Posts tagged “Jim Roy

The Amazing Grid on the Carpet

Professor Tom Lee and his amazing grid on the carpet.

Professor Tom Lee and his amazing grid on the carpet.

I was walking by one of the classrooms in our department recently and caught a glimpse of something going on that lured me into the room to find out more. It turned out to be Tom Lee’s middle school methods class. Tom is one of my colleagues in the teacher education program at PUC and is famous for coming up with learning activities that are engaging and relevant.

What I saw when I entered the room was a grid that Tom had taped onto the carpet. He had moved tables in the room to create a large space for this grid, which had Gardner’s eight multiple intelligences along the vertical axis and Bloom’s taxonomy categories across the horizontal axis.

As a reminder, Gardner’s intelligences included –

1) Verbal/Linguistic

2) Logical/Mathematical

3) Visual/Spatial

4) Rhythmic/Musical

5) Body/Kinesthetic

6) Intrapersonal

7) Interpersonal

8) Naturalistic

Bloom’s taxonomy (the new version) includes –

1) Remembering

2) Understanding

3) Applying

4) Analyzing

5) Evaluating

6) Creating

The students were asked to place a marker on one of the grid spaces and then describe a lesson focus or activity based on that grid space’s “address.” For instance, a student could place a marker on the space that combined Body/Kinesthetic (vertical) and Applying (horizontal), and then, on-the-spot, create a lesson focus based on a combination of those two categories.

A blogger in search of a bird's eye view of the grid.

A blogger in search of a bird’s eye view of the grid.

Instead of placing a marker in a grid space students could also throw a marker onto the grid for a more random challenge. Students just needed to keep in mind that a row or column could not contain more than two markers. Initially, students would be able to comment on areas in which they felt more confident, however as the game went on they would need to comment on every area of the grid, regardless of their level of prior knowledge.

I joined in the activity and enjoyed listening as students displayed their creative understanding of Gardner’s intelligences and Bloom’s taxonomy. There was a special energy in the room as students engaged in the activity.

What does Tom Lee’s lesson have to do with choice theory? From a classroom perspective, quite a bit. Choice theory explains the importance of school being a need-satisfying place. Tom’s lesson was need-satisfying on several levels.

Purpose/Meaning – Students were allowed to make personal meaning from the experience. The activity was very relevant to them and challenged them to take previous learning (Gardner and Bloom) and add new layers to their own understanding.

Love/Belonging – There was an obvious camaraderie that developed during the activity. Students rooted for one another and offered comments in support of each other. This camaraderie existed between students and teachers as well.

Power/Success – You could tell students felt satisfaction as they came up with their own lesson objectives. Their ideas were ultimately affirmed by classmates and by Tom.

Freedom/Autonomy – Students had so many choices to make during this activity. They could choose the grid space to attack, and afterward they would choose the kind of lesson they wanted to teach.

Joy/Fun – Joy and fun were both present throughout this activity. Students were engaged with the learning and with each other.

Safety/Survival – I think the students, to some extent, looked into the future and saw themselves as teachers working through the same kind of challenge. Doing the activity well had something to do with their professional survival.

I love the “grid on the carpet” that Tom came up with. In future Soul Shaper / choice theory workshops that I teach I want to steal this great idea. For instance, I can see having the Basic Needs across the top (the columns) and content areas on the side (the rows). By content areas I mean Social Studies, Math, Science, Language Arts, etc. I will then have participants select a grid space (either intentionally or randomly)  – let’s say the grid space combining Social Studies and Freedom/Autonomy – and then describe how lesson objectives in that content area could address or meet that basic need. This idea is really growing on me!

Can you think of ways in which you could use the “grid on the carpet” idea? And could you take a moment and share your idea with the rest of us?


Remember to invite a friend to join us on The Better Plan blog. It’s easy. Just go to –


If you like today’s blog, click on the LIKE button below. Your support will help The Better Plan grow. (If you haven’t done so yet, you may need to register with WordPress to be able to LIKE a blog, but the process is very easy.)


Our next Choice Theory Study Group is December 7!

Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian?


A recent article headline caught my attention. Why Are So Many Christians So Un-Christian? it asked. I have been asking that same question for years. What gives with people who claim Jesus Christ as the ultimate role model putting so much energy into wanting to govern people into behaving the way they see fit? What gives with “Christians” wanting to deny others health care, or cutting food stamps for the poor, or grousing about raising the minimum wage, or fighting efforts to care for the planet? What is it about their fascination with guns, their promotion of the military, and their craving for power in general?

