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Case Study Six

The teachers at Campbell Middle School had heard about approaches to discipline that involved students in writing about behavioral incidents as a way of analyzing, and sometimes defending, their own role in the incidents. They were eager to develop a similar approach and began by creating the following sentence stems that students would complete as they analyzed their behavior:

I think that I contributed to the incident when I __________________.

I think that _____________________ contributed when she/he ______________.

I think the incident would not have happened if I had/had not ________________.

I think the incident would not have happened if __________________ had/had not __________________.

When I think back on what happened, I wish _________________.

Next time, if I am in a similar situation, I will ______________.

I think the best solution to the problems caused by this incident is _______________.

At first, teachers were pleased with their work, but then several teachers reminded the group that many of their students either had significant problems communicating in writing or had English language deficiencies that would make them extremely uncomfortable when trying to complete these sentence stems. Because they believed in the power of written self-analysis, they decided to keep working so that their format would work for all students. First, they set up a process that allowed students, when necessary, to respond to the sentence stems orally into a small cassette tape recorder. In this way, the teachers communicated to students that the self-analysis was more important than the writing. Second, the teachers translated the sentence stems into several languages, which helped to ensure that all students had the opportunity to analyze their behavior in the language with which they were most comfortable. When they finished the modifications, the teachers felt they had created a process that would provide opportunities for all students to analyze, and take responsibility for, their behavior.

Jason was a puzzle. Mr. Hancock had tried every strategy he knew to get Jason to stop disrupting class and to complete his work. What was most puzzling to Mr. Hancock, though, was knowing that Jason was a leader on his soccer team and had recently been selected as captain. Further, he knew Jason was bright, that when he applied himself he earned As and Bs. It was frustrating that Jasonís missing work was destroying his record. This is the profile that Mr. Hancock presented during the meeting he set up with Jason, his parents, and the counselor. He began the meeting by placing two stacks of 3x5 cards on the table in front of them. On each card in one stack he had written a brief description of a wonderful trait that Jason had exhibited on good days. On each card in the other stack he had briefly described the kinds of disruptive behavior, referrals, and missing work that defined Jason on other days. ďI want to figure out a way of removing this negative pile, leaving this positive pile as the one that describes Jason. What do you think, Jason? Will you work with me? Jason hesitated, but did agree.