Richard Curwin & Allen Mendler
Discipline with Dignity
Maintaining student dignity and providing
genuine hope for and expectation of success
By Celina Cook and Lisa Zargarpur
Classroom Management UMW CGPS – 2010
We hereby declare upon our word of honor that we have neither given nor received unauthorized
help on this work.
• About Curwin: University professor and private
consultant, who began his teacher career in a seventhgrade class of boys whose behavior was seriously out of
• About Mendler: a school psychologist and
psychoeducational consultant, works with students and
teachers at all levels.
• Both attracted national attention with their 1988 book
Discipline with Dignity.
• Other works: Rediscovering Hope: Our Greatest Teaching
Strategy (1992) by Curwin; As Tough as Necessary: Countering
Violence, Aggression and Hostility in Our Schools (Curwin and
Mendler, 1997; Discipline with Dignity for Challenging Youth
(1999) , Connecting with Students (2001) and Making Good
Choices: Developing Responsibility, Respect and Self-Discipline in
Grades 4-9 (2003).
• Website: www.disciplineassociates.com.
– What can be done to minimize
problems (efficient instructional
delivery, bell-to-bell schooling,
whole class interaction)
– What is to be done once problems
occur. (Give choices, discuss
problems, apply consequences)
– What can be done for the chronic
misbehaver. (Accept what cannot
be changed, find a way to conciliate
student’s interests to what they
need to learn)
View yourself as a tool towards
• Teachers need to see themselves as important
components in the change process
• We can’t change anybody if they don’t want to
change (Glasser) but we can influence change
• View things we might find offensive at a personal
level as motivation to do what educators are
supposed to do: to make it difficult for the
students to throw their education away.
The issue of Control
• All students
misbehave but at
times some of
them want to
“gain a measure
of control over a
system that has
sense of dignity”
He needs a plan!
• In the movie To Sir, With Love (1967), based on
an autobiographical novel , Mr. Thackeray is a
mechanical engineer who needs a job and
becomes a teacher although he has no clue about
how to deal with the misbehavior of his innercity students, who try to oppose “the system”. If
the teacher doesn’t know any strategies, it may
be tiring just to try to keep the classroom an
appropriate learning environment:
Interview with Allen Mendler
Very important: students need to be kept in the classroom as much as possible (if
they are sent out they lose precious instruction time)
No matter how many strategies you come up with there are always kids that seem
to have taken a “strategy immunization shot”, and therefore you need to keep
developing new strategies. Importance of constantly updating strategies.
Our job as educators is to put roadblocks in the determined efforts that some
students seem to have to throw their own education away
Attitude are the foundation of strategies:
- Attitudes = the feel and flavor of how to do something; Strategy = what to do. You
want to have both;
Discipline strategies have to be constantly developed through reflection and
interaction between teachers – individualized strategies
We want students to want to behave (self-control, owning the problem – Gordon;
inner discipline - Coloroso) – it’s important to find out why they misbehave(WinWin) – Address the Basic Needs (Glasser)
Components for Classroom success: Connection, competence, control; if they lose
connection, feel incompetent or feel they don’t have some control over or influence
on anything, that sets the stage for them to act out so they can feel recognized
Importance of cooperation (connect -Win-Win - to the teacher and others,
classroom community, cooperative discipline – Albert) x competition
Four Phase Plan for Schools and Educators
1. Identifying core values = School is a
– We solve our
– We protect and look
out for one another
(no one hurts or
– We learn we are
responsible for what
– We learn “my way is
not the only way”.
2. Creating Rules and
• Rules need to be created according the school’s
– Values: stated broad intentions
– Rules: exactly what one should and should not
Examples of rule:
For Protect value: No put downs allowed.
