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Mike Willmarth

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How do we get students to adopt specific classroom procedures without the use of negative consequences (punishment) or rewards?

This is the continuation of a discussion I posted previously. In response to the initial posting several respondents suggested changing the system to involve more student choice in terms of what is studied. Others suggested that the classroom model is the root of the problem. While we could debate both of these issues, the fact remains that the system in which my students and I work is one that requires students to show a given level of mastery in a given set of skills that neither they or I select. Students who do not show the required level of mastery will still be moved on to the next course in the sequence, however they may also be required to concurrently take a support class to help them acquire mastery in the previous set of skills. This support class comes at the expense of taking an elective which they would probably find more interesting. Given these conditions, it is my goal to help as many as possible acquire mastery of the required skills during the initial class.

With that clarification in mind, I would like to again pose the initial question: I have an interest in having my middle school students use a particular organization system for their class materials. Having a uniform system allows peers to more readily help each other stay organized, allows parents to more easily check on their child’s progress, and allows the class to more efficiently move through our daily transitions. The question, how do I get all students on board without the use of if-then rewards or punishments? I know from my experience (12 years at middle school) that some students will be oppositional and some will be unmotivated. While these represent the exception, not the rule, they are often the students most in need of the organizational structure. Additionally, it is the parents of these students who most often need a simple to follow structure for supporting their child’s educational process.


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  • Aug 7 2012: Hello, Mike.

    What you are describing is a Glasser Quality School classroom. Here is the main website for the book "The Quality School: Managing Students without Coercion" and "The Competency Based Classroom."


    Just "up the hill" from you in Angwin, is Pacific Union College. Several years ago my good friend introduced that school to Dr. Glasser and I think they are teaching teachers the Quality School methods. You might go up there and ask who is teaching Glasser at the school. I have been out of the country for a while now and am not current on what they are doing. However, if you ask the people at wglasser.com for more information, they will be happy to help. There are several Glasser Quality Schools around the US and around the globe. I am here in Indonesia working on a Quality School. It is extremely difficult here because the people's mindset is not really interested in education. In my classroom I try to teach two things: respect and responsibility. With these I also teach choices. Indonesian do not believe in choices. They do what they are told and very little else.
    Using the Quality School methods I am slowly helping them learn that responsibility is success. They all want to be successful. I let my students know that they get to choose what grade they get in the class. When I give assignments in class, many of them choose not to do them, and I relate that to their choice to be successful in class. When the student does his assignment, I congradulate him on being successful and they are happy to be successful. This is very strange to the "education" system and to students who are used to being told what to do, or else. I am actually seeing success. I teach the 11 and 12th graders, but I should teach this to the lower grades.

    Here are two videos that my students like to watch:


    Most of all, have fun!

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