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Discipline for Home and School

Please have a look at the content of this book
as if you were flipping pages in a store.

    About Ed Ford    




Foreword, William T. Powers


1 How and Where Learning to Be Responsible
Actually Happens
2 Reorganizing in the Responsible Thinking Classroom
by Darleen Martin
3 Creating a Classroom Environment That Fosters
Responsible Thinking for Children with Disabilities
by Erin Powell
4 The Struggle to Reorganize by Students and Educators
by Al Kullman and Scott Bogner
5 RTP and Me
by George T. Venetis
6 Perceptual Control Theory on Personal Change
by William T Powers
7 Do You Take RTP Seriously?
by Greg Williams
  Appendix 1. A Primer on PCT 67  
  Appendix 2. RTP Flow Chart 80  
  Appendix 3. Responsible Thinking Process Card 82  
  Appendix 4. Quality Time 84  





This book represents another stage in the development of Ed Ford's remarkable Responsible Thinking Process. There have been many versions of this process, each building on the previous one and on experience with application to real students in real schools. Unlike some approaches that have scarcely changed in the past fifty years, RTP has faced its failures as well as celebrating its successes, and the failures have led to new insights and ultimately to a better process. This is not likely to be the last new development, either.

In its basic organization, RTP is about teaching the human beings in school systems (and many other places as well) how to get along together through mutual respect, understanding of their own human nature, and simple procedures for handling conflicts. It is a "discipline" process, but the discipline in question is mostly self-discipline. It is self-discipline that strengthens and frees a person rather than making the person struggle against himself or herself -or against other people.

Notice that I haven't said that this school discipline process is concerned primarily with getting students to "behave right." It is a process for all the human beings in the school system: students, teachers, administrators, security people, lunchroom aides, bus drivers, and parents. When the word "respect" is used, it is used to describe how students should treat teachers, but also to describe how they should treat each other, and how they should expect to be treated by teachers and all the other adults involved. Respect is simply recognizing that each person controls his or her own life by acting in whatever ways will satisfy all the desires and goals the person has. And truest respect arises when one realizes that it is rewarding, pleasant, and satisfying to see others in control of their own lives, so respect becomes a gift to others that is returned again and again from every side. Everyone in an RTP school changes, and those changes bring about a new kind of social interaction that is, in most cases, a vast improvement over what went before it.

In this latest book in Ed Ford's series on RTP, the focus is on change. How do people change their ways? What are good ways to make change possible? In particular, how should the key person in the RTP system, the teacher in the Responsible Thinking Classroom or RTC, deal with students sent there to think about their infractions and to plan how to avoid them in the future? It was seeing a poorly run RTC that got Ed Ford to ask these questions, and this book is the result of his cogitations and enquiries that propose some answers.

I am proud to say that Ed Ford became interested in my ideas about human organization, now called "perceptual control theory" and adopted them into his work, well over twenty years ago-and that he still finds them useful. Our collaboration over the years has made this theoretician a more practical person, and I like to think it has made Ed show signs of thinking like a theoretician (though he might deny it). The RTP process, as a result, has what I think is a sound foundation in a basic theory of human nature, while maintaining the proper position of real-life experience as the ultimate guide for theories.

William T. Powers
Durango, CO
March 18, 2004


Chapter 1    How and Where Learning to Be Responsible actually Happens




One of the least understood phenomena of the Responsible Thinking Process (RTP) is the eventual turnaround of some of the most difficult chronically disruptive students. Obviously, it has worked well with the less difficult students, but it is with the very tough students that a "convincing" change is seen. Traditionally, there is a tendency to describe these tough-to-deal-with students in terms of their backgrounds: the chaos in their homes, poverty, single-parent families, drug and alcohol problems, and/or abusive parents, or, at the other end of the scale, pampering with too much money, lack of interactive (quality) time (see Appendix 4) with their parents, and not enough insistence on following the rules of wherever they are. Yet is it really their environments that "cause" students to disrupt? Focusing on environmental "causes" of disruptive behavior and pointing to such "causes" as having little possibility of changing is perhaps a way to absolve educators from teaching students to deal within themselves.

Perceptual control theory (PCT), the theoretical framework that supports RTP, suggests alternatives for trying to deal with "causes" of disruptive behavior. (See the articles about PCT on the RTP web site, Making Sense of Behavior by William T. Powers, and Chapter 6 of this book.) PCT teaches that people are designed to control their perceptions, and that their behaviors are what they use to control those perceptions. For example, a student who is nearly late for class runs down the hall, trying to get to class on time. His behavior, running down the hall, is what he uses to try to accomplish his goal of getting to class on time. A teacher would see the running, but not what the student is


Chapter 2    Reorganizing in the Responsible Thinking Classroom




Darleen Martin, RTC Teacher and RTC Trainer
Villa de Paz Elementary School, Phoenix, Arizona

Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood. -Helen Keller

In Chapter 1, Ed discusses the five stages of the Responsible Thinking Process. Here, I will share some of my students' experiences in the second, third, and fourth stages. I have changed their names to protect their identities.

