Soul Shapers 2 concluded this past Thursday and the classroom quickly went from learning activities and creative role plays to a quiet space where things needed to be organized and put away. After good-byes class members headed back home to places like Santa Rosa, Monterey Bay, and Newbury Park. It’s interesting to me how close people can become as they learn about choice theory together, and especially as they practice the learning through role play. Role playing is fun, but it is also a vulnerable process in which friendship bonds are formed.
The vulnerability to which choice theory invites us creates a rather “sacred” space to me, so it is a little bit difficult to change the furniture in the room back to the way it was before the Soul Shaper classes began two weeks earlier. Important moments happened in this space and moving the tables and chairs back to their straight, impersonal rows seems to move on from those moments too easily. Folders with (what I think are) important handouts and activities must be organized and re-filed, the filing cabinet draw ultimately closing them in darkness. When will I call on them again? How soon? Planning notes and lesson plans also put away, but shouldn’t I modify them based on the new ideas these most recent classes have taught me. Shouldn’t I review which activities worked well and which didn’t?
I have such mixed feelings as the Soul Shaper classes come to an end each summer. I feel good about making new friends, and seeing them make new friends, and hearing them talk about how they want to show up differently, personally and professionally, now that they understand choice theory in new ways. I feel a bit of fear, too, as I think about each of them heading back to the complexity of their unique realities, wanting to apply choice theory, but stumbling in their initial efforts to do so and maybe being distracted from the new ideas and ultimately reverting to their old habits. The crush of the new school year in the Fall often provides the final blow in the “forgetting” process. It doesn’t have to be so; this is just my “fear.” Participants in this year’s classes expressed as much commitment to the choice theory ideas as any class I have ever taught. If these ideas are as important as I think they are, then the Holy Spirit will take it from here and continue to provide insight and support.
Assignments for the Soul Shapers 1 class are arriving in my inbox every day now and they are encouraging to me as I read them. One of the assignments is to write a short review of the Soul Shapers book (2005). The opening paragraph for one of these reviews indicates that the writer “gets it” —
William Glasser, an influential psychologist and educator, has devoted his life to challenging many long-held theories in the field of psychology, most famously, the stimulus-response theory. This theory states that human behavior can be motivated and controlled through external stimuli. Behavioral scientist icons such as Pavlov, Skinner, and Watson, all built their contributions to the field of psychology with this “truth” as the cornerstone. As a result, people have spent the last century believing that it is possible to “control” the behavior of others. This assumption has been particularly damaging in the field of education where teachers have spent entire careers attempting to control their students through bribery, punishment, and coercion, falsely assuming that their students’ successes and failures are a direct result of these external controls. After years of observations, both in and out of the classroom, Glasser developed an alternative to stimulus-response theory called choice theory, which states that all of our motivation comes from within ourselves, and that we make our own choices and decisions on how to best meet our needs. Glasser believes that it is crucial for teachers to develop positive and meaningful relationships with their students in order to empower them to make good choices based on internal motivation rather than external control. EC
For the same book review assignment, another class member shared that —
As a Seventh-day Adventist educator I do want my students to have a relationship with God, to become thinkers and not mere reflectors of others’ thoughts, and to become morally responsible human beings. Glasser’s methods formed a clearer, step-by-step approach to make it possible for students to use the tools of thinking, evaluating, planning, and doing. This year I would like to give more attention to activities that will help build relationships in my classroom and that will give me more insight in the basic needs of my students. I want to make a more deliberate connection to each student. SG
It us such a gift to students when teachers organize their classrooms based on these kinds of insights. To be a thinker, rather than a mere reflector others’ thoughts is a pretty awesome life skill!
I continue to be uncomfortable with the term Soul Shapers, maybe more so than ever. In fact, I think I am more uncomfortable with the Soul Shapers label than Glasser was with the Control Theory label. He ultimately switched to Choice Theory, a label he felt was much more accurate. I want to switch, too, since the term Soul Shapers implies the idea of one human being shaping the soul of another person. Choice theory implies just the opposite of that process. Worse yet, there is a cookie cutter graphic on the cover of the Soul Shaper book, which I didn’t see until after the book was published. I like the term The Better Plan much better than Soul Shapers. Maybe next summer I will be teaching The Better Plan 1 and The Better Plan 2 classes.
If you are interested in the Soul Shaper book, you can easily get a copy through Amazon. New copies are going for $12.50 and used copies are going for $5.00. I am wanting to set up an option through the blog for people to be able to order both of my books — Soul Shapers and William Glasser: Champion of Choice — but I haven’t got to it yet. In the meantime, either book is available through Amazon or through the publishers directly. The Glasser book can also be purchased through the Glasser bookstore.