in full reverse) and turning requires a radius of five to ten miles.


The education system can be compared to a supertanker in that it seems to take so long for meaningful change to take place. Based on several recent articles, though, it appears the supertanker of education is turning! Of special interest, these significant changes are directly tied to the principles of choice theory.

An article (May, 2015) in Phi Delta Kappan – Relationships: The Fundamental R in Education – is an example of a recurring theme in educational journals for several years now. “Adolescents need to feel cared for,” the article opened, “if they are to succeed in school.” More than warm fuzziness, caring relationships are based on tangible action. Important for young children, certainly, however more and more it is being recognized just how important caring, supportive relationships are for teenagers. The article emphasized points many of us could rattle off without even reading it: 1) establishing a safe, academically-focused culture, 2) helping each student to see their own role as a classroom stakeholder, 3) teaching students how to effectively communicate, both in what and how they say things, as well as the importance of listening, 4) fostering friendships between students, 5) inspiring students to embrace respect and to express respect to one another, and 6) encouraging and expecting responsibility.

Use personal pronouns. “I care enough about you to be involved, to be your friend.” Spend a few seconds throughout the day reinforcing involvement.  William Glasser (1974)

These are the kinds of ideas and behaviors that Dr. Glasser emphasized throughout his life. He started off talking about the need for involvement between therapist and client or between teacher and student. For him, involvement was about a warm, caring regard that therapist or teacher would have toward the client or the child with whom they worked. This caring connection, for him, was vital to success. Only as students felt connected to their teachers and to their fellow students could they thrive in a classroom setting.


It got my attention even more when I saw some of the headlines in the most recent edition of American Educator. On the cover it proclaimed, “Seeding Change in School Discipline: The Move from Zero Tolerance to Support,” while the first article’s headline read, “From Reaction to Prevention: Turning the Page on School Discipline.” The opening paragraphs describe this change well –

We stand today in the middle of an important debate on the role, function, and practice of school discipline. There can be no question that any approach we implement should strive to create a school climate that is safe, orderly, and civil, and that teaches our children basic values of respect and cooperation. The key question revolves around the best way to accomplish that goal.
For some 20 years, numerous policymakers responded to concerns about school safety and disruption with a “get tough” philosophy relying upon zero-tolerance policies and frequent out-of-school suspensions and expulsions. But research has overwhelmingly shown that such approaches are ineffective and increase the risk for negative social and academic outcomes, especially for children from historically disadvantaged groups. In response to these findings, educational leaders and professional associations have led a shift toward alternative models and practices in school discipline. District, state, and federal policymakers have pressed for more constructive alternatives that foster a productive and healthy instructional climate without depriving large numbers of students the opportunity to learn.


I have written about this before, but it needs to be said again. When Glasser was working at the Ventura School for Girls (a prison school) he learned from the girls that rather than their troubled homes being the cause of their path to getting into trouble and eventually into prison, they explained that it was getting into trouble at school, and then being suspended or expelled that put them onto the streets and ultimately into prison.


“From Reaction to Prevention” – written over 50 years later – strongly confirms that suspension and expulsion are “in themselves risk factors for negative long term outcomes,” which affect not only the student but also society as a whole. To put this in clearer terms –

The Council of State Governments’ report Breaking Schools’ Rules: A Statewide Study of How School Discipline Relates to Students’ Success and Juvenile Justice Involvement found that suspension and expulsion for a discretionary school violation, such as a dress code violation or disrupting class, nearly tripled a student’s likelihood of involvement with the juvenile justice system within the subsequent year.

A get tough approach based on external control rewards and punishments wasn’t the answer 50 years ago and it isn’t the answer today. The article states that three keys are needed toward the creation of effective discipline alternatives: 1) relationship building, 2) social-emotional learning, and 3) structural interventions. Choice theorists can readily embrace relationship building and social-emotional learning, as these are the essence of what choice theory is about. Choice theory, in fact, has much to offer in these two areas. The third key, structural interventions, is not so easily embraced. By structural interventions the article is talking about management models based on a humane, choice-oriented format.


