Whatever Happened to 21st Century Discipline?

How this title ceased to exist

Here’s the story of what turned out to be the happy ending (and several years later, the closing of a long karmic circle) to a long and unsuccessful struggle to retain the rights to a book I wrote in the mid-1980’s. This story starts on New Year’s day 2007 and winds up with the publication of The Win-Win Classroom in November of the same year.

Although the original book, 21st Century Discipline, has since gone out of print, I’ve decided to keep this journey among my blogs in part as a reminder (to me, at least) about how obstacles can often become silver linings, pointing to a better direction than may be immediately obvious. Such was certainly the case with this book.

Jan. 1, 2007

A year ago, I was finishing a major overhaul of 21st Century Discipline, adding a great deal of new text and ideas, and reorganizing the information that was presented in earlier versions. I spent the past year working with Corwin publishers with the intention of bringing out a third edition of this book a few weeks ago.

We all believed that I was free and clear, as the previous edition of the book had been dropped out of print almost immediately after a publisher, School Specialty, bought this particular group of books (which also includes Being a Successful Teacher) from McGraw-Hill, which had, a few years before, bought out Frank Schaffer, the company for whom I had developed this edition in the first place. Nonetheless, I spent close to two years trying to get an official termination agreement from the folks at School Specialty, with no response.

Well, when School Specialty finally did get back to me, it turns out that there is something in the contract, something that looks innocent enough (in English as I understand it—which evidently does not equate to legal interpretations) that allows them to claim that they are “not obligated to revert these rights” back to me.

Yes, that’s right: They don’t want this book, but they don’t want anybody else to have it either.

As much as I’ve been beating myself up about this (I am, after all, a writer and a speaker, and use words all the time in my work and my life), even with legal counsel, this language still does not convey that this possibility could ever have come up.

The bottom line is that School Specialty is refusing to terminate my contract with them—a contract which, by the way, they did not even have a copy of when I finally heard back from them. This is also in spite of the fact that this company has never shown any interest in my books or me and actually had no idea who I was when I contacted them. And, to the best of my knowledge, had never seen nor sold a single copy of either book.

As incomprehensible as this is, I am, at a different level, trying to figure out how I went from signing a contract in good faith with a publisher I really respected (Frank Schaffer Publishing) to dealing with the kinds of people I don’t normally attract into my life. (And isn’t it fascinating that a book entirely devoted to developing win-win relationships in a classroom would wind up in the hands of people so apparently entrenched in no-win policies and practices!?)

I have a tremendous amount of support right now, although my attorney (among others) has encountered the same colossal degree of indifference and disregard from this publisher as I’ve experienced.

This book has been such a big part of who I’ve been professionally for the past 20 years, and commercially, there’s a lot of product loyalty and familiarity. But it may be that I’m being pushed, for whatever reason, to bring these ideas forward in a different package. Both my work in general, and this book in particular, have undergone significant changes in the two decades in which this book has been in print. (The next edition of 21st Century Discipline will be unlike previous editions, regardless of what it will be called.)

So, as much as I’d love to be done with the writing processes involved in the development of this book, I’m really pretty open. Bringing this out as a new book, under a different title, will require some legal research and some additional revisions, neither of which I’m looking forward to, but I believe that the dam is eventually going to burst and that these ideas will emerge in one form or another.

It may just be time for a change, and I am willing to expand my picture of what this book is supposed to be. I am certainly open to getting unstuck as soon as possible, and to disengaging thoroughly from ever having to deal with the energy that School Specialty represents.

I’m not sure what the lesson in all this actually is. (I kind of feel like I’m trying to walk through this forest and have snagged my clothes on something and just can’t quite get loose.) There is no question that I am being challenged to let go and trust right now, neither of which have ever been particularly easy for me. Fascinating, if painful, process.

In the meantime, I still have copies of the second (“discontinued”) version of the book available and promise to keep site visitors informed of progress on this book.

Now that the holidays are winding down, I hope to have some good news to report very soon. In the meantime, hold a good thought!

Jan. 3, 2007

There’s a point in any painful relationship or unsatisfying situation at which I realize that I’ve just had enough. I woke up today and snapped. But in a good way.

