Superintendent teaches RTP to his
Jack Foster is Superintendent of the Southwest Region Schools in Dillingham, Alaska. He is also an RTP Trainer. In the fall of 2006, Jack had some of his school district staff trained by Ed Ford and George Venetis. Then, as he has done before, he offered the staff a class in RTP, with college-level credit given by the University of Fairbanks. In the class were both district professional and classified staff, along with staff from neighboring school districts. Jack used Ed Ford's books on RTP, including Discipline For Home And School, Books One and Two, and Fundamentals. (In Jack's school district, none of his schools are located in the same town, all must be reached via bush pilot. Most of his classes are taught via electronic communication with cameras) Here are some comments from some of Jack's students.
From V. B. (see "Dealing With Children Who Continually Break Rules," Chapter 11 of Book One):
I thought of my frequent flyer students. These children made out pretty good student plans that I thought they would follow. They would melt my heart with their plans, only to come back again. I would accept them back into my room, thinking, "Okay, I wonder what happened?"
I would try not to demean them in any ways that would cause more problems. I accepted them for who they were, and what kinds of family they came from, and how much quality time I thought they had with their parents. Not all of the students had both parents at home, and some of them, I thought, were not getting the attention they desperately needed. They would show up with anger in their eyes. I would give them the time they needed, even though I thought of the school work that they were missing. It is their choice that they have made and not ours. We are only here to help them out in any way we can.
Most of these disruptive students have not learned to make responsible choices at home and therefore think they can get away with it at school. They are wrong, and with RTP we can help them to think more responsibly about their actions. Thank you, Jack, for bringing RTP, so we can help the children to think responsibly about their disruptive actions, and so that others who are willing to learn are given the opportunity to do so. Now I know why the RTC teacher needs to be someone local, who knows the students and their backgrounds.
From C. W. (see "Techniques for Getting Children to Think" and "When Children Want to Solve Their Problems," Chapters 9 and 10 of Book One):
It is repeated over and over that "children must be taught how to look within themselves and decide how they want to be." By asking questions in RTP, we are giving students options. It makes them realize that they, not the teachers, are responsible for their actions. I believe asking questions is one of the key components of RTP.
A popular weekend activity for children in Manokotak is going door-to-door and asking teachers, "Can we visit?" One weekend, I told a student at my door that I didn't want any visitors. She didn't leave and continued to knock on my door and windows. After a minute or so, I opened my front door and asked, "What are you doing?" Her eyes became very large, and she said, "Hey, we're not at school!" I responded, "I know. I'm just asking. What are you doing?" After a few more questions, she happily left, and I happily went back to a nap. By asking questions and not telling her what to do, I gave her options. She had to look within herself and decide how she wanted to be.
From H. G. (see Chapters 9 and 21 of Book One):
Saturday night, we had a school dance, and I went to help chaperone. During the dance I sat off to the side and read from Book One. Not until later, when I was called to a room for a disturbance, did I think about the last paragraph in Chapter 9:
"Thus, three things are essential to keep in mind when helping children to become more responsible. First, any attempt to control students is antagonistic to how they are designed and to their learning to think responsibly. Second, for a discipline process to be effective, those using it must treat students the same way as those having difficulty in an academic subject: in a non-punitive, non-controlling atmosphere, with understanding, respect, and patience. Third, students need to be taught to look within themselves and decide how they want to be, and then how to structure ways of achieving their goals."
A student had thrown a desk in anger. When I got there, I could see the student was upset. It took about two or three minutes of asking questions-"What happened?" "Do you want to work with me?" etc. At first he didn't say anything, but after a while, he agreed to go to the RTC. It took him almost two hours to settle down, but by the end of the school day, he was drawing airplanes. Now, the next day, we will work on getting him back to class. This whole issue could easily have been blown out of proportion. Thank you for RTC, and for caring. This student is still in school and will be learning how to behave responsibly.
From V. B. (see Chapter 21 of Book One):
"Thoughts and Suggestions from an RTC Teacher," Chapter 21 of Book One, sounded very familiar to me. During the last few school years, our school's main office was packed with students who were disruptive. They all seemed angry. Our current RTP teacher was hired for the position. I felt she might be overwhelmed. She felt unsure about it, too. In spite of our anxiety, she looks content. The students don't look mad. Instead, they look hopeful about their plans.
From V. B. (see "The Vital Role of the School Administrator," Chapter 19 of Book One):
We have an administrator who comes to visit each classroom everyday when he is here. He can be seen at break times, when school is opening and closing, in the gym, in and around the school building. He is consistently asking the questions. I myself had a hard time asking the questions, but he is making me see that it is so much more easier to be asking than to be telling. I really like the way our administrator is using RTP very well. He is consistently asking the questions to students, making them to think more responsibly about their own actions. With this thought in mind, I myself am starting to ask the questions to students, where I was used to telling them as in the old way.
A story about consistently asking questions is when our three-year-old adopted brother was out playing with other children. I went out looking for him and found him throwing rocks at other children. I asked him, "What are you doing?" He was pretty upset, probably at himself, and gave me his middle finger. I asked him again, and he didn't reply. The other children said he was throwing rocks at them. So because he didn't answer me and continued to throw rocks, I took him home, crying. As soon as we walked into the house with Avery crying really hard, my son Davey thought I was scolding Avery. His first question to me was "What are you doing?" in a calm, curious voice. I answered him and was really surprised by him. He must have read my RTP books or skimmed through them. He has entered my classroom a few times; maybe that is how he knows about RTP.
