Posts tagged “Adventist education

Thirteen (so far) Essential Psychological Skills for Kids

Kids

In the last Better Plan blog we considered the kinds of skills that kids should have before they turn 18 and definitely before they leave home. One of the categories that was missing from the list, though, was a category for Psychological Skills. Several of you responded to my request for help at forming such a list. The following list summarizes your suggestions.

Psychological Skills We Want Our Kids to Learn
1. To be able to recognize the motivation behind their choices.
2. To be able to handle failure and see it as an opportunity to learn.
3. To be able to self-evaluate.
4. Knowing the seven Caring Habits (Supporting, Listening, Encouraging, Accepting, Trusting, Respecting, and Negotiating Differences) and using them.
5. To really recognize their priceless worth, not because of their performance, achievement, or behavior, but because they are a child of God.
6. Relational skills, such as connecting, compassion, communication, and empathy.
7. To be able to process and navigate emotions in a positive way.
8. To be aware of the ability to choose their response to the conditions/circumstances of life.
9. To understand that divergent thinking is healthy.
10. To know when to –
FIGHT for something worth fighting for;
ACCOMMODATE when the relationship is more important than the issue, and
AVOID when it makes sense to split the difference and compromise.
11. Also knowing and understanding the seven Deadly Habits (Criticizing, Blaming, Complaining, Nagging, Threatening, Punishing, and Rewarding to Manipulate).
12. To learn to be caring and compassionate, especially using the skill of empathy.
13. To gain a work ethic that reflects a willingness to work and a desire to do their best.
This list is a great start, but (I wonder) have important psychological skills been left off? Reply to this blog with more suggestions and help to make the list even more complete. This could be a great resource to those of us who work with kids and to those of us who give workshops and presentations. For instance, I am scheduled to begin teaching choice theory to 10th graders this coming Friday morning. I could see myself sharing this list with “kids” and getting their response. Let’s grow this list and identify more of the psychological skills we want our kids to have.
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The Choice Theory Study Group that met near where I live this past Sabbath was a success! Group members shared examples of ways they have taught or used choice theory so far this school year, and coached and affirmed each other throughout the process. Some things that came out of our time together include –
George Barcenas, PE teacher, athletic director, and language teacher at Redwood Adventist School in Santa Rosa, CA, described how grades 9-12 began the school year with a multi-day retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains, with choice theory principles as the theme they wanted to set the tone for the school year. He has followed that opening week by consistently referring to the choice theory elements in his classes. Already students are beginning to bring up the basic needs, maybe their own or those of another student, when problem-solving moments arise.
Joel Steffen, fifth and sixth grade teacher at Foothills Adventist Elementary School, has been conducting daily class meetings. One thing he shared is that it really makes a difference which guiding question you use to start the meeting. When you choose well and kids are interested in the topic the meeting goes pretty well. Choose less well and it becomes apparent rather quickly. He sees both the effective and the less effective meetings as steps in the learning process, though, and plans to continue honing his questioning skills.
Joel Steffen is having his fifth and sixth graders create their own quality world cup.

Joel Steffen is having his fifth and sixth graders create their own personal quality world cup.

Amy Palma, fifth grade teacher at Calistoga Elementary, has been teaching there for 10 years, and has been implementing a choice theory management approach, specifically Marvin Marshall’s ABCD model for seven of those years. Amy’s story is important because she is an example of a teacher who successfully uses choice theory, even though she is the only one in the school doing so. Over the years, the school has tried different external control programs, and each time Amy has respectfully declined. While other teachers have been less than satisfied with how a school year has gone, Amy likes how it has gone and attributes choice theory as one of the key reasons. Teachers sometimes ask me, “What if I am the only teacher in the school teaching this way?” At that moment I tell them about Amy.
Sean Kootsey, History teacher at Pleasant Hill Adventist Academy, described how significant the idea of giving students multiple chances to master the learning has been for him, and for his students. He reminded us that learning and assessing is not a “gotchya” process. If students need more than one chance to learn the concepts, why is that bad, he asked. At first other teachers in the school chuckled or even scoffed at the idea of multiple learning chances, but now all of them are teaching that way and are pleased with the results. The culture there has shifted.
Ron Bunch, a local community member, shared how much the ideas have influenced his personal relationships, and especially how the choice theory ideas have helped him in his spiritual journey. He described new insights regarding the character of God and His design of us and for us. God did not create us to be a victim of circumstances, but instead gave us incredible freedom and power to make choices.
These were just a few of the things expressed in the recent study group. One thing the group decided was that we want to keep meeting, maybe even on a monthly basis. It was felt like the get-together is a good way to keep choice theory ideas from being crowded out by other things; it is a good way to re-charge the concepts and to feed off the energy of colleagues. We will be meeting twice more before the Christmas break. I’ll share those dates soon.
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One thing that came out of the blog entitled Compelling Reasons to Teach Choice Theory is the recognition that we need to begin sharing more about how to get this done. We need to assemble a clearinghouse, a place where people can go to access resources and materials, or even specific lesson plans that address choice theory elements. This is important! We need to get this started!
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Compelling Reasons to Teach Choice Theory to Students

