The purpose of Hemingway's Responsible Thinking Classroom is to create a safe environment conducive to learning and free from disruptive behavior, where students develop the ability to become self-disciplined.
The Responsible Thinking Program is based on the Perceptual Control Theory and the book, Discipline for Home and School (available in the office) by Edward E. Ford. Simply stated, the Perceptual Control Theory says: "Human beings act when they are trying to control their perceptions of the world to make it conform to internally set goals" (Ford 1997). In other words, we change our actions only when we see a difference between our present situation and what we want.
What is the Responsible Thinking Program?
The goal of this program is to help children to think in such a way that their actions demonstrate respect for the rights, safety and the learning of others. In many instances people do things to get what they want, but often pay little attention to whom it hurts or what may happen as a result of their actions. By asking the children a series of questions, they are taught to think responsibly about what they have done and what choices they have made. Through this questioning process children are not told how to act, but instead taught how to think.
The Responsible Thinking Program is not based on rewards and punishment because that places responsibility for the actions on the person with authority instead of the child, where it belongs. Mutual respect is fostered through the questioning process. Children learn, with assistance, how to make a plan to help them deal with future situations. Confidence is built when students make their own choices to obey the rules and, by doing that, experience success.
What happens when children choose to break a rule?
Hemingway Elementary has a "Golden Rule" from which all other rules stem. "We show respect for others and ourselves at Hemingway Elementary." When children choose to break a rule they are asked a series of questions in a calm and curious tone:
1. What are you doing?
2. What are the rules? (Is that OK?)
3. What happens when you break the rules?
4. Is that what you want to happen?
5. What do you want to do now?
6. What will happen if you disrupt again?
In many cases, the questioning process alone well help students get back on task. If children avoid answering a question, it is repeated. If they persist in not dealing with the situation, the teacher asks, "Do you want to work on this or not?" If they continue to avoid dealing with the situation, or if they disrupt a second time that day, the child has not chosen to follow the rules. At this time, the teacher says, "I see you have chosen to leave." Children must then report to the Responsible Thinking Classroom (RTC).
What happens to children in the Responsible Thinking Classroom?
The RTC is a place where children are taught how to think for themselves, deal with their problems through effective plan making, and develop self-discipline. The RTC teacher is there to help the student through the entire RTC process. At first, students may perceive this room as punitive, like a detention room. They quickly learn that is a place where they are treated with respect. They see it as a place where others care about them and want them to succeed. Students remain in the RTC as long as they need to until they finish their plan. Children are responsible for their missed class work while they are in RTC.
When children are committed to solving their problem, they write a plan. The children ultimately have to learn to resolve conflicts in their lives. Using questions, the plan guides students through a thinking process designed to enable them to take responsibility for their actions, understand the result of those actions, and achieve their goals without disturbing others. The RTC teacher assists the children in writing plans.
When do students return to class from the RTC?
Students who choose to go to the RTC remain there for the duration of the class in which they were having difficulty, or until they have finished their plan. For example, when student are having difficulty following the rules at art, they go to the RTC for the remainder of the art class, but will return to their regular class when art is over. However, they may not return to art class until they have written a plan as negotiated, at an appropriate time, with the art teacher. This way students are staying in classes where they are experiencing success. If students choose to stay in the RTC for an extended amount of time, other interventions may be necessary. Students are responsible for class work missed while they are in the RTC.
What happens if a student chooses to go to RTC frequently?
If a student chooses not to follow his/her plan and continues to disrupt, he or she returns to the RTC to evaluate the plan. After a number of visits to the RTC, the Intervention Team will meet to assist students.
What is an Intervention Team?
The Intervention Team meets when a student makes frequent visits to the RTC or refuses to write a plan within a reasonable amount of time. This team consists of the principal, the RTC teacher, parents, the student's teacher, and other appropriate personnel. The purpose of the team is to help the child succeed in school.
How are serious acts of misconduct handled?
Serious acts of misconduct are referred directly to the principal. Consequences for serious acts of misconduct may include suspension and/or expulsion.
What is the parent's role in the Responsible Thinking Program?
It is important that parents understand the theory behind the program, the mechanics of the program, and that it is a process. Many students are accustomed to being told what to do and, at first, will find the thinking process difficult and uncomfortable. In addition, many adults are used to "telling" rather than using questions to simulate problem solving in children. Therefore, proficiency in the Responsible Thinking Program requires a learning process for teachers, parents and students. Parents can learn more about the Responsible Thinking Program by reading the book,Discipline for Home and School (available in the RTC) by Edward E. Ford. Parental support and understanding is vital to its success and ultimately to the success of our students.
Can parents use the Responsible Thinking Process at home with their children?
The Responsible Thinking Program is an effective tool for the home. The questioning process fosters respect between parents and children, since parents are no longer "telling" their children what to do and how to do it. Instead, children learn to think about their actions and the effects of those actions. This helps to keep the important lines of communication open. Confidence is built as children experience success from making their own responsible decisions. A goal of every parent is to raise children who make good decisions, when no one is watching, and are self-disciplined.
How can I get more information? You may call Becky Benson in the RTC during school hours at 578-5050 ext. 2534
Mr. Ford's web page: www.responsiblethinking.com