Glasser’s Ten Step Approach to School Discipline            (circa 1974)

Glasser began to be uncomfortable with school discipline models in 1990 and completely rejected them in 1996, citing his belief that by their very nature discipline models focused on changing the kid, rather than on changing the system that led to the misbehavior in the first place. Additionally, he cited that he didn’t like things that were “cooky-booky.” He even rejected his own 10-Step Plan, though it didn’t contain even a shred of external control. I agree with Glasser’s concerns, as I have witnessed first hand how hard it is for teachers to really shift from external control, with its rewards and punishments, to internal control, with its focus on all individual behavior being purposeful. In spite of this agreement, though, I think it may be time to re-look at what choice theory has to offer when it comes to classroom management.

Choice theory, while present in some school districts, is not a major player on a national scale when it comes to school leadership and classroom management. It should be. In its absence, other models – like Positive Behavioral Intervention & Supports (PBIS) and The Responsive Classroom – are more than happy to fill the void. Teachers need the theory of choice theory, but they also need the key steps in the application of the theory. A model, framework, or structure is needed for those just beginning the journey. There is a danger in adopting a structure, as it can be misunderstood and misapplied, but it seems like there is also a danger in not having one, that being the danger of becoming irrelevant.

Regardless, though, the ship is turning! We can celebrate that school systems are more ready than ever for change when it comes to classroom management. Educators and researchers agree that get-tough approaches based on reward/punishment don’t work. With schools in desperate need of classroom management alternatives, what can choice theory offer them? Certainly a wonderful theory and compelling ideas. A framework? A model? Hmm . . .


Brene’ Brown and William Glasser are right – we are hardwired to connect with others. Management plans that don’t acknowledge and embrace this truth cannot succeed.



Don’t become too preoccupied with what is happening around you.
Pay more attention to what is going on within you.
Mary Frances Winters

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

Mary Harris Jones, who came to be known as Mother Jones, was an Irish-American trade union activist and a child labor opponent. The Mother Jones magazine was named after her and is know for its journalism to inform a more just and caring world.

Mary Harris Jones, who came to be known as Mother Jones, was an Irish-American trade union activist and a child labor opponent. The Mother Jones magazine was named after her and is know for its journalism to inform a more just and caring world.

A recent article in Mother Jones explains that negative consequences and punishment just make bad behavior worse. The following link allows you to check out their explanations for yourself.

What If Everything You Knew About Disciplining Kids Was Wrong?

The article was a good read for me, thought-provoking, not reflecting my views in every detail, but overall very much reflecting the principles of choice theory. What follows are some of the key points the article makes, which may provide you a shortcut to hearing what the article has to say.


School-to-Prison Pipeline
Chronic trouble-makers at school all too often become involved in the court system, which all too often leads to a lifetime of incarceration. The expression school-to-prison pipeline has become more common in the literature as data consistently exposes the connection between misbehavior at school and the criminal justice system later in life. This school to prison connection is especially significant with Hispanic and African American students. The article makes the point that “Teachers and administrators still rely overwhelmingly on outdated systems of reward and punishment, using everything from red-yellow-green cards, behavior charts, and prizes to suspensions and expulsions.” (In 2011-2012, records indicate that 130,000 students were expelled in the U.S., 7,000,000 were suspended; and 250,000 received some form of corporal punishment, even though only 25 of the 50 states still allow it.) The article emphasizes that external control responses to student misbehaviors may appear to gain momentary peace, but in the long run these strategies make the problem worse.


Consequences Have Consequences
Ed Deci’s research (Univ. of Rochester) has found that “teachers who aim to control students’ behavior, rather than helping them control it themselves, undermine the very elements that are essential for motivation – autonomy, a sense of competence, and a capacity to relate to others.” (To a choice theorist that sounds like Freedom, Power, and Love & Belonging.)
Carol Dweck (Stanford) has “demonstrated that rewards-even gold stars-can erode children’s motivation and performance by shifting the focus to what the teacher things, rather than the intrinsic rewards for learning.”

Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, whose research is having a growing impact across the US and beyond.

Carol Dweck, the author of Mindset, whose research is having a growing impact across the US and beyond.

