38 Chapters
Medium 9781934009079

Chapter 8: Schoolwide Discipline

Allen Mendler Solution Tree Press ePub

The principal is the most important source of inspiration, support, and leadership needed to facilitate change within the school. Because effective schoolwide discipline requires that people of differing perceptions and roles work collaboratively, it is the principal who must set an effective tone for this work. Leadership requires an active principal whose presence is felt and who sets the tone by having clear, consistent rules.

A leader is unafraid of accountability to staff and students and demands the same from them, respectfully and with dignity. A leader is visible in the halls and cafeteria and at the bus stop. He smiles, greets his staff, knows the names of his students, and most important, garners community and parent support by reaching out in ways such as making home visits. A leader is able to see the larger picture and coordinate community resources from businesses and churches, law-enforcement and private agencies, in order to maximize all possible input to the school.

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Medium 9781934009437

Chapter 6: Tips for Handling Tough Moments

Allen Mendler Solution Tree Press ePub

6 Tips for Handling Tough Moments

When students challenge our authority, it takes professionalism to know not only what to do but how to do it in a dignified way.

—Barbara Mendler, Educator

LEARN NOT TO TAKE OFFENSIVE BEHAVIOR PERSONALLY

Mrs. Kendall asked Shirelle to stop talking to her buddy, and Shirelle angrily responded, “F--- off!” Mrs. Kendall replied, “Shirelle, you are obviously having a horrible day. I wish I could help you but I can’t right now, so can you collect yourself, or do you need to leave for a few minutes?” Shirelle continued, “Damned right I am having a lousy day. I haven’t seen my old man in months, and my mom has cancer. You’d be having a bad day too if you were in my shoes!” Mrs. Kendall said, “You’re absolutely right, Shirelle, and my heart aches for you. But I must remind you that I didn’t cause these things to happen, and I don’t deserve that kind of language. We’ll talk later.” Shirelle soon apologized for her outburst.

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Chapter 5: Dealing With Power Struggles

Allen Mendler Solution Tree Press ePub

Prevention is the most effective form of discipline. We have found over and over that those teachers who attend to the basic needs that drive behavior, and build their classrooms in need-satisfying ways, have fewer discipline problems throughout the year. Even in the best of circumstances, there are children who test the limits, and are uncooperative and unmoved, despite your best efforts. In most instances, when rules are broken, the best way of responding is with privacy, eye contact, and proximity (P.E.P.). If the teacher is close, quiet, and direct, most children will readily accept a consequence. When a child will not, however, I have found de-escalation the best way of dealing with this.

While there are no ready-made steps or exact sequences by which to measure your response, a sequence similar to the following may help you frame a reasonably comfortable way of dealing with these moments. Most of us can become easily unnerved and quickly angered when children challenge our authority in front of the class. These “What are you going to do about it?” moments can be tense and uncertain. We all need short-term, effective, and dignified things to say and do when a student becomes challenging or simply refuses to accept a reasonable consequence.

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Chapter 2: Principles of Effective Discipline

Allen Mendler Solution Tree Press ePub

Most discipline programs incorrectly place their emphases upon strategies and techniques. The latest gimmick is offered to get Johnny to behave. The problem is that there are a lot of Johnnys out there, and not all respond according to how the text or technique says they should. Having worked with thousands of children and adults, I have concluded that it is fruitless to expect that any technique will work with all people who present the same symptom. Before prescribing treatment for a headache, the competent physician needs to get at the source of the problem. A headache may reflect many different underlying problems in different people—stress, eye problems, migraine, fatigue, or a tumor. The competent teacher needs to get at the reasons or functions of a given maladaptive behavior to formulate a strategy likely to work.

By way of illustration, I am reminded of an elderly woman whom I saw at a group home for mentally handicapped adults. She unexpectedly began having tantrums. Her tantrums were specific: She would remove her protective helmet (prescribed for a seizure disorder) and throw it at people. This was quite out of character, as she was normally a rather docile person. Since she lacked the language skills to articulate her problem(s), the staff could only guess what might be on her mind. They approached me about this problem. My first thought was that, in all the years of my work and writing, not once have I encountered the problem of what one should do for helmet throwing. Obviously, the most sensible immediate strategy would be to duck!

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Medium 9781934009437

Chapter 7: Building Relationships

Allen Mendler Solution Tree Press ePub

MUCH OF WHAT RICK CURWIN AND I HAVE ADVOCATED for years in our books and articles has essentially been the need to prevent discipline problems by improving our relationships with students and finding ways of preserving these relationships when we need to intervene in student behavior. Motivation is no different. There are simply times when learning is not fun, students cannot understand how it will benefit their lives, and lessons will not be geared to an individual’s preferred learning style or intelligence. Learning to remember the times tables can be a painful yet necessary exercise for many students, and one unlikely to be relieved through entertainment.

When my son was an advanced placement physics student greatly challenged by the material, he was actually reassured to hear his teacher advise him and others that they could not yet possibly expect to understand what they were doing because they were still “learning the language” of physics. The teacher assured them that it would begin to make sense later on, and they believed him because he had always been honest and genuine with them. There are times when we inspire motivation because of the work we have previously done to establish trust with our students. It is as if we make deposits into a reservoir of goodwill from which we can make withdrawals when needed. There are times when we must rely on our good relationships to elicit and even inspire optimal effort from our students.

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