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1. It will improve students’ mental health

I was reminded recently of one of the essential pieces of choice theory implementation, that being the need for teachers to teach their students about the concepts of choice theory. It is a little bit frustrating for me to see the excitement for choice theory and the commitment to nurture a choice theory environment in classrooms, and then learn that the usual pressures of the school year seem to derail the idea of sharing choice theory with students. I am convinced, though, that bringing students on as choice theory partners will sooner establish choice theory as part of the school culture.

The recent reminder came from an article I read in the Psych Central online journal. The title — Mental Health in High School: Teach Students Link Between Thinking Patterns, Emotions and Behavior — caught my eye. Sure enough, the article could have been written by a choice theorist.

Researchers from the Ohio State University College of Nursing found that a program called COPE (Creating Opportunities for Personal Empowerment) reduced depression, enhanced health behaviors, and improved grades. Health classes used an intervention that focused on cognitive behavioral skills. While not the only focus, the study’s author, Bernadette Melnyk, observed that –

“This is what has been missing from prior healthy lifestyle programs with teens — getting to the thinking piece. We teach the adolescents that how they think directly relates to how they feel and how they behave.”

The important thing about the program is building skills that help students learn to become aware of their negative thoughts, the ways in which such thoughts affect their self-concept, and the behaviors that can come out of that kind of thinking.

“Schools are great at teaching Math and Social Studies,” Melnyk continues, “but we aren’t giving teens the life skills they need to successfully deal with stress, how to problem-solve, or how to set goals, and those are key elements in this healthy lifestyle intervention.”

We know, as teachers and parents, how much our own mental health has been improved through our understanding of choice theory. What is keeping us from intentionally and purposefully teaching the concepts to our students? Glasser once pointed out that expecting students to be successful at life without teaching them about choice theory is like expecting them to play and win a game without teaching them the rules. Kids are wrestling with so many personal challenges and conflicts. And without choice theory (or something like it) their mental health is put at risk.

2. It will improve teacher understanding of choice theory principles

It has been said that a person never understands something so well as when he has to teach it to someone else. A German proverb comments on the same principle by stating –

He who teaches children learns more than they do.

A classic book from 1971, Children Teach Children: Learning by Teaching, cited the results of an anti-poverty reading program in New York City in which older students tutored younger students with reading difficulties. After five months of one on one help it was discovered that the younger students showed a six month gain in their reading scores, which was great. They also tested the older tutors and were blown away to discover that they had made a gain of 3.4 years in their reading scores. Not expecting that kind of gain at all, it alerted them to the potential of increasing the learning through teaching.

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Not only will we learn choice theory better as we teach the concepts to our students, imagine for a moment how well students could learn choice theory by teaching it to each other.

I think some teachers may hesitate to teach about choice theory because they don’t feel like they have a lot of expertise in it yet. Maybe they’ll share more after they read another book or attend another workshop. I think some may hesitate, too, because giving the choice theory concepts away to students could lead them to monitor or judge our fledgling efforts toward non-coercive change. It is true that at the very beginning we may want to experiment with the ideas privately, without making a big deal out of them. Pretty quickly, though, we need to share choice theory with our students. Maybe they will monitor our fledgling efforts. All the better as situations and events become teachable “choice theory” moments.