Choice theory, it turns out, provides helpful insights into the cause of this disappointing reality. Two important components of the choice theory model are 1) the Quality World – the place in our heads where we store the pictures of the people, places, things, beliefs, activities, etc. that we find need-satisfying – and 2) the Perceived World – the reality that we perceive as our experiences pass through our knowledge and values filter. The Quality World is the most important of the choice theory concepts, however I find the Perceived World to be the most fascinating. Choice theory contends that from the moment we are born we begin to learn to satisfy our needs. This collection of need-satisfying people and behaviors forms our own personal Quality World, the center that motivates all of our behavior. The Quality World represents what we WANT. We experience the world through our five senses, although our perceptions are coded through filters before becoming our reality. Our Perceived World represents what we HAVE, or probably better put, what we THINK WE HAVE.

One of the filters our experiences pass through is our valuing filter or, put more accurately, the filter of our Quality World. Our personal Quality World represents everything we value and these values have an incredible influence on our perception of reality. We literally place a picture into our Quality World because we believe that picture will satisfy a need. That picture also now becomes a filter through which all of our perceptions must travel before being coded in the brain. These picture filters are very good at letting certain beliefs and images into our reality, modifying others, and in some cases, prohibiting other images and beliefs from coming anywhere near our reality.

Amanda Marcotte, the author of Why Are So Many Christians so Un-Christian?, may not be a choice theorist, but she explained the process very similarly.

It’s a process called rationalization or motivated reasoning, and to be perfectly fair, it’s how most people think about most things most of the time: They choose what to believe and then look for reasons to explain why they believe it. Huge reams of psychological research show this is just how the human brain works. Almost never do we look over a bunch of arguments and choose what to believe based on reasoning our position out. As Chris Mooney at Mother Jones explains, “We push threatening information away; we pull friendly information close.” Our faculties are usually put to the task of trying to defend what we already believe, not towards developing a better understanding of the world.”

Even before I had read Marcotte’s article, a passage in the book of Matthew got me to thinking about this topic. As part of his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explained that –

“Your eye is a lamp that provides light for your body. When your eye is good, your whole body is filled with light. But when your eye is bad, your whole body is filled with darkness. And if the light you think you have is actually darkness, how deep that darkness is!”   Matthew 6:22, 23

Interesting that Jesus even described a filtering process that affects our ultimate view of reality. When your eye is a good filter you are filled with light and truth and healthy insight; when your eye is bad you are filled with darkness. The bad eye filter is so effective that a person can reach a point where they think they are filled with light, even as they are surrounded in darkness. “How deep,” he says, “that kind of darkness will be.”


How is it possible to reach the point where you think you are in the light, yet you are in a total blackout? Especially spiritually? How is it possible to be concerned about living a Godly life and attend church and give offerings and hang out with other “Godly” people, and yet be filled with darkness? Which brings me to another text that got my attention. In the upper room, prior to His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus, wanting to strengthen His disciples and alert them to a terrible reality ahead, said –

“I have told you these things so that you won’t abandon your faith. For you will be expelled from the synagogues, and the time is coming when those who kill you will think they are doing a holy service for God.”   John 16:1, 2

Talk about blackness. Murder as a holy service for God. Jesus experienced this kind of “holy service” himself, by religious leaders who killed Him, but wanted the whole affair done as soon on Friday afternoon as possible, since they wanted to get home by sundown so they wouldn’t break the Sabbath.

Such is the power of our ability to create our own reality. We have everything to do with creating what we WANT (Quality World), and we also have a great deal to do with creating what we THINK WE HAVE (Perceived World). My hope and prayer is that we will let God re-create us in His image, rather than us putting so much energy into changing Him into our image. Love, amazing love, is at the heart of God’s character and He wants us to not only experience it ourselves, but also to share it generously with others.

This is the message we heard from Jesus and now declare to you: God is light, and there is no darkness in him at all. Dear friends, since God loved us so much, we surely ought to love each other.    1 John 1:5; 4:11

(You can access Marcotte’s article at


Let’s work together to increase the number of Followers of The Better Plan blog. If you think that good stuff is being shared on the blog, why not invite others to join us? There are different ways of doing this. You can –

1. Share The Better Plan address with a friend, co-worker, or loved one. That address is  http;//

2. Click on the LIKE button at the end of a post. The LIKE buttons are a big deal in the blogging community. (You need to register on WordPress to be able to LIKE a blog, but this is a very simple process.)

3. Share a blog that you appreciate with your Facebook friends. This is easy to do and it will greatly increase the number of people who see the post.

The Fisherman and the Monkey

The restaurant beside the small harbor.

The restaurant beside the small harbor.

