Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Discipline is Distracting

To focus on discipline is to ignore the real problem: We will never be able to get students (or anyone else) to be in good order if, day after day, we try to force them to do what they do not find satisfying.
-William Glasser

Often we express sincere frustration when we can't get someone (who usually has less power than us) to do what we want them to do.

When we catch ourselves or others making this complaint, we need to resist engaging in carrots and sticks -- instead we need to first reflect on the task that we are demanding be done. 

If it is sincerely something that no one would ever want to do willingly, then we shouldn't be surprised that we are met with resistance.

If it is something that we would sincerely wish others to be inherently interested in and authentically engaged with, then we must move away from doing things to people to gain compliance and shift towards working with people in an effort to encourage engagement.

The real problem isn't that you can't get them to do what you want - the real problem is that they don't see why they would want to, and force won't solve this problem; in fact, it will only make things worse. 

Which is why discipline is distracting.


  1. It sometimes bothers people when they see that I have a fairly quiet (though not silent) class and the kids are respectful and when they ask what I do for discipline and I say, "Not much, really. Sometimes if a kid is really out of line, we talk about it together. I usually start with 'describe what happened' followed by 'what need of yours wasn't being met.'" It sounds so counterintuitive, but Glasser is dead-on when it comes to discipline. Nobody says, "I really want to act like an asshole today."

    Trust, humility, engaging lessons, autonomy, creativity - those are the building blocks of classroom leadership.

  2. Sometimes it's a struggle, a worthwhile struggle, but a struggle nonetheless. When you get kids who say, "I don't know," to what happened and what need wasn't met it's more difficult to motivate. I ask for input, I give choice, I make room for creating but when students in each of my classes just want to play games and watch funny YouTube videos all period I get antsy.

  3. instead of discipline, constructive criticism do CPS - collaborative problem solving



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