Harshest Treatments for the Most Challenging
We consistently treat students as if they don’t want to behave when maybe it isn’t that at all. Maybe they don’t have the tools to take in a social setting and respond appropriately, or to be aware of their own emotions and manage them in a way that works for them and others. It turns out there is now an entire population of kids who are “overcorrected, overdirected, and overpunished. They have habituated to punishment.”

Focusing On the Real Problem, Rather Than Punishing
Talking with students and really listening to them, in fact, helping them to communicate what the real problem is can be incredibly meaningful in the life of that child. As our attention shifts from to “meeting a student’s needs to simply trying to control their behavior,” the results are tangible and profound.


The Goal Is Self-Control
Students can be taught to create a personal success plan for any of the challenges or misbehaviors at school. Their plan, then, isn’t something imposed on them by someone else, like a teacher, but instead is something they have thought through and developed. The teacher can be a resource during the process, but isn’t there to make the child do something.

Making Things Worse
Ross Greene, author of The Explosive Child and Lost at School, as well as the founder of the non-profit Lives in the Balance, has been an advocate for students who misbehave to be treated differently. “Behaviorally challenging kids,” he says, “are still poorly understood and are still being treated in ways that are adversarial, reactive, punitive, unilateral, ineffective, and counterproductive. Not only are we not helping, we are going about doing things in ways that make things worse. Then what you have to show for it is a whole lot of alienated, hopeless, sometimes aggressive, sometimes violent kids.”
Greene was initially trained in the Skinner method of behavior modification, but his early work led him to question what he was trying to do.

Dr. Ross Greene

Dr. Ross Greene

Things Can Get Better
Brains are changeable. Students can learn new skills and tactics that affect their own behavior and motivation. Positive relationships are one of the key factors contributing to this kind of change. Prison guards at Long Creek Youth Development Center, a correctional facility in Portland, Maine, complained after receiving training in Greene’s methods, but they changed their minds as they attitudes change and recidivism rates plummet. One guard said later, “I wish we had done this sooner. I don’t have the bruises, my muscles aren’t strained from wrestling, and I really feel like accomplished something.”

Focus On the Difference You Can Make At School
Educators can be quick to blame the students’ homes for the students’ inability to perform at school. Greene points out that this focus is fruitless. What teachers can do is focus on the six hours they have students under their influence during the school day. Glasser would certainly agree with that! He learned from the girls at the Ventura School for troubled teenagers that their getting involved with the criminal system and eventually getting into prison wasn’t because of their poor homes. The girls explained that their homes might not have been that great, but they weren’t necessarily that terrible either. What got them on the road to real trouble, they said, was when they failed at school and then dropped out. That’s what put them on the streets, which then led to their collision with the juvenile court system.

So, what if everything you knew about disciplining kids was wrong? It’s possible to change. A growing number of educators are seeking more humane ways to work with students, especially those students who misbehave. The ship is turning as more schools pursue beliefs and strategies like those of Glasser’s Choice Theory and Greene’s Collaborative and Proactive Solutions. I’m glad you’re a part of the journey!



I’ve been in Bermuda since last Wednesday, and had the privilege of presenting choice theory concepts to the staff of the Bermuda Institute of Seventh-day Adventists, a 12 grade school on the island. It is an impressive operation, reminding me a little bit of the schools I visited in Beirut, Lebanon. They are a team of incredibly committed educators and I wish them the best as they begin the new school year on Monday! I hope to stay in touch with them in the future, this blogsite being one of the easy ways to do just that.


New copies of Soul Shapers are now being published by the Pacific Press, instead of the Review & Herald. The quick copies that were created for the recent Atlantic Union in-service sported a simpler cover (no graphic of a heart-shaped cookie cutter), yet I think the content of the book remains the same. Some of you were getting in touch with me because you were unable to find copies anywhere. Hopefully, that problem is solved now.

This original cover may be a thing of the past. We'll see what the Pacific Press does with the book.

This original cover may be a thing of the past. We’ll see what the Pacific Press does with the book.

Me Management

A role play during The Better Plan 2 class, which just ended yesterday.

A role play during The Better Plan 2 class, which just ended yesterday.

