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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Review: 1-2-3 Magic for Teachers


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“Don’t disappear, you have school work to do.”

“Hmph!”

“What’s the matter?!”

“You never let me do anything I wanna do!”

“I’m really sick of your attitude.”

Child starts randomly kicking things.

“You are acting like a 5-year-old! Get out of my sight…I can’t stand it when you act like this!”

Um, yeah, that started with a 10-year-old having a meltdown and ended with a 39-year-old having a meltdown. Sound familiar? Things can get a little intense around here when the little people decide not to cooperate.

Having your 10-year-old throw a fit about putting on his pajamas or finishing his homework is one thing. But butting heads with him every other minute of the day is a trial by fire…and often tears. How can I teach Peter how to read or help Mary with her math if their older brother is monopolizing my time and energy with constant power struggles? And what happens when the 5-year-old decides that he’s had enough, too, and throws his own tantrum?

Maybe you’ve heard of 1-2-3 Magic…it’s not really magic, but the results can seem magical. In the book, Thomas W. Phelan (registered Ph.D. clinical psychologist) gives parents a method of restoring order to their sometimes chaotic homes by helping their kiddos get hold of themselves (and helping the parents get hold of themselves). For years teachers have been adapting the method to use in their classrooms, but now here’s a new Magic out and it’s just for teachers.

If you’ve been reading this blog lately, you know that discipline has been a bit of an issue lately in our homeschool. I’ve found that there are discipline problems that are unique to our situation, that aren’t really addressed by typical “parenting” books. Too much crazy-making doesn’t leave much room for real learning…it just sucks the verve out of you. To that end, I was looking forward to my review copy of 1-2-3 Magic for Teachers Effective Classroom Discipline Pre-K through Grade 8 book and DVD. Maybe it could make a little magic in my homeschool. But would it work in a homeschool situation? Let’s take a closer look.

The 1-2-3 Magic way to discipline basically consists of 3 parts:
  1. Stopping unwanted behavior through counting.
  2. Starting wanted behavior by providing the right motivation.
  3. Fostering a positive teacher-student relationship.
All 3 parts are necessary for the program to be effective. I’m not going to fully outline the method here for obvious reasons (read the bookSmile), but I will say that the actual method itself is very simple and could probably be explained in a pamphlet instead of a 240+ page book. The rest of book gives you the necessary background to understand the why of the method behind it (your motivation) and provides advice on specific situations and logistical considerations. There’s also some cheerleading going on, of course, and plenty of hypothetical examples of the method being use. This last was a bit of a disappointment for me. As a skeptic, I was hoping for some actual true-to-life examples, but these were obviously scripted along the lines of: this is what would happen if a teacher used the 1-2-3 and this is what would happen to the poor soul who didn’t use the 1-2-3. The DVD does a better job in this area. While the examples are exactly the same, the addition of teacher interviews gives a real-life face to the method.

The 3-hour long DVD consists of a seminar by Phelan and teacher/consultant Sarah Jane Schonour explaining the method, interspersed with snippets of interviews with teachers who use the method, and dramatic portrayals of the method being used (or not used) in a classroom. It’s an effective presentation, though not one you’ll want to watch in one sitting. While the book covers the same info, I found the DVD to be more thorough in many instances. One example, the book states that: A student who is doing his work will not be a discipline problem. Effective teaching is the best preventive discipline strategy. There’s really no explanation given beyond that…it kinda sounds like “if you were a better teacher, your kids wouldn’t act up.” But the DVD goes on to give some practical advice in this area, making suggestions that I can actually use, and not making me feel like a it’s all my fault.

With any book, there will be something you don’t quite see eye-to-eye with the author on. There are a few instances in both the book and the DVD of an Us vs. Them (Teachers vs. Parents) attitude that turned me off. An example from the book: Other times explanations will take the teacher and child through what we call the Talk-Persuade-Argue-Yell Syndrome (with some parents this is known as the Talk-Persuade-Argue-Yell-Hit Syndrome). This same point is made in the DVD, but mitigated somewhat by explanation. Now, I don’t disagree that hitting happens in some households, but why mention this here? While all parents have the potential of hitting or even abusing their children, I’m going to go out on a limb and say that most do not. Why make us all suspects?

Putting these few things aside, what impressed me most was that the 1-2-3 reasoning makes sense, the methods seem do-able…and the DVD gives me the tools to do it. I haven’t been left floundering trying to figure it out for myself. Thank you Dr. Phelan and Ms. Schonour, I have high hopes for implementing this in my homeschool. I feel confident that I can train my kiddos to be paragons of virtue by giving them the limits they need to control their own behavior and the instruction they need to make better choices. Is this the answer to my whole virtue training dilemma? No, of course not. But reading the book and viewing the DVD has:
  • Reinforced my conviction that my own role is paramount to getting proper discipline in our homeschool (I yell, you yell, we all yell…not!) and
  • more order will free up our time and energy to pursue true virtue training.
It’s a tall order, but I have high hopes. We’ll see how it goes.

I would recommend the 1-2-3 Magic for Teachers DVD as a resource to anyone who is teaching multiple students at home, teaching in a co-op situation, or even volunteering with groups of children. While there are chapters that won’t apply to a non-school situation, and parents have fewer restraints on them than teachers, the majority of the material is very usable or adaptable to a homeschool or homeschool co-op. Might be worth adding to your local support group’s library if they have one. And definitely worth borrowing from your local library.

1-2-3 Magic for Teachers Effective Classroom Discipline Pre-K through Grade 8 (by Thomas W. Phelan, Ph.D. and Sarah Jane Schonour, M.A.) is available
  • as a paperback from booksellers and libraries, or directly from Parent Magic, Inc. for $14.95, or
  • as a DVD for $39.95.
Note: Pricing current as of 12/28/10.

I received one or more of the products mentioned above for free using Tomoson.com. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commissions 16 CFR, Part 255 Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising. Tomoson Product review & giveaway Disclosure.

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