Posts tagged “quality school

Glasser and Jordan


Jim and Jordan

Jim and Jordan

My son graduated from law school today and this event, in its own way, brings up warm memories of my friend, Bill Glasser.

Jordan was never much enamored with traditional teaching methods, although learning has always been important to him. During his middle school years he was drawn to music and has poured a lot of his abundant creativity into his guitar, keyboard, and drums ever since. After graduating from high school he was not very excited about college and continuing the whole school thing and seemed intent on heading out on his own, even if the heading out involved elements that to me were short-sighted, unrealistic, and even dangerous.

By the time Jordan graduated from high school in 2001, Glasser and I had become friends. The Glasser Institute (its name at the time) was doing quite a bit of training on the Pacific Union College campus and Glasser was on campus a number of times over a three year period. I had shared with him about Jordan and some concerns I had and he expressed an interest in talking with Jordan, which Jordan was open to as well. After his time with Jordan, Glasser assured me that Jordan was fine and that he was going to be fine in the future.

I felt that Jordan would be fine, too, although the routes that Jordan chose at times created questions in my mind. He did do the college thing for a while, but with just a year left to finish his social work degree, he headed off to New York City to pursue his music and to .  .  .  well .  .  . experience New York City. NYC is not the easiest place to survive, yet he did so, on his own, and he re-enrolled in Brooklyn College and finished his undergraduate degree. I think he was in NYC for close to seven years.

Not too long after Jordan connected with Glasser, I began my doctoral program, which eventually led to my doing a dissertation on the development of Glasser’s ideas, which then led to my becoming his biographer. Starting in 2003 Glasser and I had a lot of time together, sometimes during formal interviews and sometimes just visiting about life. He would frequently bring up Jordan, interested in how he was doing and what the latest was with him. “He’s gonna be fine,” he would point out. I appreciated his interest and his confidence in my son.

I wish I could call Bill today and let him know that Jordan is more than fine; that he’s married; that he and Katy own a food truck; that they grow a lot of their own food; that they have six chickens; that Jordan continues to love his music; and that he graduated from law school. Bill would celebrate with us today. I feel that he was a part of Jordan’s journey.

Someone said to me today, “You must be very proud.” I replied that I don’t think pride is the word that describes my feelings. I explained that I am very happy for Jordan and that I am impressed with what he navigated to achieve a degree in law. To me, “being proud” has to do with his accomplishment somehow meeting my needs. I want to be careful not to go there. Maybe I am too sensitive about this (a result of choice theory, I think), but I don’t want to convey that something he has done has increased his value in my eyes. I was proud of him before he entered law school and, yes, I am proud of him afterward, but not because of the degree. I am proud of him for the man he has been becoming for quite a while now.

So, it is a big day for our clan and I wish Bill could have been a part of it. Somehow, I think he knew a day like this was coming for Jordan. Thanks again, Bill, for your belief in Jordan, and Jordan, dude, way to go!


Glasser’s Big 3 Quality School Pieces


Glasser believed that three essential elements in a Quality School are –

+ Relationships

+ Relevance, and

+ Relf-Evaluation

(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.

A news story out of Colorado caught my eye recently, because it had to do with a school that is replacing traditional suspensions with meaningful conversations. They call it restorative justice. It sounds pretty choice theory to me.

At Hinkley High School in Aurora, Colo., students, parents and administration are meeting face-to-face to resolve student conflict with conversation. The number of physical altercations has taken a nosedive as this new type of disciplinary action, called “restorative justice,” replaces suspension. Hari Sreenivasan has the story.

Believing in Students: The Power to Make a Difference

I recently ran across a blog post by Dr. Richard Curwin, the architect of Discipline with Dignity, a program that is highly complimentary to choice theory. I actually ran across this short article in Edutopia, a wonderful online educational resource that focuses on what works in education. If you haven’t connected with Edutopia yet, you must do so quickly!

Here is the article – Believing in Students: The Power to Make a Difference – which first appeared in December of 2012.


by Richard Curwin

After a morning Discipline With Dignity training, the high school principal and I walked to the cafeteria to eat lunch. He said, “I love your session, but it’s not practical.” I responded with my view that it was practical because it works — but it’s just not easy.