During my last day in Lebanon, I was reminded about just how powerful the basic need for freedom can be in a person’s life. I had visited a very unique and important school in Tyre (yes, the Tyre talked about in the Bible) and afterward was taken to a seaside restaurant where I was able to talk more with the school’s principal about the history of the school and its future mission. The story of the school must be told, as it is an amazing tale of faith and courage, but for now I will share something (else) I observed as I sat by the water’s edge.

Mending nets.

Mending nets.

There was a sea wall that protected a marina area that was home to many small fishing boats. Nets were piled on the sterns of many of the boats, or piled along the docks just behind the boats. This was a working marina, if you will. I noticed one man sitting in his boat working on one of his nets. He had white hair pulled back tightly into a short ponytail and was shirtless, revealing his weathered, overly tanned skin. It struck me as I watched him concentrating on a portion of fishing net on his lap how that might have been Peter’s exact position when Jesus walked up and asked Peter to join him. (When the school principal saw me looking at the white-haired fisherman he told me about how this fisherman was so distinctive that when documentaries are made about Tyre, as National Geographic did, the film makers always want scenes that include this man.)

A literal monkey on his back.

A literal monkey on his back.

A few moments later a younger man (younger than 35) walked onto another boat near where I was sitting. He was in jeans and an old t-shirt, and he had a little monkey on his back. Literally. This got my attention and I continued to watch this interesting duo. The man struggled to get the monkey off his back, literally, but eventually did. The monkey was on a leash and the man attached the leash to one of the metal uprights supporting a small roof for the boat. The monkey settled in, at times climbing the upright for a better view, at times just sitting on the deck and watching his companion work on nets. When the principal saw that I was focused on this younger fisherman and the monkey he told me something that expanded my understanding of the basic need that people have for freedom.

Another day at the office for the monkey.

Another day at the office for the monkey.

The young fisherman, the principal explained, had a good job as a pilot of a large boat or yacht for some rich person in the area, but that he didn’t like being under someone’s supervision or direction, and that he preferred the life of a simple fisherman, not knowing how much his income would be, but being in total control of his actions and destiny. Instead of good-sized paycheck, and having to answer to someone else, he chose a smaller, sporadic paycheck, and having total say over the details of his life. Once, the principal continued, the young fisherman caught a huge lobster, easily worth $50 if he sold it. “But he didn’t sell it,” the principal said with some passion in his voice. “When I asked him what he did with the lobster if he didn’t sell it, he told me, I ate it!

Somewhere Frank Sinatra is singing "I Did It My Way."

Somewhere Frank Sinatra is singing “I Did It My Way.”

This story reminds us of the power of the basic needs, in this case the need for freedom. He acted on his need for autonomy, which strikes some of us as gutsy. He could have stayed with the good paying job, which provided security, but for him the trade-off wasn’t worth it. Apparently, he has a lower survival need. The need for freedom doesn’t force a person to give up good paying jobs. Sometimes people work in what for them is a less than ideal situation because it pays them enough money to satisfy their need for freedom in other ways besides their jobs – maybe they travel or have expensive hobbies. If we have a high need for freedom, though, and don’t satisfy that need we will most likely be unhappy. The basic needs don’t just go away. We were born with them and they are with us for life.

The young fisherman struggled to get the monkey off his back when he wanted to start working on his nets. That moment may have captured what the fisherman felt as he wrestled with what to do with his life. Maybe his good paying job felt like a monkey on his back, too. Monkeys can be like that for all of us.


 The Choice Theory Study Group is meeting this coming Sabbath, November 2, at 2:00 pm in room 212 of the Education building at Pacific Union College in Angwin, California.

$10 and Push Ups

Working with partners during one of the morning session activities.

Working with partners during one of the morning session activities.

Some anecdotes from the Beirut conference, Sunday, October 20, 2013:

My view of the Middle East culture, now that I am a veteran of a few days here, is that they are reserved with someone they don’t know that well, but not reserved at all with each other. By the end of the conference, people were greeting me and even saying thank you, but not much more than that. They seemed to be into the topics that were covered, especially if the learning involved an activity, but I didn’t get a lot of direct feedback from them one way or another. There was positive energy in the room; I could definitely feel that. One woman who attended came up to me during a break and thanked me rather strongly, ultimately sharing with me that I had come to the Middle East just so she could here about choice theory.  Made my day, actually.

it's about 67 cents per push up.

It’s about 67 cents per push up.

