Posts tagged “Pacific Union College

So You Wanna Be a Pioneer

Dr. Leonard Bailey and his wife, Nancy, giving the opening colloquy talk at PUC, 2014.

Dr. Leonard Bailey and his wife, Nancy, giving the opening colloquy talk at PUC, 2014.

School started this past week at Pacific Union College and on Thursday morning our first colloquy speaker was Dr. Leonard Bailey, of Baby Fae heart transplant fame. I recalled the controversy in 1984 that surrounded Loma Linda University and a doctor there who had transplanted a baboon’s heart into a newborn baby girl. Before the term viral became common, this story went viral.


I wasn’t sure what to expect this past week, in the days leading up to his talk. The first colloquy is always one of pomp and circumstance, with all the faculty marching in wearing their regalia, a loud organ laboring to increase the drama. It turned out that I enjoyed the talk, with two important elements standing out.

Element 1 – The Pioneer Angle

The pioneer moniker is heard somewhat frequently at PUC, since our athletic teams are known as the Pioneers, and this is the theme that was used to introduce Dr. Bailey. During his presentation he shared many video clips that brought you back to when the story was actually unfolding. Ted Koppel, Diane Sawyer, and other major media outlets covered the story from every perspective. Interviews and articles referred to Bailey as Dr. Frankenstein. Animal activists had a field day. If you were old enough in 1984, then you can remember what a big deal the procedure was.


I had forgotten that, without drastic intervention, 100% of newborns with a condition known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome will die. Bailey explained how if ever a disease merited transplant attention this condition certainly qualified. And so he outfitted a lab at Loma Linda and for eight years he worked with transplant techniques on baby goats and monkeys. The Baby Fae procedure ultimately led to human-to-human baby heart transplants, with infants growing up to lead normal lives as adults. Over 500 of these heart transplants have since taken place at Loma Linda, with receivers of new hearts, now in their 30s, living productive lives. Pretty amazing!

Bailey seemed to be a pretty humble guy to me (either that or he knows what humble is supposed to look like) as he described what it was like to be a pioneer. I was reminded of the price a person pays to be out in front. He talked about heading in a direction before others do, or even heading in a direction in spite of the blockades that others put up. He really was swimming against a strong current, yet look at all the lives that are now being saved because of his efforts.

William Glasser presenting at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, 2005 (Photo by Jim Roy)

William Glasser presenting at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference, 2005 (Photo by Jim Roy)

As I listened I was reminded of Glasser’s efforts and the currents he swam against. Glasser was a pioneer in the truest sense of the word. (If I had it to do again, I think the title of the biography could include the word pioneer.) His rejection of the concept of mental illness and the labels used to transform symptoms into disease, his disavowing the therapeutic value of focusing on the unconscious mind or on past experiences, his recognition of the damaging effects of external control psychology, and the way he embraced the science of the power of choice, these and other key ideas all are testimony to his pioneering spirit. He was not necessarily unique in each of these pieces (nor was Bailey unique in his field – Does the name Christiaan Barnard ring a bell?), but the package of the ideas that Glasser assembled was incredibly unique.

Element 2 – The Donor Angle

For every newborn that receives a new heart and the life that goes with it, there is a newborn that donates that heart and the life that goes with it. For every family shedding tears of joy, there is a family shedding tears of indescribable grief.

Can you see the two small stitches holding things in place?

Can you see the two small stitches holding things in place?

At one point during Dr. Bailey’s talk I was overcome with emotion as this equation (a life received = a life given) hit me between the eyes. Literally. You see, I live with two donor corneas. I can see because someone (a woman from Kentucky and a man from Chicago) shared a part of their body with me. I see because they cannot. Even as I write this I am choked up. What can I say? My mother passed on a degenerative disease to me (as I now have probably passed on to my children) that was causing my eyesight to get cloudier and murkier every month. Without intervention, as the Bible says, I was “seeing through a glass darkly.”

Me getting outfitted with new glasses.

Me getting outfitted with new glasses.