Keep in mind that if the RTC is operated as intended, then students will perceive it as a place where they can "just be left alone" until they are ready to talk.

The Dream Catcher

Arriving at my RTC one morning, I found Charlie, a Kindergarten student, waiting outside the door with tears in his eyes and a scowl on his face. I asked him if he was waiting to come in the room and invited him in. He immediately pulled out a chair and plopped down in it. I asked him what was wrong. He told me he was having a bad day, and he didn't want to stay at school. He wanted to go home.

"Would you like to stay here for a while and think about whether you really want to go home?"


"Do you want to talk to me?"

"No. I'm just sad."


Chapter 3    Creating a Classroom Environment That Fosters
                     Responsible Thinking for Children with Disabilities




Erin Powell, RTP Special Education Teacher and Trainer
Creighton Elementary School District, Phoenix, Arizona

Kevin is a thirteen-year-old student with moderate mental retardation. It is common for Kevin to yell, hit, and throw things when he becomes angry. He also has a history of running away from the classroom when he became angry. If an adult tried to assist him in returning to the classroom, Kevin would attempt to hit her. On one particular day, he was asked to complete a reading assignment. Kevin was having difficulty completing the assignment because he thought another student was making faces at him. He threw a pair of scissors, yelled at the student, and ran out of the classroom. As Kevin was running down the hallway screaming, I asked him, "What are you doing?" Kevin immediately stopped, ran back into the classroom, and went to the classroom bathroom. After about ten minutes, he opened the door and asked me to come over. He was ready to be asked the RTP questions. Why was Kevin able to return to the classroom on his own without physically assaulting someone or running away? Why did this change take place within him?

I have always believed that any student can achieve his personal best academically and socially if his teachers have high expectations for him to do so. No matter how severe a student's disability might be, he is still a living control sys-


Chapter 4    The Struggle to Reorganize by Students and Educators




Al Kullman, Principal
Evart Middle School, Evart, Michigan


Scott Bogner, Principal
Evart High School, Evart, Michigan

Using RTP has allowed us to focus on those students who need attention and to provide them with ongoing support for solving their own internal conflicts. Students in conflict soon come to the attention of the RTC teacher. If the RTC teacher begins to see a particular student visit the RTC frequently, it suggests that the student is in conflict. Such students are trying to deal with their conflicts; when we see indications that they aren't making progress, an intervention is called to help us find ways to provide more support for them.

When we give presentations to educators who are desperate for an approach to discipline that works, we often talk about students who, after having been "frequent flyers" in the RTC, start to turn their lives around. In these success stories, we discuss the relationships RTP has helped us build with these students, and how we must constantly work to develop and maintain relationships that our students can count on. One example is the story of Karen, who


Chapter 5    RTP and Me




George T. Venetis
Retired School Administrator
RTP Trainer and Evaluator

I was an elementary teacher for twenty years and a school administrator for nine years, and I've been an RTP trainer and evaluator for the last four years. I'll never forget the time, about ten years ago, when we first brought in Ed Ford to implement the Responsible Thinking Process. I was assistant principal at Clarendon School in the Osborn Elementary School District in an urban area in Phoenix. We had 450 fourth, fifth, and sixth grade students. I remember what I initially found appealing about RTP I learned that RTP is based on perceptual control theory, which shows that we are all designed as living control systems and, as such, are always controlling for what we want-in other words, it isn't the environment that controls us. We are all accountable and responsible for what we control, but we can't be held accountable and responsible for that which we don't control, i.e., student behavior. Each student is accountable and responsible for what he does. When I heard that I would be held accountable and responsible only for that which I control (such as following RTP), and that my role in implementing the process would be clearly defined, I thought, "It's about time!"

I now had a process based on solid principles that I could easily apply in all situations when interacting with others. RTP could be used to deal effectively with all disciplinary issues. I found that the more I used this process, the more proficient I became in dealing with others. For example, I remember the time Ed Ford joined me on the school play-


Chapter 6    Perceptual Control Theory on Personal Change




William T. Powers
Perceptual Control Theorist
Durango, Colorado

One of the main techniques of RTP is asking questions. Ed Ford explains that asking questions, rather than giving orders or demanding action, leads students to think. But why should asking questions have that effect? What does it make them think? And why should thinking alter anything? A simple experiment might suggest some answers.

Right now you're reading words in a book. Of course before I mentioned that, you were already reading, but I doubt that you were you saying to yourself, "Hey, look, I'm reading words in a book!" You weren't observing the fact that you were reading; you were just doing it. Somehow when I mentioned the reading, something shifted in your consciousness, so that not only the words on the page occupied your attention, but your own process of reading came into mental view. A similar effect happens when I call your attention to something that is obviously being sensed, but that you're not conscious of at the moment, such as the pressure from the seat you're sitting in. Just mention such a thing, and it pops into your conscious world. Where was it before? Your sensory nerves were most probably working the same way before and after. The difference is in where your attention was focused.