I do an activity where I hold up a $10 bill and say that I will give it to the person who comes to the front of the room and does 15 legal push ups. Usually, there will be some who start waving their hands to be chosen as I slowly approach others and one by one offer them the money for the pushups. People will decline; some refuse even to give me any eye contact for fear I will ask them. I continue trying to get someone (not waving his/her hands) to go for it. Eventually, I select a person and he/she does the push ups, whereupon I congratulate them and hand them the money. This activity is a lead-in to a discussion on behaviorism and stimulus-response approaches to motivation. I ask them “What just happened here? Did the $10 make the person do the push ups?” It didn’t seem to work with those who declined, some of whom could have done the push ups. Ultimately, the group realizes that external motivators work for some people, some of the time, and always for reasons that are inside of them. The reason I share this is that when I did this activity in Beirut I had fewer responses than at any other place I have used it. Absolutely no women were interested in doing the push ups, and basically none of the men were either. One raised his hand briefly, but then his hand kind of disappeared. An American student missionary eventually said he would do it, which he did, and he got the $10. I am curious, though, if this is a cultural thing or if I just didn’t do it right. I’ve been doing it for a long time, so I don’t think it is the latter, but you never know. (Most of the participants who have done the push ups and won the $10 over the last, say three or four years, have been women.)

Great rendition, from the heart, of the Lebanese national anthem.

Great rendition, from the heart, of the Lebanese national anthem.

For variety, I also offer $10 to the person who will come to the front and sing the national anthem, a cappella. People seemed even less interested in doing this than they did in doing the push ups. I offered and invited, but no takers. Finally, a gentleman said he would do it and moved to the piano on the stage to play as he sang. I said, no, it needed to be a cappella. He complied, took the microphone, and begin to sing the Lebanese national anthem. He sang with conviction and gusto. Very quickly after he began to sing, one by one audience members stood to their feet and began to sing as well. Rather than simply being entertained by this impromptu solo, they felt compelled to stand in honor of their country and join in singing their national anthem. It was an impressive moment, a touching moment. I was out another $10, but it was totally worth it, though.

An afternoon problem-solving group solving problems.

An afternoon problem-solving group solving problems.

After lunch, problem-solving groups were created that were asked to apply information from the morning session to real classroom settings. For instance, one of the questions asked group members to identify a need-satisfying classroom strategy or activity for each of the Basic Needs. I was very impressed as group reporters from each of the groups went to the microphone and explained their choice theory strategies for a better classroom environment.  Examples included –

Purpose and Meaning– explaining assignments better; allowing students to ask and explore “why” questions; helping students to research career possibilities without pressuring them in a certain direction

Love and Belonging – greeting students personally at the start of the school day and asking them how they are doing; teaching them to work with partners or in small groups more effectively; looking out for the student who may not feel as connected; modeling positive relationships by being supportive of each other as staff members

Power and Achievement – having students present to the class or to teach the class a skill that they do well; allowing students to re-do an assignment until they get it; giving students roles or jobs in the classroom; try to provide students with choices when it comes to how they fulfill assignments

Freedom and Autonomy – trust students more and expect them to live up to that trust; allow to give input into how an assignment could best be done; allow students to give input into the selection and wording of some of the class procedures and rules

Joy and Fun – read funny stories or share jokes; create an environment that is emotionally and physically safe, where creativity can flourish; be optimistic with students; express belief in their ability

Survival and Safety – design and implement a structured school program that protects students physically, emotionally, and academically; be aware of any students displaying bullying behaviors; repair damaged or broken equipment or furniture quickly; prioritize the emotional well-being of every student


Check your calendar, because if you were really responsible and organized you would have Sabbath afternoon, November 2, from 2:00-4:00 pm already scheduled for the next Choice Theory Study Group. If you haven’t scheduled it yet, you can go ahead and do that now. Hope you can be there!


Let me know if you have questions or topics for The Better Plan blog to address. Get in touch with me at or through the blog contact form.

Choice Theory in Beirut

Beirut sunset

Beirut sunset

I am in Beirut. Yes, Lebanon.

As I write this there is a beautiful sunset to the west and the lights of the city, like stars, are beginning to come alive and twinkle. I hear the sounds of sirens echoing from the city below. I see the sunset, the sky turning gorgeous shades of darker hues, and hear the sounds of the city from my third floor dorm room, my room with a view. Quite spectacular, actually.

I am in the Middle East for the first time in my life, invited here to share the ideas of choice theory. My perception of this area of the world is that it tends toward authoritarian approaches to life, maybe especially so in the Muslim community, and both of these thoughts were confirmed by Beirut natives in discussions after I arrived. Still, though, there is a desire by teachers here to consider the principles of choice theory.