Yet my joy at seeing clearer, seeing colors in all their gorgeous beauty, came at the expense of another. My heart goes out to the loved ones of those from whom I have benefitted. I have listed myself as a donor, although I am not sure how valuable anything is from a 60 year old. Still, if after I leave this earth I can be of help to another, I would really like to do that.

I am not gone yet, though, and if you are reading this you are not gone yet either. I encourage you to list yourself as a donor, but more importantly, I want to encourage all of us, myself included, to be a help to others while we are alive on this earth. One incredible way to help others is to live choice theory. It can be so powerful when a person lives a life of choice, rising above the slights and discomforts, acknowledging their feelings rather than being controlled by them, using the caring habits, and meeting their needs without keeping someone else from meeting theirs.

Love to all!


Now priced at $17.63 on Amazon; 18 reviews have been submitted. (We're closing in on 20. Yes!)

Now priced at $17.63 on Amazon; 18 reviews have been submitted. (We’re closing in on 20. Yes!)

The eBook version can be accessed at –

The paperback version can be accessed at –

or from Amazon at –

Signed copies of Champion of Choice can be accessed through me at –

Off and Running with Glasser and Wong

Screenshot 2014-09-06 19.44.32

Classes begin on Sept. 22 at PUC and one of the courses I will be teaching this Fall quarter is Classroom Management. Pre-service teachers worry ahead of time about whether or not they will be able to manage a classroom and after entering the profession, those teachers who leave teaching mostly do so because of issues relating to management. Classroom management is a very important skill set for teachers to possess. I enjoy teaching the class, even as I feel the pressure of the responsibility to teach it well and teach it right.

There are basically two different paradigms from which to consider classroom management – either you view the world operating according to external control (reward / punishment) or you see it operating according to internal control and the principles of choice theory. There are many different approaches and management models to choose from, but each of them sits on one of these paradigms.


I am using two books as texts for the class that I haven’t used before. The first is Choice Theory in the Classroom (1986; 2001), which I am quite familiar with, and the second one is The Classroom Management Book (2014), which is brand new.


I chose these books because I think they will help students understand and appreciate the essential elements of classroom management. (A big THANK YOU to those who posted their essential elements in the last blog. I am going to share your insights with my class.) Some of the elements I would like to include –

+ Know yourself – Recognize that your beliefs about motivation and behavior (which you can change) form the frame within which all of your classroom management pieces fit.

+ Prevention rather than cure – Seek to create a need-satisfying class in which students want to be. Focus on positive relationships all the way around. Focus on instructional organization. Focus on teaching and rehearsing the Procedures needed for the room to run smoothly.

+ Natural consequences rather than punishment – If students do break a rule, help them learn to take responsibility for their behavior and restore what they have broken.

I plan to start with Glasser’s Choice Theory in the Classroom and have him help us understand the concepts of choice theory and how the internal control model of human behavior really is the only model that honors the way our brains work. I think role plays in class will help us get the essential points in better ways than me lecturing the points.

Bill giving a talk in Ventura, CA (2006)

Bill giving a talk in Ventura, CA (2006)

I am glad I re-connected with Choice Theory in the Classroom. I have known about the book, of course, but I haven’t tapped into it like I am about to. Here are a few key points from the book. You can almost hear Glasser’s voice –

“We cannot pressure any student to work if he does not believe the work is satisfying.” (12)

“We are far too concerned with discipline, with how to ‘make’ students follow rules, and not enough concerned with providing the satisfying education that would make our overconcern with discipline unnecessary.” (12)

“When we talk about better discipline with no attempt to create a more satisfying school, what we are really talking about is getting disruptive students to turn off a biological control system that they cannot turn off.” (58)

I then plan to transition into Harry Wong’s new book, The Classroom Management Book. I have been using Wong’s classic The First Days of School for a number of years, and I really like that book, but I decided to go with his new book. The new book is so strong on Procedures and how to teach them. I can supplement what the book doesn’t cover, but I really want the students to have access to what he does cover. I think experienced teachers will want to check out his new book, too.


