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If you’re looking for motivation or inspiration in life, you could do a lot worse than to look at some of the words of U.S. sports coaches.

Coach Don Coryell (San Diego Chargers) inadvertently summed up our teaching philosophy in one soundbite : “The country is full of good coaches. What it takes to win is a bunch of interested players.” And if you’ve never sat down and watched Coach John Wooden’s gentle TED talk on the difference between winning and succeeding, you really should.

You can add Jim Roberson’s name to that list of inspiring coaches. He has coached American Football in the U.S. and, more recently, in the U.K. and his book ‘The Discipline Coach’, is full of wisdom as applicable to your classroom as the sports field.

The Discipline Coach’ is a book about redefining discipline as we’ve known it. Through quotes, anecdotes and a unique style of writing, Jim Roberson explains that discipline is “not what you do to yourself or what anyone does to you. It’s what you do to yourself.” He goes on to provide positive alternatives and clear guidance as to how to put self-discipline into practice in the classroom and in life.

It’s hard to put into words what this book is like. As we type, it’s sounding too verbose and dry, which for this book isn’t good enough. ‘The Discipline Coach’ is punchy stuff. Gutsy. Coach Roberson doesn’t waste words or mince them. This is reflected in the book’s design (which, by the way, is a thing of beauty) — why fill a page with 200 words when six will do the job and a lot more powerfully too?

Perhaps the best review would be to explain the feelings it provoked. It brought back memories of specific children who had been excluded from schools we’ve taught in. Challenging children who were taken out of class on a daily basis. Children who the schools just couldn’t (or didn’t want to) cope with. Children who didn’t comply with the conventional ‘discipline’. Walking across the school field to where they’d stormed off — in a bid to talk it out — only to find there was no getting through their red mist. When they were eventually “moved on”, the school collectively breathed a sigh of relief. We know we did. We’d tried everything and they just didn’t want to learn.

This passage made us think again. We’ve tried to keep the formatting similar to that in the book. It’s almost poetic.

Roberson goes on to give three ways of helping young people think before they act. We wish we’d read it as a PGCE students.

The Discipline Coach’ will challenge you. It’ll probably give you regrets about the way you’ve handled things in the past and certainly make you wish you’d read it years ago. But, more than that, it’ll inspire you to make a difference NOW. It’ll inspire you to model respect in order to get it, make ‘firsts’ happen for your students, to use the art of making others feel good and develop an ‘I can’ mindset.

We’ve never met Jim Roberson, but we want to teach like him.

In his foreword to ‘The Discipline Coach’, Ian Gilbert talks about trying to distil Jim Roberson’s philosophy into the book, capturing “Jim’s spirit, his voice and his relentless energy”. Credit needs to go to the Independent Thinking / Crown House team here, because they’ve done so in spadefuls. You’ll leave ‘The Discipline Coach’ feeling energised, raring to go and with a strange feeling that you already know Jim Roberson quite well. If Independent Thinking ever decide to go into the audio book market, this would be the perfect place to start.

The Discipline Coach’ is more than a book. It’s a team talk.



As a footnote and on the subject of modelling respect, here’s one of our ‘Caution! Minds at work’ posters. If you’d like a copy of it (and 25 others) for your classroom, click here.

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So, what do you think?

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