Skip to content

Discipline in the Classroom: Colin Gleason on the Art of Order

As teachers and parents, it is often difficult to find the balance between leniency and strictness, love and fear. Getting the right tone, being firm in principle and flexible in preference, is indeed an art and an especially difficult one. While nothing can replace personal experience for growing in this art, self-reflection is a great aid to this end.

This week on HeightsCast, Mr. Colin Gleason, Head of the Lower School, offers an aid to our personal reflection. The episode features a presentation by Mr. Gleason from our recent Art of Teaching Conference. At that conference, he spoke to seventy men from across the United States and beyond about how we, as teachers, can foster an environment of respectful dominion in the classroom. Colin offers a list of twelve principles, together with a great many practical pointers and delightful anecdotes.

In the end, the point of discipline is to foster the right tone for learning, the proper culture for growth. Whether this growth occurs in the home or in the classroom, having the right tone is ultimately about love. Rome, they say, was not loved because she was great; she was great because she was first loved. So too our sons and students.


  • 2:25 Beginning with the end
  • 3:50 A question of balance
  • 6:35 Principle #1: Discipline begins before class begins
  • 8:32 Principle #2: Best disciplinary tool is a good lesson plan
  • 12:25 Principle #3: Fostering class culture is more effective than listing class rules
  • 14:40 Principle #4: We earn capital outside to spend inside
  • 17:05 Principle #5: Smiling isn’t enough; we need to laugh
  • 19:45 Principle #6: Let them love what they see and fear what they don’t
  • 24:45 Principle #7: Don’t confuse personal preference with principles
  • 25:40 Principle #8: Non-correction corrections
  • 27:35 Principle #9: Replace star stickers with handshakes
  • 29:15 Principle #10: Learners over lessons
  • 31:25 Principle #11: Replace line-writing with push-ups
  • 34:30 Principle #12: When you send students to the principal’s office, your authority goes with them

Also on the Forum

Boys, Education, and The Heights with Alvaro de Vicente

Raising Contemplative Sons: The Problem with Boys with Colin Gleason

Our Little Protectors: How Do WE See Our Boys? with Alvaro de Vicente

On Recess: The Benefits of Free Play with Colin Gleason

Toughness for the Adolescent Boy by Kyle Blackmer

Seeing Our Boys with Loving Eyes: Not Projects, but Persons with Tom Royals

Why Boys Need to Be Given Freedom by Andy Reed

Material Order and the Middle School Boy with Kyle Blackmer

Can I Catch It?: On Handling Wildlife with Eric Heil

*For lyrics and history of  the Ave Regina Caelorum, please visit

About the Guest

Colin Gleason

Head of Lower School, The Heights School

Colin Gleason serves as Head of the Lower School at The Heights, where he graduated in 1999. After college, he returned to his alma mater where he has taught a variety of classes: 3rd Grade Homeroom; Natural History; Chess; Storytelling; and currently, Moral Theology in the Upper School. He served four years as the Director of Admissions before taking on his current position as Head of the Lower School in 2010, overseeing his beloved Valley where he began as a student. Colin has also served as the Head Varsity Soccer Coach since 2010, and has been named Coach of the Year by the Washington Catholic Athletic Conference and All Met Coach of the Year by the Washington Post. During the summer, Colin directs The Heights Soccer Camp and The Dangerous Camp for Boys. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Classics from Washington and Lee University and a Master of Liberal Arts from Johns Hopkins University. He and his wife, Nicole, and their five children live in Kensington.

Learn More

Subscribe to The Heights Forum Newsletter

I'm interested in content for...
Select if you'd like to receive a monthly newsletter specifically for any of these educator roles.
This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.