Chances are you don’t need the Psych Central article to remind you that students need mental health instruction as much as they need physical health instruction. I encourage you to go for it!

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One of the things we’ll be doing at our Choice Theory Study Group this coming Sabbath afternoon, Sept. 21, at Foothills Elementary is sharing some of the ways we have used or implemented choice theory so far this school year. I will pass on some of these examples in future blog posts.

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It Is More Important That I Like Them

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Fall quarter begins on September 23 at Pacific Union College, the school at which I teach in the teacher credential program, which means that two weeks from today I will be teaching. Next week there will be quite a few campus meetings and time will feel crunched. Therefore, I thought it wise to get going on office organization and class preparation today. I attacked some stacks of stuff on top of my file cabinets, stacks that had been resting there for some time (it turns out), and re-discovered some papers, folders, and articles that were actually worthwhile in some way. One of the sheets of paper I ran across was some notes I took from a presentation I attended. It is written in my handwriting, but I had no name or no date anywhere on the paper. I remember being impressed with the talk, but I can’t remember who gave it. If one of you shared these thoughts, let me know. In any case, I have typed out my notes from the talk below –

What have you not learned yet?

What can I offer you?

It takes three years to figure out if you’re in the right place, doing it well, etc.

Give yourself permission to fail; and then to fail again.

Be reflective about your teaching.

I felt I couldn’t do anything well.

It is more important that I like them, rather than focusing on them liking me.

What mountain are you willing to die on?

One week does not a year make.

God does not call us to be successful; He calls us to be faithful.

#1 rule of teaching – Do no harm.

The one about it being “important that I like them” really jumped out at me. Of course, it oozes and overflows with choice theory. We can choose and nurture our own thoughts and behavior, but that is where our control stops.

It is amazing how much energy we can put into worrying about being liked by others. New teachers especially have to come to grips with this. Until they do it can be so draining trying to manipulate others into behaving a certain way. Being a teacher takes real strength. It takes strength to like students when they aren’t very likeable.

It can be easy to skip over the liking part and focus on having a spirit of love. The thing is, liking is loving in action. Liking is the “hi” in the morning, even when you know you’re not going to get an enthusiastic hi in return. Liking is talking about the football game and making small talk. Liking is being interested in another person and the things they are interested in. Liking is wishing another person a good evening and reminding them that you are looking forward to seeing them tomorrow.

I really believe that some students have never experienced an unconditional liking relationship. As their teacher or significant adult in their life, you may be the first to treat them like they are special and that they have a purpose in this world. They may be used to being ignored, resented, yelled at, manipulated, and controlled. It may be a shock to them to have someone say, “good morning,”

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Which of the statements from the notes speaks to you? I’d love to hear from you.

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Remember September 21!

If you live within driving distance of PUC, think about joining us for a choice theory study group!

Where: Foothills Elementary (just down the hill from PUC)

When:   Sept. 21, 2:00-4:00 pm

Attend services at one of the local churches (The Haven, next to the St. Helena Hospital, is close and they provide a lunch each week after church) and then head over to Foothills for choice theory ideas and support.

Gentle Parenting (and thank you, Milo)

A great list for parents, but just as great for the rest of us, too!

A great list for parents, but just as great for the rest of us, too!

What a great poster from Little Hearts / Gentle Parenting Resources! It makes essential points in a very small amount of space. Some of you may have seen the poster on Facebook, but I wanted to share it with the rest of you who may not have seen it. I have done some exploring on the Little Hearts website, from whence the poster originated, and I am impressed with what is being said and how it is being said. For those of you who are parents, you can check out the website for yourself at –

www.littleheartsbooks.com

The Little Hearts message is so choice theory, yet I didn’t see any evidence of a connection with Glasser or any of his material. For a second, I wondered how the site could be so choice theory, yet not have any choice theory background. Then, of course, I am reminded that effective ideas can be discovered from many angles, by many different people, in many different locations, and in many different ways. If a certain approach works better, that approach is likely to be found by those searching for a better way.

