Posts tagged “The Quality School

Look Into the Discipline Mirror

It wasn’t lost on me that my last blog post, Aiming for Discipline Instead of Punishment, used the word discipline rather freely.  This was not a big deal to many of you. For you the title made sense and alerted readers to the content of the post. To others of you with a Choice Theory background, though, the word discipline may have stood out to you. If it did, just know that it stood out to me, too.*

A brochure Glasser created in the mid-70s that described his 10 Steps to Discipline.

The reason it stood out to us Choice theorists is that, beginning around 1990, William Glasser came to reject the idea of discipline as it was being applied in schools. In fact, he came to the point where he flat out stated that he no longer believed in school discipline programs, including his own.*  Yet here I am tossing the word around like that never happened.

William Glasser, 1977

Drawing on portions of the Glasser biography – William Glasser: Champion of Choice (2014) – it is clear that he saw discipline programs as part of the problem, not part of the solution. Noting the key elements of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, and also of the compelling ideas of W. Edwards Deming,* the biography describes how –

In the spirit of Reality Therapy, schools needed to place a high premium on supportive connections; according to Choice Theory schools needed to recognize that an individual is motivated to meet his or her needs in the best possible way at any given moment; and according to Deming, schools needed to relinquish the habit of coercing and forcing students to do school work and behave themselves. So important were these elements, especially the last element, Glasser would write The Quality School wherein he described the importance of managing students without coercion. He would later credit Deming with leading him to write The Quality School. The point is that as a result of these insights he began to disassociate himself from school discipline programs. “I was trying to get people to think in terms of preventing discipline problems,” he later explained, “and if I focused on discipline problems, I, in a sense, would be admitting that they’re going to happen, that they’re inevitable.” pgs. 296, 297

Dr. William Glasser (1990)

For Glasser, the focus had to be on the system, not on the student. Creative and committed efforts must be put into prevention of misbehavior that doesn’t rely on punishment. In one of his memos to his institute members he wrote that –

I believe that teachers are getting the wrong message: focus on the student’s misbehavior, not on the system. No matter how you do it, when you focus specifically on what a child is doing wrong, instead of putting all your effort into improving your relationship with that child, it is unlikely that the child will ever put you into his or her Quality World. pg. 311

And a short time later he wrote that –

I believe that discipline programs are stimulus-response based and focus on changing students rather than changing the system from stimulus-response to Choice Theory. I believe it is impossible for any school that focuses on discipline to become a Quality School. pg. 314

So now you may see why the word discipline should get our attention.

It is interesting to think about the origin and use of the word discipline. To do so is to look into a special mirror – a mirror that reveals your deepest management beliefs. For instance, you may see the word discipline and quickly think of definitions that hearken back centuries – definitions like penitential chastisement or punishment or treatment that corrects or punishes. Discipline from this definition family has everything to do with manipulating behavior through threats, discomfort, and even pain.

Hearkening back even further, though, is the word disciple, the root from which discipline comes. From this root, discipline is about instruction given, about teaching, and about knowledge. It is about mentoring and training. It is about a relationship and patient tutoring. Discipline, when seen through the lens of this definition family, becomes an act that is personal and supportive.

Discipline = Teaching and Mentoring Built on a Positive Relationship

It may be that your life so far, saturated in stimulus-response ways of being, has you seeing discipline as strategic manipulation, a necessary coercion in a world that operates according to external control. But as the two definition families remind us, there is another way. There is a discipline that focuses on relationship, teaching, and mentoring. Which do you want?

* I included this explanation at the end of the Aiming for Discipline post, which I want to say again here – Some of you may be like me and prefer the word management rather than discipline when talking about student behavior. However, the discipline word is the one I see presently being used in the educational literature. It may be that Choice Theory authors can in the future point out the importance of using the word management when referring to classroom behavior.

* Click here to link to a quick overview of what used to be Glasser’s Ten Step Discipline Model.

* Click here to access Deming’s 14 Management Points.


50 Years and the Price of True Success

Adrienne Nater, girls vice-principal at Oxnard High School in 1965.

Adrienne Nater, girls vice-principal at Oxnard High School in 1965.

I wrote about Adrienne Nater in the Glasser biography, Champion of Choice. In the same year that Reality Therapy was published, 1965, Adrienne was a vice-principal at Oxnard High School in Southern California. She read Reality Therapy and began to rely on the approach as she worked with student offenders. In spite of the documented success she was having by working with students in this way the school principal at the time didn’t like the methods and forced her to resign. In short, she liked the elements of reality therapy, successfully used them as she worked with students, and got fired for it!