I just recently received the latest edition of Educational Leadership, the journal for the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, and the entire journal is devoted to the topic of motivation. I will be having the students read several of the articles, including the keynote (lead) article by Daniel Pink, entitled Motivated to Learn: A Conversation with Daniel Pink. The title reminded of the many journal articles back in the day that featured control theory or choice theory and had as part of the title A Conversation with William Glasser. As it so happens, even though this current journal has been devoted to the topic of motivation, and specifically motivation within the school environment, not one of the articles references Glasser or mentions him in any way. It is true that his ideas and beliefs are splashed throughout the journal. Schools wanting to improve instruction and embrace educational “best practice” are heading the way Glasser pointed for years. That really is the important thing.


Discipline is helping a child solve a problem.
Punishment is making a child suffer for having a problem.
To raise problem-solvers, focus on solutions, not retribution.
L.R. Knost
(Thank you Bette Blance for sharing this on Facebook)


One way to keep Glasser’s legacy alive is to let colleagues know about The Better Plan blog. Think about it.


Now priced at $17.73 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been submitted.

Now priced at $17.73 on Amazon; 16 reviews have been submitted.

The eBook version of William Glasser: Champion of Choice can be accessed at the following link –

The paperback version can be accessed at the following Amazon link –

For U.S. customers, get a signed copy of Champion of Choice for $20 + $6 (shipping). Send your check, along with any special instructions (e.g.- if the book is a gift), as well as your shipping address, and I will get the biography out to you right away.
Please include your email address, just in case I have questions about your order. My address is P. O. Box 933, Angwin, CA 94508

Get a signed copy of Soul Shapers: A Better Plan for Parents and Teachers for $17.



5 Reasons Choice Theory Works 100% of the Time

The view when I walked out of the Education building.

The view when I walked out of the Education building.

As I walked out of the Education building at Pacific Union College yesterday afternoon, a large plume of smoke caught my eye. It seemed to be very close and in the direction of my house. It was the kind of hot, windy afternoon that fires love, and intensified by months, and even years, of drought here in California. Colleagues came out onto the front porch of our entryway and joined me in expressing concern and a bit of worrying.

I didn’t think I would get very far, but I decided to head toward the smoke and see what I could see. Sirens had been wailing as fire vehicles sped by the college, so I figured the appropriate blockades were in place. I headed toward Pope Valley and made it all the way to the top of Pope Valley Road, which surprised me. The cloud, although more blocked by trees, still loomed large.

From the top of Pope Valley Road.

From the top of Pope Valley Road.

I decided to head down the hill and see how close I could get to Pope Valley. Remarkably, I thought then, I was able to wind my way to the bottom of the hill and park my truck so that I could walk to the best vantage point. The smoke cloud, still large, was in plain view further down valley than I had thought it would be. Somehow it looked smaller as I got closer.

From the old Pope Valley gas station at the bottom of the hill.

From the old Pope Valley gas station at the bottom of the hill.

Standing across the street from the Pope Valley Fire Department, I could clearly see the orange colored clouds billowing up from the ground; I could see the spotter planes begin to circle over the fire, getting the exact bearings on the fire’s location and I assume helping to organize the efforts to contain it; I could see the bigger planes come in, the ones that dropped retardant on the flames; and I could see fire trucks begin to rapidly appear from Cal Fire and nearby communities. Instead of speeding by to the fire, though, the trucks always pulled into the wide area in front of the Pope Valley Fire Station, sometimes several of them there at the same time. After a few minutes, sometimes longer, the trucks and their crew would turn onto Butts Canyon Road and head north toward the fire.

Waiting to be called in. There would soon be a lot more trucks here.

Waiting to be called in. There would soon be a lot more trucks here.

This was interesting to me and I wondered aloud to a friend standing near me why the trucks seemed to be wasting time when they could be getting to the fire sooner. “Oh,” he explained, “the trucks always wait until they are called in with specific instructions on exactly where to go. It would be a mess if all the trucks just raced to where they thought the fire was.” It made perfect sense after he explained it. I thought again about the coordinated symphony of man and machines – planes, helicopters, ambulances, police cars, fire trucks, personnel trucks, and a host of other support vehicles – and all of the experience that went into knowing how to attack a large fire in a remote area. The fire fighters, whatever their role might be, know what works. There are proven fire-fighting principles that they apply. Their lives depend on these principles.