Glasser’s ideas are an example of this kind of “parallel development.” Even though he was an original thinker, not all of his ideas were original. There were other therapists that placed a high value on a positive, caring relationship with clients, for example, and there were other writers who tried to explain the fallacies of the commonly held views regarding mental illness. Each of them, Glasser included, came at their ideas from their own unique perspectives. The upcoming Glasser biography will say more about this kind of parallel development.

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An aerial view of Milo Adventist Academy.

I did a Soul Shapers 1 workshop last week at Milo Adventist Academy in southern Oregon. Along with the staff from Milo there were teachers from four other schools in the Oregon Conference also in attendance. I was blessed by the experience in several ways. One of the blessings came from making new friends. Choice theory has a way of opening doors to deeper, more personal discussions, and while I didn’t know many of the staff before the week started, I feel that I made some very good friends by the time the week ended. Another blessing came in the form of their good questions. They truly wanted to understand how choice theory could be applied in their lives, personally and professionally. As a result, I have been thinking about some of those questions ever since. I hope to stay in touch with Milo over the coming school year. Maybe technology can help us with that.

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The 2013/2014 school year is about to begin. (At least that is the schedule for schools located on west coast of the U.S., from where I am writing.) As a teacher your physical, emotional, and mental “clocks” are probably counting down to the first days of school. Some of you are literally in final countdown mode as you process how many hours you have left compared to the To-Do list of what you still need to accomplish. Even for veterans this can be an intense time as you try to get everything done that needs to be done.

For those wanting choice theory concepts to have a greater presence in their classrooms, just remember that “Structure is our friend.” The opposite of boss-management is not lead-management. The opposite of boss-management is laissez-faire, or the lack of structure or guidance at all. On this continuum, with over-control on one end and no control on the other end, lead-management comes somewhere in between. A lead manager very much wants elements of appropriate and helpful structure to be in place. It is especially helpful when classroom Procedures are identified, clearly described, and then rehearsed as a class. Procedures help classrooms run smoothly. It is also helpful when the classroom rules, the behaviors — e.g. – disrespect toward the teacher or classmates, bullying, dishonesty — that are never acceptable are also clearly outlined, along with a description of the natural consequences that come after breaking a rule. Too many people wrongly assume that choice theory means that kids can apparently do whatever they want. Not true at all. What is true is that lead-managers want to create need-satisfying classrooms in which discipline is not an issue. And if a rule is broken, lead-managers want to lovingly confront the behavior and help the student to make a plan for its correction.

Structure is our friend.

I would love to hear from you regarding ways in which you are keeping choice theory elements in mind for the coming school year – either as a teacher or a parent. Take a moment and share an example of how choice theory is going to affect your classroom or your home.

Stringless Love

strings-attached

A key choice theory axiom, maybe THE choice theory axiom, states that the only person we can control is ourselves. This doesn’t mean that we don’t try to control others. We very often do, and in ways that are so subtle that we aren’t aware of it, even as we are in the midst of doing it. Today’s blog will attempt to pull back the curtain of our behavior and give examples of just how powerful this process is, a process that has everything to do with our quality world pictures.

When it comes to axiom #1 it would be more accurate to say that we are controlling for our perceptions, rather than controlling our own or another’s behavior. In other words, the only person’s perceptions we can control is our own. Let me give you an example that Mike (not his real name) shared with me recently –

The other day I am out shopping with my wife, each of us with a list of items to find, and while working on my list I notice her further down the same aisle I am in. I see her and for some reason I want to go to her and express my affection for her, to touch her, you know, to “look lovingly into her eyes” kind of thing. So I’m thinking about that as I’m standing there in the bread section. Some of you may be thinking, “What are you waiting for? Go tell her you love her!” But it’s not exactly that simple. We’re working through some stuff. We’re doing good, but anyway .  .  .

For some reason the question occurs to me, there in the bread section, am I wanting to express my affection to her because I just want to give her affection, or am I wanting to express affection so that she will give me affection in return? Am I wanting to touch her because she would then touch me, too? As I thought about it, I realized that what I really wanted was for her to want me, for her to express affection for me, and for her to touch me. I did feel affection toward her, but more importantly, I was fishing for something from her. My gift was not so much a gift, as much as it was a prompt, maybe even a bit of a trap.