I am getting more requests to share The Better Plan with principal and teacher groups. The invitation follows a similar pattern – someone reads the Soul Shapers book, or hears me giving a short talk somewhere, and they ask their principal or superintendent if my sharing The Better Plan in their neck of the woods could be arranged. The person doing the inviting, the superintendent or director, may not have read Soul Shapers, yet here they are about to give the hearts and minds of their educators to someone they don’t know much about. And so I get asked, “Now what is it you present?”

Classroom clean-up almost done following The Better Plan 2 class. It has been a very meaningful week.

Classroom clean-up almost done following The Better Plan 2 class. It has been a very meaningful week.

I was actually responding to an invitation this past week at the same time that The Better Plan 1 class was in session. So I explained the situation to them and asked them to write a half page on what they saw as the essence of The Better Plan. They were asked to write to one of the following prompts:

The Better Plan is –
What I learned from The Better Plan is –

Their responses, which appear below, are instructive and invitational to each of us.

The Better Plan is about empowering individuals to choose. Unlike a classroom management class, which focuses on children being better controlled by the adult, I actually found it to be a me-management class. It makes a case for abandoning traditional methods and embarking on a new adventure – an adventure of becoming what we want our students to become.   Karie

What I learned from attending The Better Plan is that although we have been engrained with external control, we actually were created with free will. Choice theory, it turns out, compliments the way we are wired.     Lisa

What I have learned from The Better Plan is how to be more inclusive of others’ Quality World. I have learned that we have certain biases that cannot be avoided, because of how we view the real world through the lenses and filters we have had through time. Realizing that others also have these biases, and then being willing to explore each others’ perspectives can lead to a better world.   Tammy

Though I am trying to figure out exactly what it means. I do know that it means we choose everything we do, even our misery. Now I am trying to figure how I will apply it to my life and in my classroom. I also understand what it is not. The Better Plan is not coercion or manipulation; it is not the “deadly habits” or external controlling behaviors. So, since I know what it is not, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I will strive to not coerce, manipulate, use external control and deadly habits in my life and classroom. Vickie

The Better Plan is a way of thinking about the world, especially when it comes to how we view other people. Primarily aimed at helping those in education professions, it is applicable to all human relationships – marriage, parenting, work settings, and boards. The Better Plan teaches us to understand Choice Theory, which maintains that we can only control ourselves; we cannot control anyone else. To work together effectively, we must seek to develop relationships, rather than attempting to use the “deadly” habits of criticizing, blaming, complaining, nagging, threatening, punishing, bribing, or rewarding to control. While these deadly habits are all too common in our family and work relationships, we can begin to practice this Better Plan by intentionally applying Choice Theory practices and continuing to learn and teach what we are learning to those around us.   Brad

What I learned from The Better Plan is that kids learn in many different ways. They think differently than teachers and just because the teacher sees it one way doesn’t mean the student will see it that way, too. In order to reach students, teachers need to involve them in making the learning meaningful. Education must be need-satisfying for students.     Kory

The Better Plan is about inspiring students to be responsible for themselves, to strengthen the many positive qualities they have, and to invite them to live by faith, grow in the Holy Spirit, and choose a life with Christ.   Leslie

What I have learned from The Better Plan is . . . so much. The most powerful part of the whole thing, though, is this – the only person I can control is myself. BAM!!   Krystalynn


It's even hard to erase the white board after The Better Plan 2 class.

It’s even hard to erase the white board after The Better Plan 2 class.

I really like the idea of “me-management” as a way of describing The Better Plan. I like the idea that The Better Plan honors the way in which God originally created us and wired us. I like that it sees the individuality of students and seeks to meet their unique needs. And I especially like that The Better Plan helps each of us grow in the Holy Spirit and choose a life with Christ.

Me Management and the Total Package

So, is The Better Plan about classroom management? I could answer that question with a Yes and I could answer that question with a No. Maybe a better way to ask the question would be “Will The Better Plan affect my classroom management?” The answer to this last version of the question is a resounding Yes! “What’s the difference?” you might be thinking.

When we learn about choice theory and its principles begin to influence our thinking and our behavior, it affects all of our relationships and everything we do. It positively infiltrates every aspect of our lives. It is like wearing a pair of glasses with a color-tinted lens. Everything we see is different than before. Our relationship with Jesus is seen in a new light; our relationships with the significant people in our life are seen differently; and yes, if I am a teacher, the way I manage my classroom will be profoundly and wonderfully affected. More than just a classroom management strategy, The Better Plan is about the total package of our lives!