A newspaper clipping from the Oxnard Press Courier, April, 1966

A newspaper clipping from the Oxnard Press Courier, April, 1966

This story would have slipped from sight and remained unnoticed forever had it not been for the fact that the Oxnard Press Courier ran quite a few articles on the situation during the spring of 1966. I stumbled onto newspaper clippings of the story in an old photo album sitting on the floor of a partially opened closet door in Glasser’s home office. I was immediately captivated by the story as I read through the now-yellowed articles. Glasser and his wife, Carleen, were also captivated by the story, and that led to a highlight moment during the biography interviews. Carleen got some help from Directory Assistance and, remarkably, within a few minutes was talking to the same Adrienne Nater on the phone. After a short explanation of who she was and why she was calling, Carleen handed the phone to Glasser. Try and picture it. Out of the blue, 40 years after losing a position because of the ideas of reality therapy, the author of Reality Therapy calls you. It was a special moment! (Several months later they met in person.)

William Glasser and Adrienne Nater meeting for the first time over 40 years after her leaving Oxnard High School.

William Glasser and Adrienne Nater meeting for the first time over 40 years after her leaving Oxnard High School.

One of the Oxnard Press Courier’s articles, under the headline Resigning Vice Principal Believes Her Theories Supported By Results, described how –

Miss Adrienne Nater’s give-and-take theory of discipline at Oxnard High School is difficult and time-consuming in practice, but she believes it pays off in benefits to the misbehaving student.

Her approach was one of the chief reasons why she was forced to resign as girls’ vice principal.

“If a child is sent to the office, I try to find out why,” she says. “I let her relate what happened and then I try to show her why she can’t be disrespectful. I don’t mete out punishment without letting the child know why. Control by fear and hatred is bad. I think the only way is through respect and understanding.”

School principal, Clifford Powell, says her forced resignation was “just a case of not being suited to her job.” District officials say her job is to discipline students instead of counseling them.

Miss Nater says “you can’t separate counseling and disciplining, and that her approach is similar to that of Dr. William Glasser, psychiatrist at Camarillo School for Girls. Dr. Glasser says his psychotherapeutic techniques of discipline do not prevent enforcement of conformity to regulations. Miss Nater says she ran onto his book, Reality Therapy, by accident. His technique is far more formalized than mine,” she adds.

“The truth is,” Nater says, “that not many teachers have received an education in the modern techniques of reaching these unhappy youths. They know only that discipline is sort of eye-for-eye and tooth-for-tooth throwback to the era when pain, humiliation, and embarrassment were thought of as educative processes.”

Miss Nater believes her technique “helps a young person find herself in some small way and so become a better member of our society. These young people are behind me because every one who got into trouble feels that she better understands herself through the new approach.”

Her student supporters have started a drive to retain her. Their parents also have joined the campaign by signing a petition being circulated.

More Oxnard newspaper clippings from the spring of 1966.

More Oxnard newspaper clippings from the spring of 1966.

Another Press Courier article quoted Adrienne explaining that –

“I simply can’t go along with traditional discipline. In generations past a vice principal was supposed to be thoroughly feared and hated. Traditionalists seem convinced that hatred is constructive. I know better, and so does Dr. Glasser out at the Ventura School for Girls near Camarillo.”

“I follow Dr. Glasser’s philosophy in every sense of the word because it works in maintaining discipline and it leaves the disciplined youngster on your side.”

Miss Nater is perfectly honest and willing to admit that all her life she has rocked boats. “Not because I deliberately set out to do so, but because I was very early trained to think for myself, to make my own decisions, and to follow practices and policies that, to me at least, seemed the most effective and efficient.

Petitions and protests, including by parent groups, and even including local church priests and pastors, did not prevail, though, and Adrienne Nater, after being forced out, went on to serve her community in other ways. One of the Oxnard Press Courier editorials ended by pointing out that –

“Miss Nater would have no trouble finding another job. Oxnard High School might have a lot of trouble finding another vice principal who could win the confidence of students.”

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.

I couldn’t agree with this editor’s insight more. I thoroughly enjoyed my interviews with Adrienne, since I knew immediately that her story needed to be a part of the biography. In spite of our visits and all the details of her career experience we talked about, she recently surprised me again with information that just has to go in future editions of the biography. She recently read Champion of Choice for the first time and, as a result, we re-connected.

In one of her emails she brought up a name that she and I had never talked about, but that she was reminded of as she read the book. Keep in mind that after leaving Oxnard High she stayed and worked in the Oxnard / Simi Valley area. Here is what she shared –

“This is so astounding: Brad Greene and I were colleagues in Simi. I remembered that he was selected to lead Apollo by his administrative buddies because he was not quite up to their standards of being a good Christian. This difference was not acceptable. Brad was placed in his position as a punishment. He made them eat dirt.”