I must admit I was stopped in my tracks at that moment. What you had been saying in the Soul Shapers class kind of just flashed into me. I had this picture in my mind of how I wanted my wife and I to be, how I wanted her to treat me, and there I was trying to create it, trying to turn my picture into a reality. I was stunned at how subtle, yet how real, the process was in my thinking. I was further stunned by how many years I had been behaving this way. My “affection” was really a form of manipulation.

Mike realized that his “love” had strings attached. He was giving, but it was giving to get something in return. When his giving wasn’t responded to in a way that matched his expectations he became frustrated and hurt, and then went about creating another behavior to try to get what he wanted. Maybe this new behavior would be another “loving” action; maybe it would be a punishing action like the silent treatment.

Spouses face this process every day. So does a teacher with his/her students. People have antennae that discern the strings that are attached to gifts. Love with strings attached really isn’t love. Let’s be clear, though. The problem isn’t that we have expectations, at least if the expectations are reasonable and healthy, the problem occurs when we manipulate or coerce to get what we want. It is actually relationship-strengthening to state your expectation and then, using the caring habits, discuss and negotiate the ways in which that expectation can happen.

——   “Love with strings attached really isn’t love.”   ——

On a deeper and more important level, I think this process reveals something about what the presence of sin has brought to our little planet. Jeremiah wrote about our righteousness being like filthy rags, or in other words, even our love seems to involve selfishness. I think the process also reveals one of choice theory’s limitations – that being that choice theory can give us insights into our behavior, but it cannot change the heart. Only the Holy Spirit can give us a perfect love that doesn’t care about strings. Stringless love. That would be powerful.

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What does a lead-manager sound like?

(Not the actual seagulls that Tim photographed. These gulls were willing to fill in as substitutes at the last second. A big thank you to them.

(Not the actual seagulls that Tim photographed. These gulls were willing to fill in as substitutes at the last second. A big thank you to them.)

Lead-management is based on persuasion, invitation, and reasonable guidelines with natural consequences; on the other hand boss-management is based on directing, demanding, and often arbitrary boundaries with reward and punishment applied when boundaries are broken. Capturing the tone of a lead-manager is an important step toward becoming a choice theory teacher or parent. Today’s blog comes to us courtesy of Tim Mitchell, Bible teacher at Mountain View Academy in Mountain View, California. Tim has been a successful pastor for many years, but last year he decided to teach Bible, rather than preach it, and made the switch to the classroom from the pulpit. After attending summer classes, including Soul Shapers 1 at PUC, Tim sent the following Facebook message to his students, a message that captures the tone and content of a lead-manager.

Just took this shot from my backyard where I am working on my summer homework. These birds were about 500 feet in the air and pass overhead regularly. Whenever they fly over I think of you, my students — I want you guys to soar!

My summer school classes are about giving students room to feel freedom and plot out the course of their education as a team. Most schooling is too confining. It’s worse than the average workplace. “Sit in your chair.” Don’t talk.” “Do the (irrelevant) work I tell you to do.” I hated school from 7th grade until about age 22 when I was getting my Masters Degree. And I can see the same in many of your eyes. Once I got interested in school again my grades shot back up.

Pray for me/us so that Bible class can be more relevant, free, team-oriented, humane, and FUN! (Fun is one of the basic human needs!) Let’s begin working in August to set up our procedures so they don’t get in the way of your natural human interest in learning and experiencing new things.

Soar!

I really appreciate Tim’s message. Teaching Bible, teaching any subject for that matter, can be challenging and it’s not unusual for teachers to turn classroom interactions into struggles and battles when students act like, well students. As teachers, we may not want fights, but we tend to go into fight mode when students “ask for it.” Tim’s message “takes the fight out of the classroom” and is setting the tone for a fun, productive, enjoyable school year.

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Do you have artifacts — letters, messages to parents, lesson plans, management strategies — that have helped to implement a choice theory approach? I would love to see them, and share them, when you send them on to me. Please take a moment and send me something that has worked for you, or even that you are working on.