Freedom Calls Us to a Higher Standard


Why do external enforcers like threats and punishments not work as well as an internal control environment based on freedom? Maybe some insights from sixth graders can help shed light on the topic.

“It’s weird, I know, but that’s how things work. My old teacher was big into control, lots of threatening and punishing. Probably more threatening, but it was pretty constant. Names on the board, calling parents, staying in from recess, and not being allowed to go on field trips. We saw it all. Then a different teacher comes in and changes things. We have rules and all, don’t think we don’t, but it’s different. For one thing, the classroom doesn’t feel like a Zap You kind of place. If you mess up, you need to take responsibility for what you did and deal with the situation. The new teacher actually helps you deal with the situation, too, if you want him to.   Ryan

Before you didn’t feel trusted. You always felt like you were bad somehow, even when you weren’t being bad. Sometimes I acted kind of bad because I felt like, whatever, I’m bad so I might as well act like it. Now I feel like we are trusted more, and it’s like, if I’m trusted I don’t want to break that trust. Do you know what I mean?   Lauren

It was like a competition. You’d come to school kind of wondering   . . . well, like . . . I knew what the teacher wanted and expected from me, but he made such a big deal of forcing me to be that way that I wanted to do the opposite. I wasn’t like that in the lower grades, but I turned out that way in the sixth grade.   Tyler

We all feel freer. Our new teacher wants us to enjoy school. He really does. He doesn’t let us get away with stuff, but we really don’t want to get away with stuff like before anyway. Before it felt like school was kind of a fight every day; the new guy just took the fight out of it. Before I dreamed up ways to cause a little ruckus, now I don’t do that.   Taylor




I like how Desire of Ages (1898) says that “Our little world is the lesson book of the universe.” (p.19) Said another way – we are God’s classroom. And apparently he has had to make the same kind of decisions in his classroom that we make in ours. Hmm . . . force or freedom? In his letter to the believers in Rome, Paul explained that we “no longer live under the requirements of the law. Instead, we live under the freedom of God’s grace.” (Rom. 6:14) As we study God’s classroom management plan two words become more and more important – love and choice.

Just prior to the birth of Jesus, Desire of Ages describes how –

The earth was dark through misapprehension of God. That the gloomy shadows might be lightened, that the world might be brought back to God, Satan’s deceptive power was to be broken. This could not be done by force. The exercise of force is contrary to the principles of God’s government; He desires only the service of love; and love cannot be commanded; it cannot be won by force or authority. Only by love is love awakened. (p.22)

God created us with the power of choice and He places incredible value on our freedom. One of the reasons I am drawn to the concepts of choice theory is that it provides me with a psychological framework that complements my view of God, and further helps me to include freedom and grace at home and at school. I want to do what works and freedom and choice do that – they work.



I want to welcome teachers from the Upper Columbia Conference who are now following The Better Plan blog. I hope you will feel free to add to our conversations about non-coercive living. I have very good memories from my time as one of the superintendents in Upper Columbia. Thank you, Sharon Searson, for letting teachers know about The Better Plan.



Click here to access Soul Shapers on Amazon – new copies are going for around $12; used copies for around $4. Contact me at for a signed copy.



Mistakes, Mischief, and Mayhem

There are some things we just never forget!

The phrase “mistakes, mischief, and mayhem” turned out to be one of those things for me. I first saw it in Jane Nelsen’s book, Positive Discipline (1981, 2006), twelve years ago, and it made such an impression on me that it has become a part of my management paradigm, a kind of beacon that, combined with choice theory, helps to point me in the right direction.


Nelsen felt that classroom behaviors can be categorized as either mistakes, mischief, or mayhem, and that our management strategies need to keep these levels of behaviors in mind. For the sake of clarity, the following definitions will help –

Mistakes – misbehaviors that are just that, mistakes. It is easy for us to forget how complex a classroom can be. There are so many expectations regarding how students relate to one another, how they relate to things, how they relate to places, and how they relate to time. Additionally, each of them comes from unique backgrounds that differ greatly. Most of the “misbehavior” in classrooms fit into the mistakes category.