Anyway, always asking the questions consistently and trying to help them think more responsibly is important, instead of just telling or lecturing, which will not help students think responsibly about their actions.
From T. L. (see Chapters 22 and 23 of Book One):
In Chapter 22, I was immediately drawn to the mention of RTC data. This past week, I had a very positive experience with RTC data that made me appreciate all the work our RTC teacher puts into cataloging the data. What happened was this: There is a student in the middle school who has a very short temper. He also talks out and interrupts constantly, so he winds up in the RTC often. His parents came in for a conference and said he told them I had been picking on him. I was able to go to our RTC and get the data for the student, which showed I had actually sent him to the RTC the same number of times as the other teachers. Upon seeing this, the parents realized that their boy was really just upset and was trying to blame others, and after talking for another five minutes, we concluded a very positive conference. I was thankful for the RTC data to back up my case.
I found the example dialogues in Chapter 23 to be perfect preparation for conversations I've had since coming to Togiak School [one of the eight schools in the Southwest Region School District]. Several times, I have had to repeat questions multiple times when students offered excuses. This is fantastic advice, and it works. Students eventually realize that you are not going to accept their excuses, and they decide to answer the questions responsibly. Many times I have had to remind students multiple times who it is I am talking to, and who they are responsible for. But persistence pays off, and eventually they do answer honestly.
From S. B. (see Chapter 27 of Book One):
I just have to say this: the RTP Flow Chart on page 239 of Book One is the single most helpful resource (other than the RTP questions card) I have seen. I have a copy I downloaded from the website laminated to my clipboard. At first, it was my little "cheat sheet." After some time, I realized what a valuable tool it is. I have the clipboard with me at all times-it holds my referrals! I noticed that when I questioned students, they inquired about what was underneath, as that is what they saw from their vantage point as I wrote. So, I showed them. They were fairly interested. I thought about that fact for a while and decided actually to teach it to them. The response was great. They soaked it right up. They understood! They were back in control (PCT) of their own disciplining at school. I continue to use it on my clipboard, too. Now I use it as a constant visual aid as I question students. Thanks to whoever created it!
From B. T. (see "What Should Happen When Children Break Rules," Chapter 8 of Book One):
My classroom has a number of Responsible Thinking Process success stories. RTP has helped students overcome everything from chronic whistling to "can't stay in seat-itis." But the single greatest success in my classroom involves a person who has never actually been sent to the Responsible Thinking Classroom. He has been asked the RTP questions numerous times. Through trial, error, and luck, he has found a solution that will, I hope, keep him from disrupting my class.
I was more surprised than anyone the first time this person was asked the RTP questions. I was walking around the room helping students with their work. Then I heard the first RTP question: "Mr. T., what are you doing?" With a dumbfounded expression, I looked at the student who asked me this. Next, I looked at my right hand and noticed that I was holding a board marker. I was loosening the marker's cap and snapping it on and off as I walked around the room. I did not realize that I was doing it. I have picked things up and fiddled with them subconsciously my entire life. I answered the RTP questions to humor my students and to show that the rules apply to everyone. Then I made a plan to stop disrupting the class. My plan was simple: "I will not snap marker caps on and off."
The plan sounds simple enough. It should be easy for an adult to stop snapping marker caps on and off. But my plan failed. I was asked the RTP questions three times during the next week. I thought it would be easy to stop snapping the marker caps. I was wrong, and I needed to develop a new plan. My next plan was not that complicated: "I will leave the board markers at the board."
This plan worked at times, but it ultimately failed. I would be at the board teaching. Once I was finished, I would go around the room and help students. If I remembered to put leave the marker at the board, the plan worked beautifully. The problems started when I forgot to leave the marker at the board. If I noticed a marker in my hand, I would set it down somewhere. I ended up with markers scattered around the room, and I could never find one when I needed it. They would end up on my desk, on the back counter, by the computers, and even in the sink. If I didn't notice a marker in my hand, I would inevitably end up snapping the cap on and off. I was now beginning to get concerned.
I had to find a way keep from disrupting my class. My next plan was a little bit of a stretch: "I will put the markers in my pockets." At least this way I could find one when I needed it. But this plan was doomed from the start. I really didn't like going to lunch with four markers in my pockets. The other problem was that the markers were always close to my hands. I would unintentionally pull a marker out of my pocket and start snapping the cap. This plan never stood much of a chance, but it did lead me to my current plan. I believe that my fourth plan will actually be my solution.
It was a normal school day at Manokotak. My right pocket was full of markers, and I was walking around the room helping students with their work. I had just helped one student and was walking towards another student's desk. I looked into my right hand, and at that moment both the solution to my problem and the meaning of RTP became very clear. I had two markers in my hand and was rotating them around like Chinese stress balls. It was the perfect solution to my problem. I could silently satisfy my habit as a fiddler without infringing on the rights of others.
The purpose of RTP is not to tell students what they can’t do. It is to help them think of ways to get what they want without disturbing others. Plans can fail. Success is usually not instantaneous. It can take time and patience to find plans that will help students (and teachers) satisfy their own goals without infringing on the rights of others.