My friend, Tom Amato, is a strong believer in the principles of choice theory. As director of the Napa Valley Youth Advocacy Center, Tom works to improve, and sometimes even save, the lives of children and teens. Whether a kid is struggling in school, struggling at home, having run-ins with the law, self-medicating with drugs, or developing anti-social behaviors, Tom is relentless in his desire to connect with him/her, to listen, to support, and even to provide opportunities to become engaged in meaningful service to the community. It’s amazing, really!

One thing Tom has said to me more than once is that when the principles of choice theory are correctly and consistently applied, they will work 100% of the time. It is true. There may not be an instant change in those with whom we work, but the principles lead to change. We can count on them as surely as the fire fighters count on the principles of fire fighting.

We know, for instance, that –

+ a positive relationship means everything. We must get and stay connected to the kids we are working with.

+ a need-satisfying environment is important. Rather than on changing the kid, we can focus on providing a need-satisfying structure in our classroom or teen center or wherever it is that we work with himher.

+ the caring habits really work! At-risk kids, when interviewed about what helped them turn things around for the better, consistently mention that they just needed an adult to listen to them, to accept them, and to seek to understand them. As human beings we all respond to the unconditional regard of the caring habits.

+ to get into another person’s quality world, we can only be invited and placed there by the person himself. If we work with kids it is important that we are in their quality world, but we can’t force our way in. We can only behave in a way that the kid will put us there.

+ kids need structure, but not structure designed to accentuate a power struggle. Kids appreciate coercionless-structure.

Of course, it isn’t just kids that respond these principles. We all do!

Here’s to the fire fighters, who make our world a safer place!

And here’s to choice theory, whose principles make our world a better place, too! (With special thanks to Tom Amato.)


Have you read William Glasser: Champion of Choice yet? If not, I will soon be offering signed copies right here from The Better Plan website. Stay tuned.

I am planning on bringing some copies to the 2nd International Glasser Conference next week in Toronto. Hope to see you there!


The Incredible Lemon Cake

A piece of cake from the Social Work consecration reception at PUC yesterday.

A piece of cake from the Social Work consecration reception at PUC yesterday.

A magical cake was served at yesterday’s Social Work reception and during the celebration and visiting I was reminded of the power of choice and how all behavior is purposeful. It is graduation weekend at Pacific Union College and several of the subject-area departments have special ceremonies for their graduates. The Social Work consecration yesterday also included farewell messages to Dr. Monte Butler, longtime faculty member of the department, who has accepted a position at Loma Linda University. So, back to the cake.

I guess it could be described as a lemon cake, but this simple label falls far short of how good this cake really is. It is so moist, and so just-right tart, with cream layers in between the lemon cake layers, that it can only be described as epic, even life-changing. It comes from somewhere in Canada and is shipped frozen to fortunate buyers across the country.

My wife organizes the reception and I was helping her and some students get the cake out on the serving tables. The first person to arrive at the reception area after the consecration service was a woman who came directly to the cake table and picked up one of the plates on which sat a beautiful piece of the magical lemon cake. I was close by and pointed out how her life was about to be changed by a cake that was beyond good. She mentioned how hungry she was, as she was about to bring it to her mouth, but I stopped her. I wanted her to fully appreciate the culinary excellence she was so close to enjoying. She paused, but then bit into the richness. “Wow!” she affirmed, with a faraway look of reflection on her face, taken to that place where only a few all-star food items can go. The she looked at me, though, and asked, “Is this citrus .  .  .?”

I replied, “It’s lemon.”

“Because I’m allergic to citrus,” she continued. “I’ll break out if I eat this.”

I pointed to the chocolate cake that was also on the serving table, thinking that this was a pretty good secondary option under the circumstances. However, she looked at that magical lemon cake again, then at me, then back to the lemon cake, and quietly admitted, “But this is too good. I’m gonna eat this anyway.”

She had exclaimed, “Wow!” just a moment before, and now I was privately thinking “Wow!” to myself as she walked off and continued to eat the incredible lemon cake. A part of me was curious as to how long it would take for the breaking-out process to occur, but I got busy with other reception duties and am unable to report on that.