My presentations occurred on Sabbath afternoon, October 19, and most of the day on Sunday, October 20. Dr. Ed Boyatt, recently retired Dean of the School of Education at La Sierra University, is a co-presenter with me and gave his talks on Friday evening and Sabbath morning. There were three things I wanted to emphasize during the comparatively short time I had to introduce the group to the concepts of choice theory. They were –

1. God designed us for internal control based on freedom.

2. Positive relationships are the foundation on which other success pieces are built.

3. Schools can be need-satisfying places that students and teachers want to come to each day.

A large group came together for the choice theory conference on Sunday.

A large group came together for the choice theory conference on Sunday.

Sabbath afternoon really focused on the first theme, including the idea that since God created us for internal control even He won’t control us. Sunday focused on some of the choice theory elements – understanding the basic needs and the concept of the quality world – that contribute to fulfilling the second and third themes.

One of the quotes that supports the idea that we have been created for internal control, and the quote that years ago first alerted me to a possible similarity between Ellen White, one of the SDA church founders, and William Glasser, says that

The training of children must be conducted on a different principle from that which governs the training of irrational animals.  The brute has only to be accustomed to submit to its master; but the child must be taught to control himself.  The will must be trained to obey the dictates of reason and conscience. A child may be so disciplined as to have, like the beast, no will of its own, his individuality being lost in that of his teacher.  Such training is unwise, and its effect disastrous.             Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 57

This quote led me to further reading of Ellen White’s books, which then led me to a detailed comparison between Glasser and White, and which ultimately led to the writing of the Soul Shapers book. Both Glasser and White explain, describe, remind, warn, invite, and encourage. Their written words state ideas in ways that get our attention. For example (a few other quotes shared during the conference) –

True education is not the forcing of instruction on an unready and unreceptive mind.    Education, p. 41

Those who train their pupils to feel that the power lies in themselves to become men and women of honor and usefulness, will be the most permanently successful.  Their work may not appear to the best advantage to careless observers, and their labor may not be valued so highly as that of the instructor who holds absolute control, but the after-life of the pupils will show the results of the better plan of education.                    Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 58

The latter quote provided the idea for the name of this blog. For Ellen White, “the better plan” had everything to do with working with students in a way that honors the internal control with which they are designed. These are just some of the quotes that spurred our discussion during the conference.

Jim Roy and Jimmy Choufani

Jim Roy and Jimmy Choufani

This is a picture of Jimmy Choufani and me as we talk about the Sunday afternoon session of the conference. I can’t say enough good things about Jimmy! He will read this and probably be a little upset at me for saying these nice things about him, but .  .  . well .  .  . tough. Jimmy is a gifted educational administrator. If you haven’t been to Beirut, it may be hard for you to understand what he and his team have accomplished at Bouchrieh Adventist Secondary School (BASS). Ed Boyatt and I had the privilege of observing in classrooms today at the school and I am impressed. I am impressed with the organization and structure of the school, the ability of the teachers, and the level of respect by the students.

Isaac Atem Thon Atem and Jim Roy.

Isaac Atem Thon Atem and Jim Roy.

This last picture is of me and Isaac Atem Thon Atem. Isaac is just about to complete his teaching degree at Middle East University and attended the conference over the weekend as a future teacher on the lookout for good ideas. He approached me during one of the breaks and asked if he could purchase one of the Soul Shaper books. I didn’t bring any with me to sell, but as I listened to him tell me about his plan to return to South Sudan and to teach there, I quickly said, please, take my copy. It is a privilege for me to support Isaac. He is a gentle soul ready to go to a difficult place and do what he can to make life better for his students.

I never imagined that choice theory would bring me to the Middle East, but it has and I am very thankful for it. I look forward to a few more days here, and to discussions about the future of choice theory in Beirut!

It’s Been Awhile


I knew it had been a while since my last bike ride, but I didn’t know it was that long. When I got home after riding today I downloaded the last several rides from my Garmin and discovered my last ride was three weeks ago. My goodness, or should it be my badness. It has been a while since my last blog, too. It’s been almost two weeks since the last Better Plan posting and that is a record. Not a record I am proud of mind you, but a record none the less.

The beginning of this school year has been so full and so busy for me, more than usual, I think. Besides getting classes set up and going this Fall quarter, several additional things also have my attention. To find out if you are interested in any of these things keep reading.

Beirut Trip

I am leaving for Beirut, Lebanon, this coming Wednesday, where I will be giving several choice theory presentations to teachers and school administrators. Jimmy Choufani, one of the school principals (and a follower of this blog), has been talking with me for over a year about getting this to happen, so it is awesome that the plan has come together. Jimmy read Soul Shapers over a year ago and wants his colleagues to have an opportunity to at least hear about the principles of choice theory. He has shared with me that on one of the days during the conference the audience will be made up of Christians and Muslims. What a testimony to their unity in the midst of so much unrest all around them. I am humbled to be a part of this venture.