I received some reinforcement from a friend, someone who was involved with publishing the original edition of this book more than twenty years ago. Updating her on the story of how we’d been fighting to regain the right to the title, she responded immediately and unequivocally: CHANGE THE TITLE and get away from these people as quickly and thoroughly as you can!

I have been sitting with the idea of letting go of the title of 21st Century Discipline for the past few months, ever since it first became evident that we weren’t going to get much cooperation from School Specialty. I think it finally hit me that I was DONE. Done with this stupid wrestling match, done with dealing with indifferent and unresponsive people, and really done with paying a lawyer to do the same. And I’m also willing to be done with this title, which at this point is starting to represent a lot of negativity and constriction to me.

For whatever good this book may have done in its previous incarnations, I just don’t want this kind of energy in my life anymore. And although there may be a number of people familiar with the title, or committed to using this book in their study groups or University classes, I’m hoping that not only will their loyalty carry over to a new title, but that the new title—new product, actually—will win a market that either didn’t know about the old book, or didn’t respond to the old title.

I wrote to the people at Corwin, and to my attorney, and said I’d like to let it go, reshape the book we have now to make whatever changes we need to bring out a new book with a new title. There is already so much new or changed material that legally (and karmically), this shouldn’t be an issue, but I have asked both my attorney and Corwin to check into details of the requirements that will stand up to legal scrutiny. I’d like to shift our efforts from trying to get School Specialty (ugh!) to budge to determining what we (or I) need to do to create a book we can freely release with no interference or restrictions or impediments. From anyone or anywhere.

What a weird process.

And to add a few curves to this already-wild ride, I just found out that my editor left Corwin at the end of the year! (She is the one who brought me into the Corwin stable of authors, and someone with whom I had thoroughly bonded. We worked well together. She understood who I am and what my work is about. This is always a very special relationship and I feel really fortunate to have had this great connection here.) Despite a bit of panic, and a brief reunion with some abandonment issues, I’ve been assured by Corwin’s editorial staff that I will be “well cared for” during this transition.

I don’t expect this change in personnel to have an immediate impact on what we end up doing with this book, but I will need someone who can help me reshape what I have, assuming that Corwin is game to pursue this direction. I won’t really know anything until they get back to me, but this is where I am in this process.

And I haven’t felt as free as I do right now in months.

Jan. 12, 2007

I heard back from the head honcho at Corwin—a really nice (and bright) guy I worked with at Frank Schaffer and one of the reasons I wanted to work with Corwin. He likes the idea of changing the title but is still willing to work out a licensing agreement with School Specialty, something I thought was pretty much off the table when it first came up.

As long as I don’t have to deal with any of this stuff, it does sound like a win-win solution to the problem, although frankly, if Corwin engages a licensing agreement, there must be another reason they want to reconsider the title (which, I would imagine, would be ours to use as we wish if we’re paying for rights, right?)

So I’m still in this weird limbo until they hammer this out. Additionally, with or without a licensing agreement, I will need a new editor to help determine what we’re finally gonna call this puppy and how we need to revise the content. Hopefully, in the next week this project can move forward again. Just hearing back from Corwin, and hearing their intention to do this book and continue working with me (I was starting to wonder…) was very positive.

Once again, the challenge is in letting go and allowing the people involved sort this all out. I’ve done my homework but can’t really do anything else until we have a commitment and a direction. So stay tuned. I’ll post the progress as soon as I hear something.

Jan. 27, 2007

My energy has been cut off from work-related stuff for weeks. I have a feeling that this “disconnect” may have slowed things down a bit, or at least left me feeling OK about none of this being resolved at the moment. Normally I don’t do well with “messy and unresolved,” but for some reason, I’ve really let this one go, working on the assumption that unseen wheels were turning, even if I wasn’t privy to what was going on.

I sent an email just to check in earlier this week and heard back from Corwin today. Apparently I have a new editor, a woman with whom I’ve spoken a couple of times on the phone and really like. So this feels like a great leap forward.

I was also told that they’re waiting to hear from “legal” so that we have the guidance to proceed “by the book,” and don’t end up in any hot water. No word about the previously-mentioned licensing agreement so maybe that’s off. I’ll check in with this new editor later this week and see what she has to say.