Mischief – misbehavior that has an element of intentionality. It may not have a meanness element to it, however it is distracting, probably draining to the teacher if not corrected, and takes away from the learning environment.

Mayhem – misbehavior that breaks a rule and crosses the line of civility and respect, whether the behavior is directed at fellow students, teacher, or things within the classroom. Mayhem behaviors involve disrespect, disobedience, and/or destruction. These are serious misbehaviors that require a student response, maybe in the form of an action plan to prevent the misbehavior in the future, which also may involve steps to restore what their misbehavior harmed (e.g. – relationship, trust, broken object).

It becomes plain that misbehaviors are not all equal and that a mistake is vastly different than mayhem. Treating each of these misbehaviors on the level they deserve can greatly affect the learning atmosphere of the classroom, and will allow teachers to head home each day without a pit of worry and tension in their stomach.


One common mistake for teachers is to treat any and all misbehavior as mayhem. Teachers may not know about the concept of Procedures or have forgotten about their value and treat all behavior, or lack thereof, on the level of Rules. A student forgets to walk into the classroom after recess – Bam! – he broke a rule; a student leaves her desk and gets a drink during a teacher presentation – Bam! – she broke a Rule. Treating everything like mayhem creates a controlling, tension-filled space that foments rebellion in all kinds of forms.

It is freeing to teachers when they acknowledge that most misbehaviors are simply mistakes that can be prevented or corrected through the use of Procedures. Mistakes don’t have to be about getting in trouble or being punished. Procedures are taught, reviewed, and rehearsed, and when students forget a Procedure they are reminded of it and probably asked to rehearse it correctly.

Harry Wong emphasizes that the first two weeks of school should focus on learning Procedures. Once students “get” the idea of Procedures and know the Procedures needed to get the school year started the classroom environment is then ready for students to “soar!”

Using Procedures to provide helpful classroom structure will prevent most of the usual behavioral issues, although there may still be students who are mischievious in class in a way that distracts from the learning. It is common for mischief to include clowning and various forms of pranks. Mischief can be reduced and eliminated by 1) consistently implementing the Procedures, and 2) creating a need-satisfying classroom. By need-satisfying I mean a classroom where the teacher is intentional about helping students meet their need for purpose, love and belonging, power, freedom, and fun. In other words, planning activities, events, and opportunities for students with a high need for power to meet that need, and students with a high need for fun to meet that need, and so forth. As teachers we don’t just hope this happens or merely allow it to happen, we plan for it to happen.


Lastly, we hope that mayhem behaviors never occur in our classroom, but inevitably they do. Kids sometimes behave poorly, sometimes very poorly, and when they do we must confront the behavior and assist them toward forming better behaviors. It is important that teachers convey compassion to the student being confronted, but this compassionate spirit should not prevent dealing with such behaviors decisively. Mayhem behaviors (e.g.- defiance of the teacher, attacking another student verbally or physically, willful destruction of school property) may involve a time out or in-school suspension and may involve the student developing a plan to restore what was broken and prevent further incidences in the future. As the teacher I need to have a sense that the student understands the importance of kind and safe behavior and that s/he can make a commitment to kindness, respect, and cooperation. We can’t expect perfection, however we can expect a willingness and a desire to grow in these areas.

And so the 3Ms of classroom behavior are Mistakes, Mischief, and Mayhem. Treating each of them for what they are will go a long way toward student success this year!


Chris Kinney, who teaches at Lower Lake High School, and who was featured in the August 20, 2013, blog (Good Morning, Mr. Kinney) right here in The Better Plan, invited me to come and talk to people at his school about the new Glasser biography and about choice theory in general. So, I will be doing just that tomorrow evening, September 11, from 6:00-7:00 pm. He put together the following flyer, which is really well done. I would love it if local choice theorists could attend this event!



The quickest and cheapest way to access William Glasser: Champion of Choice is to purchase the eBook version at the following link –

Now priced at $17.73 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been submitted. (We've been stuck on 16 for a while.)

Now priced at $17.73 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been submitted. (We’ve been stuck on 16 for a while.)

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