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Behaviorism, Religion, Stimulus-Response, and the Character of God

Character of God

During the recent Soul Shapers class, I asked those in attendance to comment on four important areas or implications of choice theory. We had reviewed and discussed these areas in some depth and I wanted to check in regarding their level of understanding. In the activity format I used they each had two minutes to comment on each of these topics. Here are the topics and their answers. I think you will really find this interesting and useful. (After the topics and answers I also share how to set up a round robin activity.) If given two minutes to answer these questions, what would you write?

Something I have learned about –

. . . stimulus-response theory.

• May or may not work in the short term; does not work in the long term.
• It is a myth. May work with animals and people to a point, but is not how humans were made to respond or think. There are many factors involved in why we do what we do and this theory doesn’t address all of it.
• I learned that stimulus-response will work for some the kids, some of the time, but the students aren’t always responding to the stimulus for the reasons we as teachers think they should.
• The carrot trick can work, but the long-term effect is no good. EGW use the word disastrous. It destroys the ability to think for one’s self and it takes away the personality.
• We will never reach our full potential if we are chasing a carrot. We are not animals driven by desires or impulses. We need to be touched on a spiritual level for us to maximize our potential. Don’t drink the water in Mexico.
• Students naturally want to learn when they see the relevance of what they are learning, when it touches a chord within their hearts.

. . . the Caring Habits and the Deadly Habits.

• Criticizing, nagging, etc. are ultimately not helpful. Caring habits energize, enlighten, encourage, and help with choices.
• Use of the deadly habits will dull a student’s ears and prevent them from caring about learning.
• The deadly habits will ultimately destroy relationships, whereas the caring habits will build relationships. The caring habits take more time and energy to carry out, but the reward is worth it.
• That I am a more deadly person; I need to change. I have both, but I can see that what I fall back to mostly are more in the deadly list. I must make a conscious effort to change. My choice!
• Deadly habits are those I’ve been trained to use. I was amazed by how using these strategies “put down” or stifled creativity. I need to put a conscious effort into using “caring habits” and responses with all the people with whom I interact.
• No more smart-ass responses to smart-ass kids.
• How harmful criticism, nagging, and punishing are on relationships. How switching to using caring habits will increase connectedness and help engage students and even families.
• It is important to be aware of which habits you’re using when interacting with others. The deadly habits will push others away and cause damage, whereas the caring habits will open up doors and cause a deeper, more honest relationship to form.
• That healthy relationships are about building up the students, looking for wars to praise and spotlight. The deadly ones are about picking on faults and causing them to feel like they can’t measure to our standards. I love the Oakland A’s.

. . . Behaviorism and its effect on religion and spirituality.

• Behaviorism can be put on or taken off, but that does not necessarily affect or reflect what the heart is doing.
• It has eroded religion and spirituality. Religion focuses on the do’s and don’t’s. The focus should be more on God’s love for us.
• Behaviorism should not be the beginning of our relationship with God. Attempting to understand His great love for us and the freedom He gives us should be the most important thing. Unfortunately, we often start with the behavior, not the love.
• God will not pour obedience into us and bypass our will. The will and spirituality are linked. Being good is not the same thing as being whole and restored to the original image of God.
• God does not give us spirituality. God guides us, but with our free will we choose to obey God or Satan. My thoughts and behaviors are guided by my internal desires.
• Taking away free choice in religion and putting it in a box will turn students and adults away from the thought of any form of religion.
• That control takes away from the experience. Forcing kids to be baptized when they are 12 or pressuring people to believe or follow without choice makes the experience shallow or meaningless. Tacos are delicious.
• Forcing or not allowing choice in a religious setting will likely end up causing the person to turn away from religion as it becomes too legalistic.

. . . the character of God.

• God’s love is very deep. The power He gives us to choose is such an amazing gift. Wow!
• God’s love is so great for us that He has given us the power of choice. To love is not to force.
• Righteousness by choice; we choose our level of connectedness to Jesus. He does not force us on any front.
• God gives us free will. I may believe God is controlling me, but He is not. My behavior stems from my will to want to obey God and be like Him and like Christ.
• He loves a cheerful giver, not someone who gives under compulsion. This is probably why EGW says that rules should be few (but strictly enforced).
• From the beginning of the Great Controversy, God has let choice be the measure of your love. Decide today who you will serve. Love is not forced. Choice is not forced or coerced. That’s why prosperity gospel ministries are so shameful. God is love.
• That we have free will. God has the power to change – past, future, and present – but He allows us to choose, so that the universe can see what choices we make. I love burritos.
• God has given us free will to choose. God wants us to make the choices based on our connection with Him. God wants us to allow others to right to choose.
• He bravely gives me the ability to choose. I have been created in His same character and can reject His will or love in my life. His character teaches me to love others via His love for me.