For Peaceful solution for problems: Keep your
hands and feet to yourselves
• 1) Logical: make right what they did wrong
(restitution) – clean up messes, repair
damaged material, speak nicely to those they
• 2)Conventional: time-out, removal from room
(just if they don’t accept your consequence,
and tell them they can return when they are
ready to learn)
• 3) Generic: warnings, choosing (student
chooses the consequence) and planning
How to apply consequences
Always implement a consequence when a rule is broken
Most appropriate consequence (according to offense,
situation, student involved, best means of helping)
State the rule and consequence to the student,
Do not embarrass the student (no humiliation)
Don’t get involved in a power struggle. Be calm and
speak quietly. Walk away and postpone the problem for
a while if needed (talk later)
Sometimes it’s best to let the student choose the
Insubordination rule: the student will be removed from
class if he doesn’t accept the consequence .
3. Model the Values
• Teacher and administrators must continually
model the behaviors in keeping with the school
– Express emotions nonviolently
– Use positive strategies to resolve conflict
– Teach students how they are expected to
express their anger and how they can solve
No interventions that Violate Core
Values should be used
No intimidation, no using students as example
– Students may cower…
– Students may start to
treat others the same
– It’s self-defeating to
reprimand one student as
an example for others
(humiliation has a
Stand and Deliver
• This is a 1988 movie about a true story where
Jaime Escalante (Edward James Olmos) is a
new teacher in LA, determined to change the
system and challenge the students to a
higher level of achievement in a school where
discipline became more important than
academics due to the high level of violence
Students behaviorally at risk
• Why do they behave like this:
– Low self-concept about school: they
stop trying because they think they
won’t make it anyway
– They associate with students that
think the same way
– It’s what they do that put them at
risk, not who they are
– They gave up acquiring dignity
– Damage to dignity = lashing out at
• Students behaviorally at risk lost hope that
education will serve them.
• Teacher can help with meaningful teaching (Quality
• Build competence in areas they consider important
• Redesign the curriculum, providing for various
learning styles and sensory modalities
• Allow for creativity and artistic expression
• Use grading systems that provide encouraging
feedback for the student to keep trying.
• Make the lessons as much fun as possible.
• Emphasize responsibility, not obedience.
• Bullying can be physical, verbal,
emotional, sexual. Cyber bullying is
more of the verbal and emotional
types but can be sexual too or lead to
• Hate crimes involve intimidation,
harassment, bigoted slurs or
epithets, force or threat of force
• Fear of bullies can lead to
absenteeism, truancy or dropping
• Carrying weapons, fighting back or
suicide might be the solutions found
by the victims.
• Bystanders do not report for fear of
being called a tattler.
• Bullying is not a conflict. It’s a
Are schools prepared and able to
prevent this kind of bullying?
A twelve-year-old redheaded boy
was assaulted after this by a group
of middle school classmates in
Calabasas, California. As many as
fourteen students participated in the
attack at A.E. Wright Middle
School. In fact, schools around the
world have experienced similar
attacks in the past few years. In
each case, a judge, sheriff or school
official declared that the attack was
promoted by a Facebook group
urging members to kick people
with red hair and support "Kick a
In 2005, South Park aired an episode
called “Ginger Kids”, where the
character Cartman decides to create the
holiday “Kick a Ginger Day”. The sole
purpose is to beat up other children with
How can Bystanders Help?
• Friends can stop bullying!
Classroom meetings - discussion, role-playing,
talk about bullying. Develop an action plan so
students know what to do in this case (no
passive “bystanders!”) – includes cyber-bullying
crimes (keep evidence, talk to a friend, to the
culprit, print it, talk to the counselor or to other
adults (teacher, parents) who can help.
Involve parents or guardians of victims. Parents
and victims can share their experiences, asking
kids to not just watch.
Follow up on the investigation and solution of
the crimes and violations.
Form support groups or equivalent to help
Supervise students ( grounds, classrooms,
hallways, cafeteria etc.)
Intervene at once in all bullying incidents.