What I can say is that our brains are wonderfully complex organs that at times defy logic. The human quest to satisfy our basic needs, and the uniquely personal ways we develop to meet those needs, is a powerful process. This lady’s decision to eat the cake, a thoughtful decision as she paused with the cake on her fork, in spite of her body’s negative reaction to it, is an important reminder of our ability to make choices. We each face similar decisions every day. Choice theory doesn’t make us make good decisions, but it does reveal our purposefulness in the decisions we make, which is a good thing, a very helpful thing. Choice theory is also empowering, sometimes frustratingly so, since we can’t blame circumstances, other people, or even an incredible lemon cake, for the choices we make.

This particular lemon cake came pretty close to being blame-able, though.



The Teacher in Me

Our theme for the banquet was The 70s, with quite a few in attendance, including the band, dressing accordingly. Lots of fun.

Our theme for the banquet was The 70s, with quite a few in attendance, including the band, dressing accordingly. Rob Fenderson, principal at Redwood Adventist Academy, and Albert Miller, Assoc. Supt. for No. Cal. Conf., headlined the band.

Our Education Days’ banquet and job interviews took place this past Monday and Tuesday. This annual event is designed to connect our graduating teacher candidates with potential employers. A banquet on Monday evening leads to meet and greet mini-interviews on Tuesday morning. During the introduction part of the banquet, candidates head to the microphone and share about themselves as future teachers, often commenting on what motivated them to become a teacher and the pictures they have in their heads about the kind of teacher they want to be. For those of us who saw these candidates come to PUC as Freshmen, and have watched them conquer challenges and grow into adulthood, it is special to listen to them, on the verge of being hired and beginning their careers, describe their vision for education.

We enter our teaching careers with promise, exactly like these young teaching candidates, resolved to care about kids and make a difference in their lives, however it isn’t unusual for the pressures of the classroom and the rush of life to sweep our intentions aside. For instance, I received an email last week, written by one of my former students after he read the According to the Quality School blog

I just read your post about quality schools.  Ya know, I got into education wanting a classroom much like the one described in that post.  I specifically wanted to teach in public schools because I believed a teacher who had Christ in his heart and a desire to truly help children grow and not just claim a paycheck once a month and get summers off was needed more in the public school systems than in one of our Seventh-day Adventist schools.  But 9 years later I find myself being just like one of those teachers I swore I would never be.  I often feel defeated.  I feel like I am in a battle between myself and my principal, between myself and the state department, and between myself and a system that only cares about test scores and could care less about young people.  It has been a losing battle.  I feel defeated.  I have swum against the stream for so long and I am tired and it shows.  I used to create lesson plans that were fun, lessons that focused on getting young minds to explore, to ask questions, to learn from mistakes.  Now I find myself scouring the Internet for a worksheet just so I can “cover” a skill.  The other day I caught myself refusing to “waste time” answering a question from a student because it wasn’t a topic that would be tested on the state test.  A few years ago I would have stopped everything and had the kids start reading, searching the Internet, conducting experiments, and drawing conclusions to answer that question.  I would have tossed aside the lessons I spent hours preparing to let the kids answer that question.  Instead, I actually found myself saying, “Ask me at recess, we don’t have time for that right now.”  The child never asked me the question at recess.  And I forgot all about it.  What happened to me?  Ugh!!!  Not sure why I am dumping all this on you right now. Just read that post and guess I needed to get that off my chest and maybe receive some sage advice.  Sometimes I wish I was still at PUC.  The pressures of college were nothing compared to the pressures of full time teaching in a system that only cares about looking good on paper.   I hope all is well with you and your family.  God bless.

I share this letter because I think it may capture the thinking and feeling of quite a few veteran teachers. The constant crush of classroom responsibilities and details can crowd out our real reasons for wanting to teach. Choice theory beliefs seem to be especially fragile in the midst of this “crush.” We leave a choice theory workshop or training, or maybe finish reading a book about choice theory, and are fully intent on putting these ideas into practice. And we do for a time. But then the crush hits from multiple sides, maybe home is complicated, maybe our spouse is acting weird, maybe church is stressful, and then there is always the crush of school.  This is one of the main reasons I wanted to start The Better Plan blog. I want it to be a small part of your day that keeps the choice theory ideas alive and that reminds you that there are others of us that are on this journey, too.