There is another related phenomenon. Right now, in the foreground of your attention, is this sentence and the meanings it is bringing forth in your mind. But as you go on reading, there is another layer of thoughts, or feelings, or


Chapter 7    Do You Take RTP Seriously?




Greg Williams
Editor of RTP and PCT Books
Gravel Switch, Kentucky

In Chapter 1, Ed Ford describes how, with RTP, chronically disrupting students can learn to become more responsible. That chapter and Appendix 1 explain the "turn around" in these students' lives from the standpoint of how humans are constructed to behave as modeled by perceptual control theory (PCT), which is the foundation upon which RTP is built. In this chapter, rather than focusing on what is going on within these students, I want to explore what should be going on within educators, especially Responsible Thinking Classroom (RTC) teachers, who are trying to facilitate the students' "turn around."

Ed shows that, when starting on the path to becoming more responsible, chronically disrupting students initially need some time to struggle with their priorities within themselves. Then, as the students begin to build the self-confidence necessary to turn around their lives, assistance from educators is appropriate as requested by the students. Effective support for the students requires respecting their own efforts to turn their lives around, rather than attempting to judge those efforts or to dictate alterations in them. RTP procedures (such as the questions) were designed in accordance with PCT to prevent such attempts to control students.

But just following the procedures isn't enough. It is certainly possible to go through the motions, applying RTP procedures "by rote," so to speak, without believing in the principles (based on PCT models of human behavior)


Appendix 1.    A Primer on PCT




Why is the Responsible Thinking Process so powerful, and why is it so successful with those who are willing to work at reordering their lives? What really goes on inside people as they begin to look within themselves and decide how they want to be? In order to understand the power of this process and what is really taking place inside people during and following the RTP questioning process, it is important to learn how our mind and body interact to achieve our various goals.

Each of us is endowed with a fascinating perceptual system (see the chart on the next page) explained by perceptual control theory (PCT), created by William T. Powers, author of Behavior: The Control of Perception and Making Sense of Behavior. That system is designed to make sense of our environment so we can build satisfying lives, enabling us to give individual meaning to the world we live in. We fashion this meaning through various systemic levels. Ultimately, there is a highest level where each of us stands as our own person—where "I am the captain of my own ship." Below are brief descriptions of the three highest levels of the perceptual system, which guide who we are and everything we do.

Systems Concepts Level: From this level flow all of the standards and structures we create to have satisfying lives. This is the level where we look within ourselves and establish the way we want to be, how we want to see ourselves as persons, and the kinds of values and beliefs that we believe will bring us happiness. The way we treat others when we are trying to accomplish our goals is reflected in our beliefs and values. And when a person changes how they treat others, this is the level where that change must


Appendix 2.    RTP Flow Chart




The purpose of this chart is to give educators an overall idea of how the process works, and what happens when students disrupt. It is merely an outline—Discipline for Home and School, Book One and Book Two should be used as training manuals by all who implement the process. The detailed instructional materials in those two books were developed to guide educators in using RTP properly, maintaining the integrity of the process.

Many mistakes are possible due to the lack of adequate preparation prior to implementing the process. For example, some teachers might use the questioning techniques to attempt to "control" their students, while others might use those techniques selectively (perhaps with Tom Troublemaker, but not with Sweet Sally) . Or a student might be sent home directly from a classroom following a series of minor disruptions, even though the decision to send a student home is supposed to be made only in the Responsible Thinking Classroom, with the approval and support of the school administrator, and the only time students are sent home other than due to disrupting in the RTC is following a serious act of misconduct, as defined by the school district's governing board. Studying both Book 1 and Book 2 is essential for gaining an adequate understanding of RTP for implementing the process correctly.


Appendix 3.    Responsible Thinking Process Card




pic RTP card


Appendix 4.    Quality Time




Whenever someone is having problems with a child, regardless of the circumstances, the first question that should be asked is how much quality time those who are important to the child have been spending with him. Anyone's ability to resolve problems, to stand firm in the face of adversity, and to work through difficult conflicts depends on the strength that comes from personal relationships out of which develops a strong belief in self. Disruption and acting out are symptomatic of a fundamental problem: insecurity fed by the loneliness that comes from a lack of warm, caring, joyful relationships.

From my experience in working with families and consulting in schools, corrections, mental health, and residential treatment centers over many years, plus raising my own eight children, I believe that nothing is more important than our individual alone time with our spouse and with each of our children. Children create their perceptions of their parents based on the time they have spent with them and the quality of that time. We all tend to listen to and respect those whom we perceive respect us, who care about us, and have expressed, both verbally and by their actions, a belief that we have worth as a human being.

What gives a teacher or parent true access to children is when the children believe that whoever is working with them cares about them and, more importantly, believes in their ability to resolve their problems. If you don't have confidence in your children's ability to succeed, they'll know it, and that lack of belief will very likely translate into your children's lack of confidence in themselves. Thus, the most important step when teaching responsible thinking


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