Posts tagged “learning

Learning from Jim Carrey or the NYC Murder Rate

Hmm .  .  . what to write about. While reading a weekly journal called appropriately, The Week, I ran across two items that caught my attention. I’ll briefly share both of them and you can let me know which direction to head.


1st Item – A Quote from Jim Carrey

I think everybody should get rich and famous and do everything they ever dreamed of so they can see that it’s not the answer.   Jim Carrey

Really true, isn’t it? We often do look at the rich and famous and compare our lives to our perceptions of their lives. Each time we see a magazine cover with their gorgeous faces and perfect (photoshopped) bodies and see pictures of them on vacation in exotic places that normal people never go to, we are reminded of how far from their lives we really are. In the process, it’s easy to forget about the often screwed-up lives of the people in those pictures and their desperation for normalcy. And in the process we lose sight of the things for which we can be thankful. We forget to nurture a spirit of gratitude.

Jealousy and covetousness erode us from the inside out. The thinking we embrace and coddle affects our actions, our feelings, and even our physiology. Stinkin thinkin leads to all kinds of problems. Take a cue from Jim Carrey and quickly review your blessings. If the list is short you may need to intentionally seek the reasons for which to be thankful, but any effort put into improving your thinking will make a huge difference in your relationships and your happiness.

Item #2 – Murder Rates in NYC Reveal an Interesting Pattern


A total of 334 people were murdered in New York City last year, only 29 of them by strangers. That’s down from more than 2,245 murders in 1990, and the lowest number of murders in the city on record.

The low number of murders is good, but what I really noticed had to do with how only 29 of them were committed by strangers. When I saw that I immediately thought of Glasser’s belief that all long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems. It is telling that over 90% of the murders in NYC were committed by people who knew their victims. Taking the life of a friend or loved one is an extreme act that in a strange way conveys the importance of relationships. We value relationships and get worked up when a relationship doesn’t go the way we want it to go. Murdering another person is never the answer, yet 305 people in NYC last year didn’t know about other options and went ahead and acted out in violence.

This is where choice theory can help. The principles of choice theory gently, but firmly pull us out from the pit of victimhood and place us back in possession of ourselves. We come to understand the control we have on our thinking and our acting and the ways in which we create our own reality. We begin to value our relationships more and to recognize the role we play in whether or not our relationships are successful. Ultimately, without hurting or taking advantage of others, we become responsible for our own happiness.

So, what to write about — Jim Carrey and gratitude or on what can be learned from the NYC murder rate? Hmm .  .  .


Tom Lee, Jean Buller, and Jim Roy at the Google Education Conference. Each of them are professors in the teacher education program at Pacific Union College.

Tom Lee, Jean Buller, and Jim Roy at the Google Education Conference. Each of them are professors in the teacher education program at Pacific Union College.

I attended a Google Apps for Educators Conference on Jan. 8 and 9 at New Tech High in Napa, CA. Wow! If you ever have a chance to attend a Google educator conference I highly encourage you to do so. (45 such conferences will be put on this coming year) The things you learn and ideas you hear are educationally transformative.

For example, the Research tool in Google Docs places the world (websites, articles, pictures, and video clips) at students’ fingertips. And by students we aren’t just talking about college and secondary students. Elementary students can quickly learn to study a topic more deeply and then demonstrate their understanding in exciting ways. Their presentations become much more RELEVANT to them and their classmates. As you probably recall, relevance is one of the most important qualities in a choice theory classroom.


Our next Choice Theory Study Group is January 25 at 2:00 pm.

Let me know if you have agenda items or topics you would like to cover.

Push or Pull

Chris Sequiera, the author for today’s blog teaches History, Bible, Health and Geometry at Livingstone Adventist Academy in Salem, Oregon. He was a part of LAA shifting to school practices that emphasize choice theory principles and has been a master teacher for ITI – Integrated Thematic Instruction.

Push or Pull

“Bosses fail because they force and punish, and leaders succeed because, without forcing and punishing, students see it is to their benefit to follow them and do so more because they like them than because of what they teach.”
William Glasser, Choice Theory

Like many teachers, this summer I am taking summer classes. In my Middle Ages and Renaissance of Europe History class I am in the process of reading the works of Niccolo Machiavelli and Thomas More, specifically their works titled “The Prince” and “Utopia” respectively. Though written about 500 years ago, it occurred to me that King Solomon was right when he said, “There is nothing new under the sun.” I am not saying that either Machiavelli or More were closet Choice Theorists, but their political dialog does have an uncanny resemblance to the comparing and contrasting today of traditional and choice theory classrooms, tradition versus Quality School if you will.

In introducing the concepts of Quality Schools, Glasser has us take a look at Edward Deming’s business model. In it he differentiates between boss managing and lead managing. As one education coach shared with me, as teachers our role is to be the guide on the side, not the sage on the stage. I also like the way that General Eisenhower illustrated the point. Placing a long rather large chain on the floor, he asked his leadership team how to best move it from point A to point B. There are two obvious solutions, attempt to push it across the floor, or to pull it. In critiquing the two methods, one finds that by pushing, only the links that are directly pushed are really affected, making the chain as a whole rather difficult to maneuver. However, if one were to grab the end of the chain and pull it across to the designated point you will find it much more effective. People, and students are people, are no different, not only would they rather be pulled than pushed, it is much more effective. The Choice Theory classroom starts with this premise.

So I got to thinking, what are the ways that I “pull” students to success in my classroom. Here are some ideas, by no means an exhaustive list, but one to consider in building a Choice Theory classroom:

  • Attitude – even before I step into the classroom, I need to evaluate what paradigm I am in, boss or leader.
  • Class/school environment – I want my classroom to be inviting and warm, a place of comfort. The rubric I use is, “Does my class look more like a sterile fast food joint or a cozy coffee shop?” I try to ensure, for instance, that what my students see in my room has some relevance to what we are learning. I also try to focus on what TO DO, rather than on what not to do. (e.g.- giving more attention to the Seven Caring Habits than the Seven Deadly Habits)
  • Direction – this tends to be a very grade level topic. As a high school teacher where I see a different group of kids every period it is much more work to provide a means of direction, a constitution, than in a self-contained classroom, but nonetheless student input – every year – is vital to them buying into how the class runs.
  • Collaboration – statistically students learn more from each other than their teacher. I need to provide the most beneficial means to do that. How I seat my students, for instance, matters.
  • Content – meaningful content is something that students don’t have to make too big a stretch to see its value; some topics/subjects are easier to do this with than others.
  • Movement – the brain is an organ, an organ that requires blood flow. I need to ensure that my students are getting adequate blood flow to their brains.
  • Choice – whether it is variation in the assignment or choices in projects, students buy in more when there is choice in what they do.
  • Flexibility – in regards to time and amount of work done should to at least some degree be negotiable. As a student in an upper division college history class, I know I would appreciate that in my professor.
  • Feedback – give students honest and immediate feedback on their work.
  • Application – as a Choice Theory teacher it is not my job to ‘cover’ material, it is my job to ensure that my students have mastery.
  • Commit – when students see how committed I am to their success, their commitment soon follows.

There is more to being a Choice Theory teacher, but this is a great place to start and add on to. Have a super year, but enjoy the rest of your summer too!

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