So nothing definite but I honestly believe that we are heading toward an ultimate product release. Details as soon as I hear something.

Feb. 2, 2007

I had this feeling that once I got back to work, this apparent logjam would break, and yes, toward the end of a week of back-to-back seminars, I got a call from my aforementioned new editor. After two days of meetings with their lawyers, Corwin has decided to proceed without any connection to (or licensing agreement with) School Specialty. (Yay! Who would want anything to do with a company like that anyhow?) This was my first choice as all of my dealings with that organization have felt unaccountably nasty, restrictive and toxic.

Corwin is going to release what was intended as the third edition of this book as a completely new entity. The new book will have a different title and must contain at least 50% new material, which it probably already does (although I will go through the manuscript and make sure).

Although I don’t know what we’re going to call this thing (and can’t begin any revision until we settle on a title or direction), this feels like a solid decision, and a big step forward. I plan to contact a number of people, including those who served as peer reviewers, people who know this book or who know what I do, and solicit their feedback and ideas for a title. 

Feb. 17, 2007

I sent an email out to peer reviewers, the people who gave feedback on the manuscript several months ago, as well as a few other friends and colleagues who have heard me speak or know my work in some way. After much consideration of a variety of ideas, it became very clear that I wanted to get away from the emphasis on discipline! (Who would have thought?)

And after thinking hard about what this book is really about, and what my true intentions for this book are, I woke up one morning with the title The Win-Win Classroom in my head.

That was it for me.

As soon as I said it out loud, I felt something settle inside, right around my solar plexus—an actual physical sensation. (My gut is almost never wrong about stuff like this.)

So I sent the title off to Corwin and am currently awaiting a termination agreement for 21st Century Discipline and a new contract for The Win-Win Classroom. The contract will say “tentatively entitled” but unless there is some compelling legal or marketing reason to not use this title, I’m definitely going to push for it.

First of all, this new title is very positive, much more so than the energy that still resonates with the word “discipline.”

Second, it includes not only the behavioral aspects of teacher-student interactions, but also the social, emotional, and academic issues, which have always been a part of the content of this book. (This new edition will also address physiological and neurological issues that affect student behavior and achievement, a piece I didn’t have when I wrote the last revision eleven years ago.) Certainly all of these topics have implications for student behavior and discipline issues, but that is almost beside the point when I consider the bigger picture here.

In practical terms, this means that I can approach revisions without having to restructure this book, although I will have to change the orientation of the first few chapters to broaden the focus, but most of what I need is already in place.

The changes from the 2nd edition to this version entailed a lot of movement, a new structure for the table of contents, subheadings that hadn’t previously existed, and many changes to what kinds of materials were included in the various sections, old and new. I should not have anything that complex involved this time around.

The person at Corwin who is sending the contract asked when I would have the new manuscript done! (She needs to include a date in the contract.) Considering the fact that the editor to which this book was recently assigned has not, to my knowledge, actually read the book, that’s a little hard to say.

Although I probably will start playing around with the content in a bit, I would feel a lot better if I were sure we were all on the same page about the title. Release time is also a factor—that is, when the book will actually be ready to ship and start selling. I am willing to drop everything to try to get this manuscript updated but I hesitate to work in a so much of a vacuum.

I’m not confident that the coast is completely clear as far as my understanding of the legality of using some of the materials (the charts in particular, although there really is only one that is completely original to this book). And one other thing: If I’m going to make any changes, I want to be working on the most current version of the document, of which I do not have a copy.

So there are still a few hurdles, but tiny ones compared to the past few months. Even this morning I was up at 7:15 making notes about points I want to make or add, and some of the things I want to change. We are moving forward, and if the concept of this new entity hasn’t completely gelled, its shape is becoming more and more clear to me all the time.

Feb. 22, 2007

After months of being in this bizarre legal limbo, there is finally a breakthrough to report. In the past 24 hours I have spoken with yet another new editor, Hudson Perigo (this is the person with whom I will actually be working on the development of the book), and we have agreed that The Win-Win Classroom will indeed be the new title. This is exactly the hurdle I needed to clear before I could even begin to think about any “next step(s).”