Post clear behavior standards and enforce them
Confidential reporting and recording system
Don’t try to mediate bullying situations.
Bullying is not a conflict, it’s mere
victimization, and it’s just unacceptable.
Changes in Yourself
• All students are worthy of your best effort.
• Discipline = Instruction for better behavior
• Teach students to identify and deal with their own
• Develop discipline tactics for all cases
• Limit the causes for misbehavior (Plan and Prevent)
• Stay personally involved with the student without taking
personally their offenses
• Do not retaliate (misbehavior is not personal in 70
percent of the cases)
• Emphasis on motivation x discipline/ responsibility x
• When you take something away from the students, make
sure you GIVE THEM SOMETHING BACK
12 points that provide functionality to the
Discipline with Dignity:
1) Let students know what you need.
2) Provide instruction at levels that match students’ abilities.
3) Listen to what students are thinking and feeling.
4) Use humor.
5) Vary your style of presentation.
6) Offer choices.
7) Refuse to accept excuses.
8) Legitimize behavior you cannot stop. If kids can’t sit quite, give
them 5 minutes to move around, change seating arrangements,
create a fun activity involving movement (Louis Moment…)
9) Use hugs and pats when communicating with students.
10) Be responsible for yourself and allow students to be
responsible for themselves
11) Accept that you will not be successful in helping every
12) Start fresh every day.
“Sir” Thackeray finds a fun way
to engage his students
• Sir Thackeray realizes his students need
to be treated like the adults they are
becoming, and he recognizes their needs
to know more about the adult world they
are about to enter and about how to act
more like adults and not “brats”.
A Perfect Grade (last scene of
Stand and Deliver)
• These are the real results of treating students with
dignity: great academic performance and a
Our Song: “Children are our future…”
CHILDREN ARE THE
I believe the children are our future
Teach them well and let them lead
Show them all the beauty they
Give them a sense of pride to
make it easier
Let the children's laughter remind
us how we used to be
Everybody searching for a hero
People need someone to look up
I never found anyone to fulfill my
A lonely place to be
So I learned to depend on me
I decided long ago, never to walk
in anyone's shadows
If I fail, if I succeed
At least I live as I believe
No matter what they take from me
They can't take away my dignity
Because the greatest love of all
Is happening to me
I found the greatest love of all
Inside of me
The greatest love of all
Is easy to achieve
Learning to love yourself
It is the greatest love of all
– Student-centered. Displays
concern with student’s rights
– Focuses on preventative
measures for student
– Emphasizes better
instruction techniques and
sincere compassion for
– Encourages teachers to
focus only on the real
problem behaviors and on the
– Emphasizes caring and
empathy, rather than control
–Too much emphasis on the student’s
responsibility. Sometimes students need strong
leadership on the part of the teacher to succeed.
– A lot of recommendations and rules for the
teacher to deal with. It requires more teacher
planning and forethought than Assertive
Discipline, which wants to “keep it simple with
just five rules.”
– Sometimes it is not just up to the teacher to
“remove the causes of misbehavior”, which
might be in problems at home, deep
psychological issues, involvement with groups
outside the school etc. The student might or not
be able to use the suggestions and help given by
the peers and the teacher to find his way out of
his problems, depending on the other elements
involved. Social worker or Counselors might
need to get involved.
References and Suggested Resources
Books and Websites
Charles, C. M. (2008) Building Classroom Discipline.9th. Ed. Pearson, New
Curwin and Mendler’s website, www.disciplineassociates.com.
Penn, Audrey (2008). Chester Raccoon and the Big Bad Bully. Tanglewood,
Terre Haute, IN
Discipline Associates LLC website: www.disciplineassociates.com.
Clips and Movies
•To Sir with Love, 1967. Director: James Clavell.
•Stand and Deliver, 1988. Director: Ramón Menéndez.
•School of Rock, 2003, Director: Richard Linklater.
•Friends can help! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5ZLiT-puC6Y