Also going to Beirut as a co-presenter with me is Dr. Ed Boyatt, recently retired Dean of the School of Education at La Sierra University. Ed, along with Dick and Anita Molstead, (all followers of the blog) was Superintendent of Education in the Oregon Conference while I was principal at Livingstone Academy in Salem from 1993-1996. (Livingstone was the school where most of the Soul Shapers book took place.) Their support meant a great deal to me and I dedicated Soul Shapers to them because of that. I am so thankful that Ed is going on this trip! Together we want to share how the principles of choice theory actually reflect the character of God, as well as share choice theory details that will be especially helpful to educators. After the weekend conference Ed and I will be observing in schools in Beirut and then talking with principals and teachers there about how choice theory can begin to have a presence in classrooms.

We solicit your prayers as we prepare for the trip. Any words of advice would be welcomed as well.

Glasser Biography

The Glasser biography – William Glasser: Champion of Choice – is supposed to come out in late November. The inside of the book looks wonderful. I am really pleased with the look and visual tone of the book. It will be a pleasant read in that way. I am in the midst of a slight disagreement regarding the cover of the book, but it is not a major thing. Hopefully, my input will sway them, but then again, what do I know about cover design. It will just be so good to have the book done!

The Evolution of Psychotherapy conference in Anaheim is at the beginning of December and I think they want to have the book available for that.

Masaki Kakatani, long time Glasser Institute member, has contacted the publisher to begin translating the biography into Japanese. Very cool.

Choice Theory Study Group

Our next Choice Theory Study Group will be on Sabbath afternoon, November 2, at 2:00 pm in the Education building at Pacific Union College. Mark it in your calendar.

Agenda items include:
+ Brief updates on any choice theory lessons or experiences in your classroom or school.
+ I will give a brief update on the Beirut trip.
+ Role play review on how to conference with a student with an attainable want.

Let me know if you have a topic or question for us to consider on November 2.

Choice Theory Study Group
November 2, 2013
PUC Education building

Thirteen (so far) Essential Psychological Skills for 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.
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.
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!
Become even more popular than you already are by sharing The Better Plan with colleagues and friends. It’s simple –
You can also improve your popularity by sharing this post on your Facebook page. It’s easy to do and it will help to grow The Better Plan community.

The Rest of the Story: Part 2

Today’s blog continues where we left off in The Rest of the Story: Part 1. You’ll get more out of the story if you read Part 1 first.


I began the presentation, and had only been going a few minutes when I noticed someone in the corner of my eye enter the room. There were no seats left and he edged along the wall to my left and sat down on the floor. When I realized that the person sitting on the floor was Jeff Tirengel, I was almost overcome emotionally, and even physically. Jeff and I had met 10 years earlier, when we were both completing the Glasser certification week training. We became friends and stayed in touch from then on. Although he possesses a wonderful, dry wit, he has a way of always bringing the conversation to the important. And as we talked about the important things in life we became close. As he sat there on the floor, though, I knew the rest of the story, as the late Paul Harvey would say. I knew that he was in a battle for his life, that he was hanging in there through tough chemotherapy that, while trying to kill the bad cells, was draining him of the good, too. That he would somehow muster up the strength, which he had in such small supply, and come to my talk .  .  . I can barely write about it even now without choking up.

I briefly described each of the chapters, occasionally reading excerpts from the manuscript. I pulled back the curtain and talked about how the whole thing began and how Bill and worked together. Pictures of Bill on the screen behind me, from childhood to adulthood, added to the story. The hour and fifteen minutes for the breakout went by quickly and I began to wrap things up. I had prepared more material than the breakout time would allow, but had presented what I could. I fairly frequently give breakout talks and trainings, so I know the drill, but I was not prepared for what happened next. Instead of people saying thanks and then heading off to supper, they started asking me when they could hear the information from the rest of the chapters that I was not able to get to. I got my wits about me and stammered that I would be open to that. One person wondered aloud if we could continue early the next morning before breakfast. Other suggestions were tossed back and forth and it was finally decided to continue that evening after supper. Instead of the classroom we were in at that moment we agreed to meet in the general area, a large open space surrounded by vendor tables.