I have also gotten a termination agreement to dissolve the contract for a third edition of 21st Century Discipline as well as a new contract for The Win-Win Classroom. Although I totally trust Corwin, and think the contract looks clean and acceptable, I have turned it over to my attorney just to make sure there isn’t any language that is likely to come back and trip me up in the future.

It’s definitely sad saying goodbye to the old title, but this is a natural step in the evolution of this 20-year-old resource, and I’m absolutely delighted to be in a place that finally feels like we’re moving forward again. Over the next couple of weeks, I will be cleaning up references to the old book and getting the new book ready for production. I will continue to post updates on this blog as warranted.

Mar. 4 , 2007

On March 1, I was doing a full-day training in Long Beach (CA) and  my new editor, Hudson, drove down and caught the last hour or so before lunch. I had never met her before and didn’t even realize she was in the room at first until I spotted an unfamiliar face in the back of the room. What a nice way to meet.

We spent my lunch hour getting acquainted and going over a few questions I had about the contract. Their legal department is satisfied that with the new title and the new content, we will have a new product that will in no way come under any jurisdiction that would have governed the second editon of 21st Century Discipline.

And so I signed the termination agreement for the 3rd edition and I signed the contract for The Win-Win Classroom. Progress.

I have quite a bit of writing to do—to the front matter in particular (preface, introduction, and first couple of chapters), a couple of the charts and activities, at least a few chapter titles, and will remove all references to the old title of the book, adding some new material I’m feeling like I’d like to include. (I definitely want to wipe as many traces of the old book away and have come across a few new ideas and a few points I don’t currently make but which would certainly fit in with the new book.)

I’ve opened the files a couple of times on this trip and frankly don’t know where to start. Of course, this is not exactly the best week to attempt something that will require the level of concentration these changes will demand. (I will have covered 10,000 miles in the 9 days I’m gone on this trip and have spent every day but today either speaking or traveling or both. Although I had hoped to maybe get something started today, I ended up sleeping in and watching movies on the hotel TV or my computer, getting a bit of a recharge before my keynote tomorrow here in Atlanta!)

I have a feeling it’ll be later this week before I make my first honest stab at this project, though the pressure I’m feeling will make me want to get on it right away.

Apr. 2 , 2007

Long overdue update: Last month, I spent 8 days hunkered down and completely overhauled the manuscript, removing or revising any references to “21st Century Discipline,” either as a book title or a concept. In chapters that contained a fair amount of original material from the discipline book, I rewrote what I could, particularly introductory material, so that the section wouldn’t resemble the old book, and changed all chapter titles that hadn’t been updated in the revision (just a few were left).

I also added some new stories, examples, resources, and references, things I’ve picked up in the past few months while this project was in legal limbo. I expanded a few chapters and even added a new final chapter, something that didn’t exist in any version of the original book or subsequent revisions.

So by the time I submitted the chapters, it barely resembled the original book, and at this point, frankly, imagining it as a “third edition” of anything would be a gross inaccuracy. I got some wonderful feedback from my editor and agree that this version, the one that will become The Win-Win Classroom, is a far better thing than any other I have done. Way cool. (See, I knew the School Specialty nonsense would ultimately serve a higher purpose!)

All I have left to do is the Preface and the Intro, and to dig up the dedication (which I didn’t see in the manuscript) and send them in. And then I am finally done.

I spent today overhauling the Preface, which details how this book came into being (and yes, that I started with the original plan to bring out a new edition of the discipline book) as well as changes in my thinking, language, and conceptual framework since I started writing about such issues.

Once I finished and read it over, I decided that while it wasn’t bad, it also wasn’t particularly necessary. I don’t know that these changes are relevant or important or even particularly interesting. I’ve sent the file to my editor and asked for some guidance. If she says to let it go, I may pull a paragraph or two and add it to the Introduction, which I haven’t started. (If she likes it and thinks a Preface would add to the book, I’ll use other stuff for the Intro, though I’m still not sure what I want to say there.)

Corwin is, in the meantime, moving it into production and we are, in her words, “on our way.”