William Glasser and Brad Greene, 2004 (Jim Roy photo)

William Glasser and Brad Greene, 2004 (Jim Roy photo)

Brad Greene was the principal featured in one of Glasser’s best books, The Quality School: Managing Students Without Coercion (1990). Glasser heard about Brad and went to Apollo High School to meet him and explore the possibility of becoming involved at the school. Glasser and Brad formed a very good working relationship and Glasser maintained a regular presence at the school, working with teachers and students, as he began to write the manuscript for The Quality School. Brad Greene and Apollo High School learned a lot from Glasser, but Glasser would be the first to emphasize how much he learned from Apollo High School. There was so many things Apollo was doing right even before Glasser arrived on the scene.

Glasser's experience at Apollo High School with Brad Greene was an important part of The Quality School.

Glasser’s experience at Apollo High School with Brad Greene was an important part of The Quality School.

The Quality School did well as far as copies sold and Brad attained nationwide notoriety because of it. He went on to become one of Glasser top trainers, traveling across the country to help others understand the concepts of reality therapy and choice theory. The thing is, though, that Brad hadn’t gone looking for notoriety or for cross-country travel. Even as others thought they were punishing him by putting him at an alternative high school out in Simi Valley, Brad focused on helping kids and creating a school in which they wanted to attend. His superiors may have thought he wasn’t Christian enough, yet he helped to create a school that really cared about students, a very unique group of students at that, and sought to help them attain their diploma.

Two stories of amazing educators who sought to live and teach the principles of reality therapy and choice theory. One lost her job over it, while the other got transferred to a school nobody else wanted. Yet they persevered, always looking out for kids, and always trying to inspire their colleagues to do the same.

Happy 50th Anniversary to Reality Therapy!!

Happy 50th Anniversary to Reality Therapy!!

This year marks the 50th anniversary of Reality Therapy, whose ideas have rocked the world of therapy ever since. I can think of no better way to acknowledge Reality Therapy’s importance than to share the stories of Adrienne Nater and Brad Greene, two quietly powerful people who live the principles of Reality Therapy every day.


According to The Quality School


Another recent study1 confirms what many previous studies have already indicated, that delaying high school start times increases the amount of sleep that adolescents get, improves their emotional states, improves their alertness and performance at school, and even reduces the teen car crash rate2. It would seem with these kinds of results that schools would quickly move to change the start of the school day until later in the morning. Even small delays in start times can lead to statistically significant improvements. Such scheduling changes aren’t taking place, though, at least to any noticeable degree, and students continue to battle fatigue, including drinking lots of coffee, deal with depression in growing numbers, and struggle to do well in academic content.

I recently gave my Secondary Methods students a choice of reading one of Glasser’s books that focused on educational practice. Several of them chose his book, The Quality School (1990),which outlines the elements that contribute to a school being a student-friendly place in which they can become the best versions of themselves. I don’t recall Glasser specifically talking about school start times in The Quality School, however I am confident that, given the data, he would support later school day start times if were still around. (He liked to sleep in, too.)


When I first read The Quality School as a young principal in the early 90s, I can remember thinking that I wanted to be a part of such a school. Later, during my doctoral research I analyzed the book more carefully and developed a list of elements that Glasser felt Quality Schools would prioritize. I include that list below.


According to The Quality School

Relationships are highly valued – especially between students.

Staff and students like coming to school.

No student will be able to say, “No one cares about me.”

Cooperative learning is a common instructional format.

Focus is on quality; low quality work is not accepted.

There is no busywork.

There are no bad grades; B’s are required to receive credit.

To receive an A, students would have to produce something beyond competence.

Grades can be improved.

No nonsense is taught or tested; no objective tests, all tests are open book.

There is no compulsory homework.

There is no elitism.

Rules are kept to a minimum.

There is no punishment.

Parents are not asked to fix problems at school.

When students get into trouble and need to be suspended, there is no set suspension time. The suspension lasts as long as needed for the student to address the mistake.

Students may be asked to leave class.

The keys are 1) eliminating coercion, and 2) incorporating self-evaluation.

A loving, flexible environment is more valued than a rigid, threatening one.

Focus is on changing the system, rather than on changing students.


School start times aren’t mentioned on the list, but I would like to think that a school wanting to become a quality school would be open to such a change. Of the elements that are listed above, which of them appeal to you as more important and more needed? Which of them are you more skeptical about? As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts with the rest of us.


1. An article in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, by Boergers, et al., 2013, described how later school start times improve sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents.

2. A study described in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, by Danner and Phillips, 2008, indicated the following: Average hours of nightly sleep increased and catch-up sleep on weekends decreased. Average crash rates for teen drivers in the study county in the 2 years after the change in school start time dropped 16.5%, compared with the 2 years prior to the change, whereas teen crash rates for the rest of the state increased 7.8% over the same time period.


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