When the breakout was over I went over to Bill. He tried to speak, but he was too choked up to get the words out. “I don’t know what to say,” he finally got out. I tried to lighten the moment (I’m not saying it was the right thing to do, but it’s what I did.) and said, “I couldn’t have done it without you, Bill,” in an obvious attempt at understatement. “Thank you,” he said quietly as he held my hand tightly. I became overcome, too, the two of us in a moment that only the two of us could understand. Jeff joined us, our hug simultaneously conveying congratulations and appreciation. After I returned home Jeff emailed a picture he had taken with his cell phone during the breakout. It shows me talking to the group with Glasser in his wheelchair in the background. The resolution is not very good, yet it will always be one of my most treasured photographs. Jeff was not in the picture, but to me, he is as much in the picture as Bill and I.

Jeff Tirengel's picture of me presenting during the first breakout session with Glasser in the background.

Jeff Tirengel’s picture of me presenting during the first breakout session with Glasser in the background.

I was drained, in a good way, as I headed to supper. I don’t remember eating much. Instead I got ready for part two of the presentation. As it turned out, more than twice as many people came to the next session. In spite of the late hour, Bill came to the next session, too. There was so much interest in Glasser’s life, the circumstances surrounding his career, and the evolution of his ideas. He was quiet throughout the evening, but I could tell he was taking everything in, the appreciation that people at the session had for him, the admiration, and the affection.

After the conference was over and I was driving back home to northern California it began to sink in. I had met or re-connected with so many wonderful people, learned important ideas from other breakout presenters, poured everything I had into my own breakout sessions, and, as I visited with others, even came upon more anecdotes for the ending of the biography, yet none of these things represented the most significant piece of the conference for me. It began to sink in that the most important part of the conference for me, the best reason for my attending the conference, was Glasser hearing and seeing the interest that others had in his story and hearing their thanks and affirmation for his efforts. I had been concerned for months and even years that he might pass away before I could put a physical copy of the book in his hands. Now, after the breakout sessions that he attended, I felt that he had experienced what readers would feel as they read his story. Somehow it felt to me that a ribbon had been placed on the package, so to speak, during those breakout sessions. He knew the book was coming and got a taste of the interest others had in the book’s content. I didn’t have a publisher yet, but at least I knew that Glasser knew it was coming and knew that people were looking forward to it.

Driving on Hwy 5 from Los Angeles to northern California can provide a lot of time to think.

Driving on Hwy 5 from Los Angeles to northern California can provide a lot of time to think.

As I drove up Hwy 5, the main north and south roadway artery from the southern part of California through Oregon and Washington all the way to the Canadian border, I had such a deep feeling of contentment as I reflected on my Glasser conference experiences. It struck me just how close I had come to not attending at all. I would have missed so much had I not attended. A bit of pride could have kept me from wanting to do the breakout at all. Discomfort at the thought of having to share a room with someone tempted me to pull the plug on the whole idea of attending the conference.

The good feelings I had, especially the feelings I had about Glasser attending the breakout sessions, were enough to fuel my contentment for quite a while. (Here comes the Paul Harvey “Rest of the Story” part.) But there’s more. In November, 2012, five months after the Glasser conference in June, I get a call from Carleen Glasser. I was just getting out of my car and about to head into Calistoga High School to observe a student teacher when her call came in. She said something about Barry Karlin and that I should call Jeff Zeig because he was interested in seeing the manuscript. For months I had been working on finding a publisher for the book, even exploring self-publishing options. Harper-Collins was a possibility, I thought, but they turned it down, even though they liked the manuscript a lot. It appeared there might be a possibility with Simon & Schuster, but that didn’t work out either. Queries to Beacon Press didn’t open any doors and I was really wondering what to do next. Then the phone rings and it is Carleen encouraging me to get in touch with Jeff Zeig. Zeig is the founder and CEO of the Milton Erickson Foundation, a highly respected organization in the field of counseling and psychotherapy. I did get in touch with Zeig and sure enough he was interested in seeing the manuscript.  He read it, along with others on their editorial board, and they decided they wanted their publishing company to print it. We have been working on the book together, especially with his editor, Suzi Tucker, ever since.

It turns out that Barry Karlin, who I met at the Glasser conference months before, contacted Jeff Zeig and let him know of the manuscript’s existence. Barry and I had good visits during the conference and I was impressed with how committed he was to the Glasser message. He attended my breakouts and was one of the voices that asked for the second breakout session later that evening. Barry and I departed the conference as friends. I sent him the manuscript and sought his comments on what he read. He really felt like the book needed to be published and on his own he contacted Jeff Zeig and the Milton Erickson Foundation. That contact ultimately led to the book being published within the next few months.