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These topics and answers came out of a Round Robin learning format. The Round Robin format is simple to set up, yet it can lead to powerful learning results. To use a Round Robin in your classroom –

1. Identify four topics that students have recently been studying and develop clear, concise questions that can serve as writing prompts. It works best when the questions are open-ended.

2. Create quads. Divide students into learning teams with four on each team. (You can have a team of three, but don’t go more than four.)

3. Have team members number off from 1 – 4, and then provide every team member with a piece of paper.

4. Team member #1 will then write the first topic question, in bold letters, at the top of his/her paper; team member #2 will write the second topic question at the top of his/her paper; team member #3 will write the third question; and team member #4 the fourth question.

5. Each of the team members will now have a sheet of paper in front of them with a topic question headline written across the top. At the signal, students will have two minutes to write an answer to their sheet’s question. (The time can be lengthened or shortened as needed.) When the time is up, students will stop writing and slide their sheet to the team member on their left. Each team member now has a new question in front of them. At the signal, they will have two minutes to answer another prompt. This process continues until each team member has been given a chance to comment on each of the questions.

7. The round robin activity can help teachers check for understanding, as reading student answers to the prompts will show how students view the topics. Students can read what their team members wrote and then discuss their answers within the group. Small group discussions can then lead to a full-class discussion. In general, the round robin format is a good way to get 100% of your students engaging in the lesson content. And that’s a good thing!

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God and Choice Theory

Some questions have been coming in and I thought that, while I’m finishing up We Want to Feel Good, Pt. 4, you could wrestle with one of them.

What about God in the Old Testament and choice theory? He seemed pretty into rewards and punishments. People who argue with me argue about this.  Nina D.

OK, choice theory community, what do you think? I have a feeling that 1) this strikes a chord with a lot of us, and 2) a lot of us have already thought about this topic. How have you answered this question? What are some of the bullet points that reflect your thinking?

WE Want to Feel Good, Pt. 1

We Choose

I recently discovered that May is Mental Health Month, which is cool, although I would like it even better if the other 11 months were mental health months, too. With that in mind, let’s look at the following —

We want to feel good.

The phrase we want to feel good seems too simple and too self-evident to even take a glance at, yet there may be more in these few words than first meets the eye. Rather than dismiss the phrase, I suggest we actually consider it more deeply. To that end, today we begin a four-part series that will explore how we want to feel good, one part of the phrase at a time.

WE .  . want .  . to feel .  . good.

The picture accompanying today’s blog is of one of my shirts. The company I get some of my shirts from includes free monogramming and I decided to place We Choose over the pocket. People frequently ask about the shirt (Do I sell them? No, I don’t.) or about the phrase (What’s that about? or What do we choose?). The shirts have definitely led to good discussions relating to choice theory and internal motivation. When I had the first shirt monogrammed I wrestled with whether I should use I Choose rather than We Choose. I settled on We because I think it is accurate. We are all in this planet earth soup together. We all make choices every day.

It is significant that in this case the concept of We is a principle. It transcends time and place. Whether we live in the mountains of Nepal, the plains of Africa, or in a large city in the United States, we share a desire to feel good. We have in common a motivation to survive, but that is only the beginning; we want to identify our purpose, to be connected to others, to accomplish worthwhile goals, to experience freedom, and darn it, to have some fun in the process.

We is not limited by geography or culture. Different cultures come up with unique ways for people to meet their own needs, but at our human core we are all the same. We strive to have our needs met, to feel connected to others and to achieve success. We is not limited by religious affiliation. Around the globe humans have for millennia come up with ways to connect with deity and express their beliefs. With so many different religions around the world (over 300 in the U.S. alone) it would appear that religion is more about what we want from God than what He wants from us, but whatever the case we share a common urge to act on our religious beliefs.