Note, added Apr. 5: I finished the Intro. I like it. My editor likes it. I am officially finished with the revision. I will now get back to the rest of my life and all the details I’ve let slide for the past few weeks. I will continue this update as production progresses, particularly as soon as I have cover art and a release date.

This has, at times, been an agonizing process, even when I my sense of a “higher purpose” was strongest and most clear. I feel very good about what I have submitted and very much at peace with where we are in this journey.

Apr. 24 , 2007

The book is in the editorial process. Despite my hopes of having it pushed through more quickly than the normal 6- to 7-month production schedule, it’s looking like it will be released in November of this year.

I also noted that there was a subtitle assigned: “A Fresh and Positive Look at Classroom Management.” I have no idea who thought this up—I was not consulted—but aside from getting used to it, it sort of works for me. (This also happened with Parents, Teens and Boundaries. The book came out with a subtitle,“How to Draw the Line,” which I never saw before the actual release and which I hated at first, but which seems to have worked as a marketing line, even though it isn’t language I would have used at the time. In a way, I don’t think I’d have cared if they’d subtitled it “Jane’s Next Book,” so I think I’ll just let go and trust where this is going.)

The book will retail for $39.95 in paperback and $79.95 in cloth (hardback). I will probably only carry the paperback edition and will offer pre-orders as soon as I get a better sense of when I’ll actually have books to ship.

Aug. 30, 2007

I got a copy of the 2007/2008 Corwin Catalogue and The Win-Win Classroom was on the cover! This is such an enormous step in this long, long journey. And a huge relief, as well.

Since my last entry, I got the page proofs, what we used to call “galleys,” (or what I still think of as galleys—the industry has changed so much that these might well be very different things) which are the preliminary layout for the book as it will go to press.

I saw a few typos, changed a word here and there, and made a few suggestions about format and sent my comments back in. From that point on, the process is completely out of my hands. The book is officially in production and I won’t see it again until it’s actually a book!

In the meantime, I have set up a web page in the bookstore section of this site, and we have already gotten a number of pre-orders for this title—which is always exciting.

So I’m just about finished with this journey, as I keep calling it. I spent a part of today going over a few final marketing and sales details, sending emails to the guy who runs their speakers’ bureau and to the person from whom I will be ordering books.

The book is scheduled for release on Nov. 13, 2007, according to their website. I will note any changes to the release date here as I hear of them. Hopefully, however, beyond that, the next entry you see on this page will be a brief and triumphant announcement that this book is available.

Sept. 15, 2007

This past week I received a copy of Corwin’s 2007-2008 catalogue, as well as a copy of the catalogue they prepared for teacher education institutions. My book, The Win-Win Classroom, was one of six books on the cover of each catalogue! I am beyond thrilled, and very grateful to be working with this organization.

Nov. 5, 2007

The Win-Win Classroom has arrived!

I am hoping that this will be my final entry in this particular blog, a confirmation that all the nonsense that happened a year ago, happened only to bring me to this point—the release of a new book, a new title, a new concept.

It is now Nov. 9, 2007 and I want to share some photos from earlier this week. On Monday, the 5th, I met with my editor at Corwin, Hudson Perigo, and my publicist, Marilyn Phenow (sponsored by New Hope Charitable Foundation/Transitions to Complete Education). Corwin had not gotten the books in yet, but a shipment had been delivered to Borders in Thousand Oaks, where I was to do a book signing later that evening.

So after breakfast, we went over to the bookstore where Hudson bought a copy for me!! After all this, finally, a new beginning…

Hudson Perigo, editor, and Jane Bluestein, author with The Win-Win Classroom
Hudson and me with my new book!
Hudson Perigo, editor, and Marilyn Phenow, publicist, with The Win-Win Classroom
Hudson and Marilyn with The Win-Win Classroom
Book display: The Win-Win Classroom
Bookstore display with my first glimpse of the new book.

2014: Full Circle

In February, ASCD released a new booklet I’d written for them on classroom management. They called it Managing 21st Century Classrooms. Although it never would have occurred to me to use “21st century” in a book title anymore, I was very happy when ASCD did, as the title fits and it works. And better yet, after all these years, it’s a term I can relate to as a part of my history, my orientation to my work, and for better or worse, my legacy as an educator. After all these years, “21st century” is happily mine again.

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