In the Schoolroom

Hello Boris and Bill,

Thanx for your prompt replies.

Some information for starters. RTP is a practical application of PCT. It was developed by Ed as a response to teachers who had ‘lost control’ of their classes and were becoming seriously stressed. It was a happy accident that I came upon it when looking for a discipline programme that ‘worked’ So when I was appointed to a job in learning and behaviour management I pursued my interest in RTP. I have lost count of the number of RTP conferences and workshops I have attended. (And the discussions I have had). I am indebted to Ed and Tim and Tom especially, for that which I have learned from them.

Where do I make a start ???

Remember always that I can’t ‘make’ anyone do anything. Therefore, students are invited to take part in the experiences I offer. Remember, too, that I can’t tell what someone is doing by what they are doing, so make no assumptions. (Get myself out of the way.) Ask questions. Slow down.

Begin by establishing the rules with the students.

  1. Let the teacher teach.

  2. Let the students learn.

  3. Make school a safe place.

  4. Respect each other.

Establish the idea that no-one is naughty or in trouble if they break the rules – they just need support to follow them.

Look at the curriculum requirements – set some goals with students – class and personal. Where I’m at now – where I want to be, by when ? I will probably need to be quite directive with some children. Personal responsibility is not on the agenda – class, and indeed the whole school, operates on a rewards and punishment system. Are they into Skinner here ? Negotiate and compromise. I must also ask myself – Who’s doing the thinking ???

To finish, for now, RTP has taught me what does not work. More later. It’s the HPCT that I’m bumbling around with.

Go well.


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Dear Grace,

First thing that I learned when I joined CSG was to make some premises for
PCT analyses :
1, All human work as HPCT
2. Conflict can occur when one person attempt to control another
Maybe Bill and other PCT Masters will correct something (what's good for
both of us)

Grace wrote :
RTP is a practical application of PCT

Boris wrote :
RTP, as far as I understand, is one of the applications of PCT. It's teacher
oriented and that means it offers background for teachers to operate as
HPCT. As you will see in the further conversation if there'll be any, there
are many possible explanations for humans when they interact.

Grace wrote :
Remember always that I can�t �make� anyone do anything.

Boris wrote :
Why do you think then, that students should be let learn (if you can't make
them do anything). Do you think that students come to school to learn ? What
does it mean to learn ?

Grace wrote :
Begin by establishing the rules with the students.
1. Let the teacher teach.
2. Let the students learn.
3. Make school a safe place.
4. Respect each other.>>>>>>>>>>>>

Boris wrote :
There are to many contadictions here.
I think if teacher should be let teach that means he will have to force
students to learn even with punishments or RTP. There is always a conflict.
Most of students will never willingly accept learning. So there is always a
conflict as teacher try to control students to learn (that means teacher
tries to make students do something teacher wants, not what students really

Make an experiment. If you can't make anybody to do anything, say to
children that they can do anything they want without consequences. What do
you think it will happen ?
But that's the only way for you, to find out what happens, if you really
don't control children. You'll find out that every student in the class will
control his/hers critical variables.

If there are conflicts, school can never be safe. Because you never know
when error in some students as the consequence of your attempt to control
them to learn, will be to big and his behavior will start to be "aggressive"
to return control over wanted variables. So this is by my opinion the
mechanism how you get a shooter or any other "aggressive" behavior in the
classroom if you "push" to much. And I think there is no rule in perceptual
control systems when error is too big.

If there are conflicts, there are also less possibilities for mutual respect
to take place between teacher and students.

Grace wrote :
I will probably need to be quite directive with some children.

Boris Wrote :
I don't understand why did you wrote in the first place : " Remember always
that I can�t �make� anyone do anything", if your statement now is in fact :
you have to control children to reach the goals of curriculum. So you don't
only think that you can control children, you do it deliberately. So you can
make everyone do anything, if you want to and have means to do it.

Grace wrote :
Personal responsibility is not on the agenda ďż˝ class, and indeed the whole
school, operates on a rewards and punishment system. Are they into Skinner
here ?

Boris wrote :
So you see that everything is under control. See about reward and punishment
in Bill's book "Making sense of behavior".

Grace wrote :
To finish, for now, RTP has taught me what does not work. More later. It�s
the HPCT that I�m bumbling around with.

Boris wrote :
Well that's a good decision. As I said before "shoot" the questions, what
you want to know about PCT and schooling children.

All best,


Hello, Boris --

Grace wrote :
Remember always that I can't 'make' anyone do anything.

Boris wrote :
Why do you think then, that students should be let learn (if you can't make
them do anything). Do you think that students come to school to learn ? What
does it mean to learn ?

