Back at it again to look at some more of Tom Schimmer’s ideas on schoolwide discipline plans. 

Schimmer starts by clarifying that creating a predictable and reliable learning environment doesn’t mean creating a sterile or monotonous day-to-day school life. I think teachers trip up here; sometimes in an effort to create consistency, every day’s learning experience ends up looking exactly the same–Do Now, Mini-Lesson, Checkpoint, Independent Work, Wrap-up. This isn’t to say a teacher can’t have a truly exciting class with that daily model, but just that she will have to do so in spite of that model.

Ultimately, unpredictability breeds anxiety. (I do create unpredictable experiences in my own room by doing “wacky” things–spontaneous singing, rapping, climbing on things, surprises etc.–but the difference is that none of these things threaten students’ sense of safety or risk.) This is especially true with students with disabilities and especially especially true with students with autism spectrum disorder.

Schimmer starts with a few key points:

1: Teach what is expected.

The bedrock of it all. Don’t just tell what’s expected–rehearse it.

2: This is working model, not the model.

Dick Allington’s words about reading programs ring true for discipline systems as well: “Every system works somewhere, no system works everywhere.”

3: Each school’s discipline plan must be contextualized

Tom Coughlin’s military approach worked with the Jacksonville Jaguars; when he tried to graft it onto the New York Giants, the team rebelled and tanked their season. When he adapted to the context, they won two Super Bowls (okay, that’s a bit of an oversimplification, but still…).

4: Creating a school-wide approach to student discipline will not be sufficient for students with more complex behavioural challenges.

Hmm. But it’d sure be nice if it was! Anyways …

Okay, now for the three steps:

STEP 1: Decide on the number of behavioural levels.

I like that Schimmer ultimately concludes it’s not that important how many you have, just that you have a set number and a clear rationale.

STEP 2: Define each level.

Which behaviors will ALWAYS be handled in the classroom? Which behaviors will USUALLY be handled in the classroom except when they become chronic? Which behaviors will ALWAYS be handled by the office? Abandon all hope, ye who can not get clarity on this in your schools …

STEP 3: Categorize every behavior.

And I would add–enlist staff to help with this.

Here’s the most illuminating part, I think:

  • If the student acted that way, would you immediately refer that student to the school administration? If YES, it’s a level 3. If NO, then it’s a level 1 or 2.
  • If the student acted that way consistently throughout the year, could you see a scenario where you would never refer that student to the school administration, even if you felt the behaviour was chronic? If YES, it’s a level 1. If NO, it’s a level 2 because a chronic behaviour will always result in a referral.


Schimmer concludes by saying he knows this topic “isn’t sexy and doesn’t inspire.” Well, speak for yourself, Tom.


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