Glasser believed that three essential elements in a Quality School are –
+ Relevance, and
(It helps if all the elements on a list like this begin with the same letter.)
There are nuances to these three elements, and there are other elements entirely, but any school that authentically and effectively addresses these three will be well on its way to being a Glasser Quality School.
Glasser wanted schools to be places of joy, where staff and students treated each other warmly and with respect. I refer to this piece as Intentional Friendship. It isn’t something we just hope for, it is something we strategically plan for and implement. Students respond well to our Intentional Friendship efforts, however not all will do so right away. Some have attended schools that rely on coercion and punishment and have never experienced a place – at home or school – that is based on positive relationships and natural consequences. They have used their cold, adversarial attitudes as leveraged responses to the school’s effort to control them. When a school ceases to behave in this way, and to literally take the fight out of their rules and procedures, students don’t exactly know how to respond at first. So they test their teachers to see if this approach is really real or just some form of control in disguise. I think a term we need to embrace is the idea of Unconditional Liking. And by that I mean that we behave like we like our students, not just love them in some ethereal, spiritual way, but really like them. Many of our students have never experienced unconditional anything. It’s a powerful element in a Quality School.
We all crave it. We want things in which we are involved to matter. Students are no different in what they experience at school. Busy work is the opposite of relevance. Teachers know this, yet it isn’t always easy to develop lessons that are relevant. Part of students’ complaints about school is that so much of what they do isn’t relevant to them. Consider some simple ways that topics and assignments can be made to matter more.
+ Fifth and sixth graders learn and review Math processes by calculating the performance data of their favorite baseball team – earned run averages of pitchers and batting averages of batters. Older students can study the concepts of Billy Beane, the GM of the Oakland A’s, and the metrics from which little known players are evaluated and ultimately hired at a much lower rate than the well-known, but expensive stars. (The A’s are in first place as we speak.)
+ Second and third graders track 10 day weather predictions on The Weather Channel and determine their rate of accuracy.
+ Eighth graders consider the effects that a meat diet has on the planet. How would things be different if everyone was a vegetarian?
+ It is now being said that major portions of the Antarctic ice shelves are melting and that the rate of melt is now irreversible. High school students present reports on the extent to which this claim is true.
+ High school students research the effects on the economy of raising the minimum wage to $12.00 and hour and give presentations that include the math they used to support their conclusions.
These are just examples. You can come up with even more I am sure. The point is that as teachers we must be vigilant in our search for relevance.
The Self-Evaluation piece is an essential piece of a Quality School, yet it is easy for educators to leave this piece out. Our view that academic evaluation is the teacher’s domain runs deep apparently. Maybe we view evaluation as our responsibility; maybe we see evaluation as an element of control that we don’t want to share; or maybe we think students won’t take it seriously. Whatever our reason for doing all of the evaluating, as teachers we need to reconsider this way of doing things and think of ways we can share this process with students.
One way to do this is to include a student self-evaluation column, as well as a teacher verification column, in the rubrics that you produce. Not every assignment will have such a rubric, but certainly the major assignments and projects will benefit from giving students a chance to rate their own performance. When they submit their assignment or project they will also submit a completed self-evaluation. My experience is that they in fact do take self-evaluation seriously. Their scoring and my scoring as teacher do not always match, but our scoring differently always leads to important conversations about their performance.
I may say that “I notice that you have given your self a 5 out of 5 on the personal examples section of the paper. Could you show me where those are?” The student may then attempt to show me how they interpreted that requirement or they may admit that maybe they didn’t do as much as they thought on that area. We eventually agree on a score, politely, focusing on the content rather than the person. I have noticed that it isn’t unusual for them to give themselves lower scores than I gave them. It is fun when that happens to point out to them the ways they got it right.
Glasser and Deming agreed that self-evaluation was really the only evaluation that mattered. We have to hold to this principle, pursue it, nurture it, if we are to create learning environments that are need-satisfying.
Relationships, relevance, and self-evaluation are just as important in the home, or in our churches, too. They are basically three of the essential principles of life.
Remember that our Choice Theory Study Group has been cancelled this coming Sabbath, May 24. I know you may be keenly disappointed, maybe even overcome with despondency, but try to have a good weekend anyway.