We is not limited by age. We don’t strive to feel good when we reach a certain age or a certain level of maturity. The process of wanting to feel good begins at birth with every human being. This is why understanding the principles of choice theory is so important for parents and teachers. Acknowledging the needs that children are attempting to satisfy and even helping them to understand their needs and the ways they can fulfill these needs is a huge gift. Creating a needs-satisfying curriculum at school is also hugely significant.

And so, regardless of how old we are, where we live, and what we do, We is us, all of us.

Don’t Always Believe What You Think

The concept of the basic needs is one of the core beliefs of choice theory. As you read today’s blog post you will come to see just how basic and how important these needs are. A quick review – choice theory describes how everyone is born with a unique set of basic needs. I believe these needs include a physiological need, that being the need for survival, and several psychological needs, that being the need for purpose and meaning, the need for love, belonging, and connection with others, the need for success and the power to achieve worthy goals, the need to be free, and the need to experience fun and joy. From the moment we are born, all of our behavior is an attempt to meet one or more of these needs. During the Soul Shapers workshop, after we have more carefully reviewed the basic needs, I ask the question, “Which need do you think ultimately is in the driver’s seat? Which need do you think has the greatest influence on our behavior?” Usually, the responses quickly indicate that the survival need would have the last word when it comes to our behavior. The feeling is that we are programmed to survive and the survival mechanism would therefore have the greatest influence.

Headlines from this past week reminded us that this is not the case. New sobering and disturbing statistics reveal that more people are taking their own lives than ever before in the U.S. Data from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that over the last year more people died from suicide—38,364—than in motor vehicle accidents—33,687. That is nearly 5,000 more deaths. It is significant, too, that it is middle-aged Americans, the baby boomers, making by far the biggest leap in the suicide increase.

One thing we can take from this statistic (and this is a statistic that should very much get our attention) is the incredible power of the psychological needs. Our logic wants to believe that the need for survival would ultimately hold sway, yet this data is a stark reminder that this just isn’t true. Each of the psychological needs, when perceived as not being met, could lead a person to overrule his/her need to survive.

One of the reasons I so strongly believe in choice theory is that people who understand it’s principles and begin to implement the principles in their lives enter into a kind of personal stability from which they can process life more effectively. Choice theory doesn’t offer a perfect stability, but it helps. I personally have melancholy tendencies and am very capable of choosing to get “down in the dumps” or of choosing to depress, yet coming to understand and appreciate my choice power has helped a great deal. It is this choice power, including the concepts of the basic needs and the quality world that I so much want teachers and students to understand and practice, as well.

From a secular perspective, choice theory offers hope. We can come to recognize when a basic need isn’t being met and begin to take steps, no matter how tiny those steps might be, that will bring us closer to stability and happiness. When choice theory is understood and implemented from a spiritual perspective the results can become even more hopeful and even powerful. Students can be taught about the basic needs and the ways in which those needs urge us to behave. Students can be taught the concept of the quality world and the central importance of the pictures we place in our quality world. I see this kind of understanding as preventive mental health of the highest order.

A bumper sticker worth noting read, “Don’t Always Believe What You Think.” Choice theory helps us to understand how this bumper stick, especially relevant regarding today’s topic, might be true.

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Remember to sign up for the upcoming Soul Shaper workshops taking place next month at PUC. Encourage your colleagues to experience the workshop, too. When more than one teacher or staff member at a school understands choice theory, significant changes can occur. Soul Shapers 2 is designed to be re-taken more than once. Get in the habit of taking Soul Shapers 2 each summer and re-charge the choice theory battery.

Soul Shapers 1 meets from June 17-20

Soul Shapers 2 meets from June 24-27

Sign up for either course at  www.puc.edu/summer-teacher

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Let others know about The Better Plan blog. After close to six months of being in existence there are 67 people officially “following” the blog. I think more than the 67 are reading the blogs, but let’s try to get the number higher. The goal is to create and support a non-coercive, choice theory community. I’m always glad to hear from you. Let me know if you have helpful ideas.

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