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Classroom Discipline

Reality Therapy (RT)

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As mentioned in the previous document, Reality Therapy (also called Choice Theory) was created by William Glasser, MD. The emphasis of this program is to help students connect behavior with consequence. This is done with class meetings, clear rules, and contracts. This also includes Positive Approach to Discipline (PAD), which is based on Reality Therapy.


The idea behind RT is to give students a "dose of reality." There are five basic needs that are addressed by RT.

  1. Power- Achievement and winning

  2. Love and belonging- We all need to feel loved by others

  3. Freedom- Independence and autonomy

  4. Fun- Recreation, pleasure and enjoyment

  5. Survival- Nourishment, shelter, and other basic needs.

Students act on these needs at all times. Some students have learned ineffective ways to meet their needs that interrupt a classroom. A teacher will need to figure out what students want, what they should do to get what they want and if they are succeeding in meeting their own needs.
Reality Therapy by William Glasser
If students feel they have some control over their own education, they will not feel they need to act out to get their needs met. A teacher needs to get out of the controlling mode and into a role of collaboration and motivation. If students thing that others control them, then they blame others for their problems and begin loosing motivation.

Reality Therapy is used a lot in counseling. It involves breaking poor habits learned from years of not getting needs met and unlearning dysfunctional methods they've used to survive in the past.

Glasser added to his program and included it in the book, "The Quality School." This is a very popular book and I recommend that all teachers get a copy. This book explains how the traditional school is failing to give kids any sense of control over their education or their lives. Responsibility is spread among students, teachers, and administrators. When the school develops into something students consider quality, then they begin to care about it and achieve.

Choice Theory

Choice Theory is the idea that the behavior of children is related to five basic needs; survival, love and belonging, power and significance, freedom and autonomy, and fun.


Glasser says that if these basic needs are being fulfilled, the child will not be a behavioral problem. Glasser calls the state in which all these needs are met as the "Quality World."


Glasser also states that student behavior is made up of these four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology. He says that students can choose the behaviors of the first two but usually can't choose the later two. The latter two are usually controlled by their parents or situation. If the student doesn't experience the five basic needs, the student will have a harder time choosing the right behavior and certainly won't be feeling well and will have a dysfunctional physiology.


In short, poor behavior results when a student is unhappy and is not getting their primary needs met. Glasser says that there is little a teacher can do to control any behavior but their own. What a teacher can do instead is try to help the student experience their own "Quality World."


"For example, Johnny Waits is an 18-year-old high school senior and plans on attending college to become a computer programmer. Glasser suggests that Johnny should be learning as much as he can about computers instead of reading Plato. This concept is called quality curriculum; which consists of topics students find useful and enjoyable. Under Glasser’s strategy, the teacher would hold discussions with students when introducing new topics and ask them to identify what they would like to explore in depth. As part of the process, students need to explain why the material is valuable in life." (Charles, C.M. (2008). Building Classroom Discipline. (9th ed.). Boston: Pearson Education.)


In the age of high stakes testing, it will be difficult to tailor a student's education if their quality world is not on the state test. This is one of the reasons NCLB is failing miserably and that there is increasing resistance to the new Common Core Curriculum.

Dr. Glasser Reality Therapy & Choice Theory

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Reality Therapy: A New Approach to Psychiatry (Colophon Books) - Glasser's classic bestseller, with more than 500,000 copies sold, examines his alternative to Freudian psychoanalytic procedures, explains the procedure, contrasts it to conventional treatment, and describes different individual cases in which it was successful.


Reality Therapy For the 21st Century - To help teach reality therapy, the author encapsulates the delivery system into the acronym "WDEP". It is expanded to include 22 types of self-evaluation which counsellors and therapists can use to shorten therapy time in the current managed care environment. Each component of the delivery system is illustrated with dialogues so that the reader can see exactly how the system is practical and immediately usable.


The Quality School - "This should be required reading by every school administrator, every teacher, every board member and all university faculty involved in the training of teachers."--Dr. Albert Mamary, Superintendent of Schools, Johnson City, New York


Choice Theory: A New Psychology Of Personal Freedom - Dr. William Glasser explains that we must give up the punishing, relationships and destroying external control psychology. For example, if you are in an unhappy relationship right now, he proposes that one or both of you could be using external control psychology on the other.


Administrative Behavior Contracts- doc a Word document with templates of behavior contracts.
The William Glasser Institute
Reality Therapy and Choice Theory
Center for Reality Therapy
Quality Schools
Glasser's Choice Theory

Teaching in the Quality Classroom