I think older students go to school -- to colleges and universities -- because they want to learn. At least some of them do. But young children go to school because their parents send them to school and everybody else their age goes to school. And of course in the United States and other countries, the law says that children must attend school until they reach a specified age. If they fail to go to school, social workers or the police find them and force them to attend.

This is the reality of the society and the school system that already exists: that is where we have to start.

Introducing PCT to schools cannot be done unless it reduces errors that the teachers and administrators and government officials are trying to correct -- and also reduces errors felt by students and parents. It's not possible to force the teachers and administrators to change their behavior: they will simply resist, just as the students resist them.

Therefore we have to ask what changes are possible that will lead the school systems to behave in ways a little more like the PCT ideal. We can't just say "You are doing it wrong; we know the right way to do it, so do it our way right now." That does not work. It can't work, according to PCT. We have to follow a strategy that always takes into account the problems that the school system recognizes and wants to correct. Some of these problems we can't help them with, and wouldn't want to help them with. But there are always problems that can be solved, which will open the door to solving more problems and build confidence in the PCT approach.

Consider the big question: "classroom discipline." Most teachers feel that they have to control the students in their classrooms, keeping them quiet, sitting down, attending to the teacher, not talking, not looking out the window. Of course they can't do this with all the students; many students challenge the teachers, or have problems they need to deal with whether the teacher cares or not. Few teachers have any idea about how to deal with these disruptors except for screaming at them, threatening them, or sending them to the front office for punishment. This, of course, makes them behave worse, not better. Most teachers detest these situations and hate themselves when they lose their cool, and they fear that other teachers or the administrators will see their classrooms in disorder, which makes the teachers fear for their jobs.

So that is one place where PCT can be brought into play in a way that helps the teachers, and also helps the students. The first thing we have to explain to the teachers (and their bosses) is that it's perfectly natural for students to resist attempts to control them, and in fact any really serious attempts to control them will only arouse more hostility. A teacher without training as a counsellor should not have to try to deal with those problems, and a student who is having a bad time needs something more than being yelled at or being punished. And anyway, a teacher with 20 or 30 students in a class can't teach while trying to deal with 20 or 30 individual problems at the same time.

Then we can suggest that we have the students who can't get along in class seek help from someone who understands these kinds of problems, whose only responsibility is to treat the students with respect, try to find out what their difficulty is, and help them find solutions. The administrators and teachers will see this, at first, as punishing the students until they decide to behave right. But what goes on between the students and the helping person is something very different: it is like the method of levels, in which the student is asked to explore the problems that the student (not the teacher) sees as problems, to uncover internal conflicts, and to seek higher-level points of view toward the whole situation. And the teachers no longer get into worse and worse conflicts with students until they throw the students out of the class to be punished. Instead, the teachers say "All right, John, I guess we can't solve this problem here in class. Here is a pass to let you go to the cool-off room and work this out for yourself. Come back when you feel you can." In five minutes it's over, the student is gone, and the teacher gets back to teaching without going all the way to anger or despair. In fact the PCT advisor shows the teacher how to do this without being angry, without blaming the student, and without disrespect.

Is this good, pure, perfect PCT? No, it's not. The student is still being told what to do and what not to do in class. There is no choice about going to the RTC. But the level of conflict is greatly reduced and the emphasis is always on avoiding the punitive attitude. There are still disturbances but they are much smaller and the actions needed to resist them are much smaller.

What happens eventually is that students do get help in the RTC, a lot of help in dealing with their own anxieties, fears, and resentments, as well as dealing with adults who can sometimes be unreasonable and unfair. The school begins to show fewer signs of stress. The teachers who pretend to be respecting the students and not punishing them begin, more and more, to see that this really works, that it's appreciated, and they stop having to pretend. They really do it. And in many American schools, the assistant principal discovers that hours can go by without seeing any students waiting in chairs to be scolded or punished. As the punishment diminishes, everyone on both sides feels better; the atmosphere in the school changes.

The result of that is that the job of the PCT advisor just gets easier and easier. Once the real effects are seen, that job is almost finished. The school has a new system of social relationships that will carry itself on.

What I'm saying, Boris, is that even when we know that the principles of PCT are not being followed, we can focus on improving the situation, always looking for an opening where control can be loosened and respect can be increased, where punishment is lessened and more genuine help is given. We know where the system needs to go, but we also know it can't get there in one jump. We have to deal with ALL the people in the system, not just the students, and we have to apply PCT in a way that doesn't make things better for some of the people and worse for the rest.