Once again, the details of the situation hit me. Had I not gone to the conference I wouldn’t have met Barry and he wouldn’t have become part of the manuscript and the publisher search. The Milton Erickson Foundation would probably never have come up on my radar screen. I knew that Jeff Zeig was the force behind the success of the Evolution of Psychotherapy conference, but I didn’t know that the Milton Erickson Foundation had a publishing house until Carleen and Barry told me about it. Barry taking the initiative made all the difference in the world.

So now you know how the biography came to be published. It’s a bit of a convoluted tale, but most good tales are. The moral of the story? Don’t let pride keep you from experiencing life. As far as this story is concerned, a little bit of pride would have scuttled everything.

Bill Glasser at the banquet, held on the last evening of the conference, June, 2012.

Bill Glasser at the banquet, held on the last evening of the conference, June, 2012.


If this post has been interesting or helpful to you, it might be of interest to others, too. It’s easy to share this post with your Facebook friends or Twitter connections. Simply click on the Facebook icon at the end of the article. The rest is easy.

Hey! It works!

A teacher shares what happened recently when he had the opportunity to use the conferencing skills he learned earlier this summer.

This summer I had the privilege of taking the Soul Shaper 1 & 2 class at Pacific Union College.  After doing so and reading a number of Glasser books, I was extremely interested in putting conferencing into practice.  We did a number of role plays in class to prepare for a conference, but there is something exciting about leading out in a real life scenario.

I received a call from a close friend about a relationship issue he was experiencing.  He was looking for some advice from me, so I told him to meet me at a local coffee shop.  On my way to our meeting, I thought back to the role plays in class and the acronym WDEP came to mind.  After reminding myself what each letter stood for, (W – What do you want, D- What are you doing? E- Evaluate if it is working, and P- The plan) I convinced myself that this would be the ideal time to practice what I had learned.

After breaking the ice a bit over coffee, I finally began our dialogue by asking him what was on his mind.  He gave me a long version of his dilemma, which was whether or not he should break up with his girlfriend.  He was quick to blame this dilemma on his significant other, telling me how he didn’t like how she did such and such. I listened carefully and after he was through I simply asked him, well what do you want right now?  He looked at me, kind of perplexed and asked me what I meant.  I asked him again, “deep down, what is it that you feel you need right now? I know we are here about the relationship, but that aside, what do you want?” He thought a bit, I sipped some coffee trying to keep myself from talking to break the silence.  Finally he spoke up and began to paint a picture that depicted freedom to me.  After he was through, I said, “would it be safe to say that what you need right now is freedom?” He assured me that this is what he needed.  I then asked him if he could find this freedom in his current relationship.  Without much thought he told me no. To make sure, I asked him what it would take to gain the freedom that he felt he needed and again asked if there was any way the relationship could still work with this need.  He assured me that he did not think he could get the freedom he needed while maintaining the relationship.  I then reminded him about the blame he put on his significant other for the current conflict.   I asked him, “Could it be that deep down you have wanted out of this relationship for awhile and you were waiting for a good excuse to end it?”  At this point he looked at me and told me that I was “freaking him out”.  He thought I was reading his mind or something.  We joked a bit and then continued on.  He agreed that this was indeed the case, but he was worried that if he broke things off he may not find someone else that had some of the traits he appreciated about her.  We worked through the process again a bit and he came to the conclusion that he needed to end the relationship.  We role played how that would look and talked about blame and how destructive that could be. He agreed and we were able to talk out what a break up might look like.

I don’t want to say that this experience went perfectly. I talked a bit more then I have expressed here and wish I could have been better at listening, but overall I saw that he had self-evaluated which made for a very rewarding experience for me, and hopefully for him.


The story above reminds us that we experience problem-solving conferencing opportunities in many normal, every day moments. We can use WDEP conferencing skills as teachers and principals, but we can also tap into WDEP skills as parents and friends. The above story also seems to embody the definition of problem-solving conferencing – that being


A lot of us are well-intentioned “fixers” who quickly start sharing advice and solutions when our student, colleague, or friend really just wants someone to listen and help them figure things out. The concept of self-evaluation is hugely important in the choice theory scheme of things. Whether it relates to academic performance and grading or to conferencing with a student regarding a behavior at school, the student’s ability to self-evaluate is the key. The KEY! We can count on this reality as surely as we can count on the law of gravity or the sun coming up in the morning. There is no getting around it. We can advise, direct, order, prescribe, or even threaten, but until a student comes to understand and acknowledge the situation for himself our efforts will lead to frustration and a strained relationship.

When we can non-judgmentally ask WDEP questions the results are frequently amazing! Often, people just need a little help thinking through things on their own and coming up with a plan of their own creation.

%d bloggers like this: