Dear K-5 Families,

I am pleased to share with you that Hartland School has adopted 1, 2, 3, Magic as a discipline management system in all K-5 classrooms. Dr. Thomas Phelan, a clinical psychologist, developed this program incorporating specific, gentle techniques to stop behaviors that interfere with learning and increase pro-learning and prosocial behaviors in all school settings. It came to us from Hartland parents who have implemented the partner program for parents, 1-2-3 Magic: Effective Discipline for Children 2-12, in their own homes.

1-2-3 Magic for Teachers offers great advice for creating classroom environments that are structured for student success. There are strategies for ‘stop behaviors’ and for ‘start behaviors’. These behaviors are handled differently. Below I have listed the guidelines teachers will be using in school. Where page numbers are given, they reference the teachers’ version.

STEP ONE  Counting to control difficult ‘Stop Behaviors’

The guiding principles here are…

  • Respect the kids enough to think they know exactly what teachers/adults expect of them. Never explain or discuss when the child is exhibiting a behavior you want them to stop.
  • When a student or students exhibit a behavior that a teacher or staff member wants them to stop, we ‘count’ them, as warnings (1 and 2) and then a consequence (3) by saying, “That’s 1”, “that’s 2, “that’s 3, take a five minute break.”
  • Rules during counting: No Emotion, No Talking. Make the counts be calm and neutral. After any given count, the teacher will turn back to what s/he was doing to reduce the power struggle and maintain the flow of the lesson. Leave 5-15 seconds until the next count so the student has time to self-correct. If the student escalates however, the adult counts the next number.
  • If the student corrects on 1 or 2, the adult pays no attention but validates the good behavior soon thereafter.
  • The six kinds of testing and manipulation (pages 71-82) “are the efforts of the frustrated child to get what he wants or to avoid discipline…”. They include badgering, intimidation through temper tantrums, making threats (I’m going to run out of the building.), and martyrdom (I’m dumb, you’re mean to me.). Recognize them and count them!
  • When the student comes out of their 5 minutes to think, the teacher will cue them to the task if needed. In a few minutes, the adult can welcome them back.

STEP TWO  Encouraging good ‘Start Behaviors’

  • These are harder for the student because they take more energy and effort. “Adults have to be more skilled and persistent motivators” p. 107. Students should be hearing 2-3 positive comments to every negative one.
  • Classroom strategies include: positive reinforcements, the use of schedules, timers etc. to help student anticipate what is coming and transition effectively.
  • Adults will make requests brief, direct and clear: ‘Please put the materials back on your tray’. The more cheerfully businesslike and matter-of-fact, the better.

STEP THREE  Relationships and Self Esteem

  • “Self-esteem is based on reality, not gimmicks.” (Page 164) This includes social competence, work competence, physical competence and character competence. All of these are complex things to learn and don’t happen overnight. They take a lot of practice in structured settings, regardless if the student ‘should’ have learned it by now!
  • Praise, fun and forgiveness: teachers and staff work hard to validate often, making the journey fun and engaging. This includes well structured classroom environments and lessons, and letting kids off the hook when they mess up so they are not defined by their mistakes. After the behavior has been counted and addressed the student has a ‘clean slate’.
  • We also use sympathetic, active listening: we are on the lookout for times when a student is really trying to express something, just not in the middle of counting. Then, we hear them out with leading questions… “How did you feel when that happened?” A key part of the program is that the time and energy saved by counting instead of explaining is then replaced by validating successes and building relationships.

Teachers at all grade levels will communicate with families if a student’s behavior needs to be ‘counted’ more than occasionally. If a student’s behavior interferes with their ability to learn age-appropriate academic or social skills, families will be involved in developing a more structured and supportive plan.

As always, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me and/or your child’s teacher(s) with questions, concerns or suggestions.

Best regards,
Ms. Hollingsworth