I’m not sure if I responded exactly right, but what follows is part of what I wrote back to my former student – “It sounds like that teacher you feel you used to be is still in you, still wanting to show up in your classroom. I believe the circumstances you mentioned are real, especially the pressure to achieve on standardized tests. There are some things you cannot change. The question is, what are some things you can change? What are some things that would help you to like going to work more? What are some things that you can do that would help students realize they are cared for and that they can succeed? Is your school or district doing much with the Common Core yet? I see the Common Core as an important step away from the NCLB emphasis. The Common Core needs teachers to teach creatively and to empower students to learn.”

I don’t think what I said was that special, yet when he sent me a reply that included the following I was reminded how easy it can be to encourage one another.

As I read your post I am astounded by the fact that I don’t practice what I preach.  “You are the only one that you can control” has been a mantra of mine for several years now.  Your advice aligns perfectly with that mantra.  That is definitely what I will begin doing ASAP, taking a closer look at what I can do instead of focusing on what is out of my control.

His final thought is good advice for all of us. What are areas in our life in which we do have influence and control, and how can we make improvements in those areas? And to my fellow choice theorists, what are some of your “go to” thinking or acting habits when the crush begins to close in on you?


Have a blessed weekend! We are finally getting rain and fog in northern California, which we desperately need, so it should be cozy soup-eating, book reading (or blog reading), by-the-fire weather.

Have Choose a good day!

7 Cardinal Rules for Life


I’ve appreciated the stuff that often is posted by the website at, like the 7 Cardinal Rules for Life that follow here. (What cardinals have to do with rules for life, I’m not sure.) Along with the Rules I share a choice theory response to each of them. (Of note: The Soul Shaper workshop dates for this summer have been set and are listed at the end of the blog.)

7 Cardinal Rules for Life

Rule #1 – Make peace with your past, so it doesn’t spoil your present. Your past does not define your future – your actions and beliefs do.

It would be hard to come up with a more choice theory statement than this one. I think the phrase “make peace with your past” is important. We’re not trying to run from the past, hide from it, cover it, or deny it. We come to desire our joy in the present and realize our need to see the past for whatever it is and, like it says, make peace with it. I like the statement’s emphasis on thinking and acting, too, which supports the idea of every behavior being a total behavior. It really is pretty amazing that we were created to have direct control over what we think and what we do.

Rule #2 – What others think of you is none of your business. It’s how much you value yourself and how important you think you are.

Choice theory emphasizes that the only person we can control is ourselves, but I like how Rule #2 is worded. It is such a debilitating condition to be worried about what others think of you. It is so freeing to let this particular worry go.

Rule #3 – Time heals almost everything, give time, time. Pain will be less hurting. Scars make us who we are; they explain our life and why we are the way we are. They challenge us and force us to be stronger.

I hesitate to write about #3. The topic of wounds, especially emotional and spiritual wounds, is a sacred space to me and deserves a special respect. That said, it is apparent to me that some people allow healing to take place and continue to want to make the best of life, while others seem to want to nurture the hurt and hold onto it.

Rule #4 – No one is the reason for your own happiness, except you yourself. Waste no time and effort searching for peace and contentment and joy in the world outside.

The world of choice theory is a place of responsibility. A key, though, is that responsibility is something that dawns on a person, rather than it being a message that one person enforces on another. Responsibility functions best when it is like the sun coming up in a person’s life, providing light to see the world in a new light.

Rule #5 – Don’t compare your life with others. You have no idea what their journey is all about. If we all threw our problems in a pile and saw everyone else’s, we would grab ours back as fast as we could.

Comparing our life to that of others traps us in thinking that our happiness depends on our circumstances being different. Or worse, that our happiness depends on our circumstances being better than someone else’s. Choice theory keeps bringing us back to our happiness coming from within, not from without.

Rule #6 – Stop thinking too much. It’s alright not to know the answers. Sometimes there is no answer, not going to be any answer, never has been an answer. That’s the answer! Just accept it, move on, NEXT!

I’ll have to think about this one.

Rule #7 – Smile, you don’t own all the problems in the world. A smile can brighten the darkest day and make life more beautiful. It is a potential curve to turn a life around and set everything straight.

A smile is a choice. Yes, sometimes we laugh as a reflex, but sometimes we just need to choose to smile. And in making that choice, in a small way, the day does get just a little bit better.


Which of the Life Hack Rules do you relate to? Did any of them get you thinking about choice theory ideas? Let me know.

Reminder – Middle School and High School teachers can share the Rules with students and have them respond to them and evaluate them. They can be a great springboard for talking about choice and responsibility. Tie a writing assignment to them. Discuss them in a life skills class.


Important Dates

The Soul Shaper workshop dates for this coming summer at PUC have been set.

Soul Shapers 1 –  June 16-19

Soul Shapers 2 –  June 23-26

If you have questions about the workshops get in touch with me at

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

It Is More Important That I Like Them


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,”


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


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.

Heredity loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger, BUT . . .

Ruth Rittenhouse Murdoch

Ruth Rittenhouse Murdoch

After graduating from Pacific Union College in 1977 I headed to Andrews University to get a Masters degree. While there I had the privilege of taking classes from Ruth Murdoch, a retired professor who by then was an icon in education and psychology. (The large elementary school in Berrien Springs had already been named after her.) On a day that she was scheduled to give a presentation, it just so happened that my father-in-law was visiting us and attended the talk with me. He had been attending psychiatry meetings in Chicago and drove up to Andrews to say to hi.

Her presentation was about the nature vs. nurture question and at one point in the talk she stated that “heredity loads the gun and environment pulls the trigger.” It was a catchy phrase that emphasized her point well. (So catchy that I still remember it 35 years later.) Although it was not necessarily a discussion format I noticed that at this point my father-in-law, Charles Lindsay, was raising his hand. I hadn’t been a part of the Lindsay family that long (Maggie and I had been married only a few months then) yet I had heard of Charles legendary antics. At that moment I could only wonder what he had in mind as Dr. Murdoch stopped her presentation and acknowledged him.

“I think heredity is important,” Charles began, “and I think environment is super important, too, but I also think that the power of choice can overrule both of them.” Dr. Murdoch affirmed the point Charles had made and went on with her talk, but I don’t think  I went with her, so to speak, because what Charles said made a real impression on me.

At this time in my life, early 1978, I had not even heard of William Glasser (although I would read Schools Without Failure for one of my MA classes in April of that year), yet there was something in me, the very young version of me, that resonated with the theme of choice and freedom. I would learn later that it was in early 1978 that the power of choice began resonating with Glasser, too, as it was then that he started working with William Powers. Powers introduced Glasser to control theory and mentored Glasser as the new ideas took hold. It would be a few years down the road before control theory would take hold of me, too, 14 years to be exact. As a young principal I read The Quality School in 1992 and I have been on a distinct journey ever since.

Charles and Rae Lindsay (circa 1995)

Charles and Rae Lindsay (circa 1995)

Charles Lindsay, a psychiatrist and to me an icon in his own right, said something very significant that day. Our heredity may be flawed and our environment might have been troubled, but we need not be captives of dysfunction. Our power to choose can be a part of overcoming a painful or frustrating past. I say “part of” because I believe Jesus was right when He said that without Him we can’t do anything. (John 15:5) And Steps to Christ reminds us that “Education, culture, the exercise of the will, human effort, all have their proper sphere, but here they are powerless. They may produce an outward correctness of behavior, but they cannot change the heart; they cannot purify the springs of life. There must be a power working from within . . that power is Christ.” (SC 18) Our power of choice does have an important role in our lives, but it can only go so far. Real heart change comes when our choices are tied into the Holy Spirit’s leading and power.

Heredity is important, and environment is important, but the power of choice can overrule them both.

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