He pointed to a girl sitting alone at a table and said, “Do you think it would work with her?” She looked like she was a character from the Mad Max movies. She had just been released from federal prison. Her look was extreme (maybe not so much today) with spiked orange and purple hair, tattoos, all black makeup including black lipstick and black rouge, and severe body piercings. The principal looked at me and said, “So what would you do?” I asked back, “What about you? How do you handle her?” He said that he would draw a line and tell her she’d better not cross it. I responded, “What if she says, ‘I’ll kill you?’ Which one of you will be more afraid, her because she crossed the line you drew, or you because she threatened you with death?” The truth is that if she’s been to prison, nothing that can be done in a school would frighten her. Detention? Calling her mother?

So he again asked what I would do. I said, “Talk to her.” And he invited me to go over and try it right then. So I did. Dressed in my three-piece suit, I sat down at her table. She looked at me for a minute and said, “Who the f**k are you, a***ole?” I was a little stunned and didn’t have time to read a book or check my notes. So I relied on two strategies I had just taught the teachers in my morning session: meet the real needs of students and use challenge instead of threat.

I said, “I’m someone writing a book on teenage violence, and I think you know better about it than me. If you have the courage to tell the truth and answer one question (challenge), I’ll put your name in my book (need to be noticed).” She asked what the question was, so I replied, “Are there any teachers who you listen to, follow directions, show respect and learn from?” She said she had one like that, and I asked her what made that teacher different from the others.

Her answer is one that I will never forget and has been one of the constants in my work ever since. It’s a movie scene that replays over and over in my mind. Right before my eyes, her answer transformed her from a tough, hardened criminal to a frightened little girl.

Because she’s stupid. She thinks I can get a job someday, that I may even be able to go to college, or be a good mother because I know all the things not to do.

Then she started crying. The tears streaked down her black make-up and made her look like a zebra with black drops falling on her white top.

I ain’t going to college and I ain’t getting a job. I’ll never be a mother. I’m a dead girl. In prison when they write your name on the wall, you die, and my name is there. I know I’m going back. But that teacher believes in me, and man, it really, really matters.

Later I put her name, Roxanne, in my book and tried to find her to give her a copy, but nobody knew where she was or how to find her.

Sometime later, I traveled the country doing trainings. I asked administrators if I could meet with about ten of their most troubled students. I did this for grades K-12, in urban, rural and all economic areas. I did it on two Indian reservations. I asked two questions: “Who is your favorite teacher and why?” I expected most to say they had no teacher who was a favorite. But they all did. Among the top reasons was, “They believe in me.”

Five Ways to Reach Out
Believing in students is not simply telling them that you believe in them. These words matter only if they are true and if you demonstrate them by your actions. There is no way to fake it, because kids have built in crap detectors (a phrase taken from Neil Postman, and Charles Weingartner, in Teaching As a Subversive Activity), and they can tell if you don’t mean it. Here are some ways to express it.

1. Stop Using Rewards
Rewards are not needed if you believe in a student. The reward implies to them that they only way you can get them to do something is to pay them. That is the opposite of believing.

2. Encourage Effort More Than Achievement
Not every child can meet the unrealistic goals of a test-mad curriculum. Every child can try to do his or her best. Ironically, the harder students are encouraged to try, the better they do on our crazy high-stakes testing.

3. Give Second, Third and Fourth Chances
In many states, the law says, “Three strikes and you’re out.” In most schools, the most troubled kids get only one strike. The message is, “Be the way we want or we don’t want you.” School is for all children and mistakes are part of the learning process, not just for academics, but also for behavior. Rather than strike them out, teach them the skills they need to overcome their deficiencies.

4. Don’t Say “You Failed” – Say “You Haven’t Done It Yet”
Encourage hope by letting students know that, no matter what they do, they can still do better. Safety always comes first in a school environment, of course. Sometimes safety concerns override points 3 and 4, but not as often as we think.

5. Increase Opportunities to Learn
The children who need recess the most are the first ones to lose it. Being removed from field trips, the cafeteria, library and all other learning opportunities only makes students less able to handle them in the future. No one would say to a basketball player, “You missed too many foul shots. You can’t practice until you get better.” It is time to stop giving more opportunities to those who have already proven they are successful while denying opportunities to those who need them the most.

If we can start reaching kids like Roxanne sooner rather than later, who knows how many lives could change?


Jim Roy follow-up — Choice theory is based on the idea that people are self-governed through an internal control system. People respond to the world about them — to their environment, to expectations, and even to external pressure or force — from this internal control system. Teachers have the special challenge of reaching students who are forced to be in school and who are often distressed because of awful life circumstances. These students, while they may outwardly put up protective walls, yearn to be affirmed. Only by genuinely honoring their internal control systems can we begin to melt the walls and get through to them.

Stay on the choice theory journey! Either you will find the answer there or you will be in the right neighborhood to find the answer.

If Dr. Glasser’s Ideas Are So Great . . .

The following article was written by Charlotte Wellen, a teacher at Murray High School in Virginia. Murray was the first public high school in the U.S. to become a Glasser Quality School.


If Dr. Glasser’s Ideas Are So Great and Have Been Around for Fifty Years, Why Aren’t All Schools Using Them?

— A Murray High School Perspective

Recently, I received an email from a teacher who hopes to convince the administration and staff of her school to move in the direction of creating a Glasser Quality School. She was asked the question that is the title of this article and she wanted my help to answer it. Perhaps she sent this to many of the Glasser Quality Schools. I found this a compelling question and I wanted to share my answer here because we have all given a lot of thought to our goal of teaching the world choice theory and we have often wondered why there aren’t more Glasser Quality Schools. Below is my answer to her question:

What a great question! Actually, it has only been 20 years since Dr. Glasser put his ideas together into a form that could help people create an entire school. He came out with The Quality School and Quality School Teacher in the mid-90’s. Also, this is not the type of program that can be started in a school at the beginning of a year and then changed a couple of years later. This is a program that starts up inside of each participant, from the administration to the teachers, the students, and finally going home to the parents, and home to the teachers’ families and the principal’s family, too.

Choice Theory is not a program. Glasser Quality Schools are not a program. They are a thought system, a way of life, a new way of thinking about the world, about the relationships between students and teachers, administrators, and families. It has taken us 26 years to create our current level of mastery of Dr. Glasser’s ideas here at Murray. We still have a long way to go and are involved in making many changes, many improvements. Dr. Glasser always said that 95% of any problem was a system problem and only 5%, if that much, was a people problem. So, the job of creating a Glasser Quality School is to come up with a system that works to create happiness in the school. This is not as easy as it sounds, nor as difficult.

For instance, each of us is learning Choice Theory. Each of us has our own level of understanding of these ideas and each of us is wrestling with our own level of resistance to these ideas. We are not all in the same place at the same time, so the system you develop has to have a tolerance and a love for the growing, the individual transformation, that is required. The system has to have a tolerance for the time it takes for each individual to transform him/herself.

I can attest to the idyllic environment that is created when you work hard for 26 years to develop a school based on Dr. Glasser’s Choice Theory. We are not all perfect here. Most of our students have been very hurt by life in so many ways, hurt by the education system that has left too many of them feeling like failures. We have conflicts every day, but we have a system to understand the conflicts and to work them out. For instance, when two students became angry at one another on Friday, both of them requested to be able to separate from the other, so no physical conflict would arise. They walked away. This is the result of years of work with these two boys to learn Choice Theory, that they can get in charge of the choices they make when anger hits them. They did not get “in trouble” because they raised their voices at each other and disrupted class. They got time and attention from trained and loving teachers who heralded their decisions not to hit each other and helped them think through what had happened that led to the conflict, what they each could have done differently, and on Monday, will help them mediate with each other until a plan they can both agree with is in place and a solution to their conflict has begun.

There is so much to say about this program. Our test scores soar because our students are happy here and want to do well to help the school, and themselves. But the best of all is the feeling of camaraderie, of friendship between students and teachers. Here, there is trust between us. We work hard at it. We constantly work to improve our relationships because we know kids won’t learn well from people they don’t love and who don’t love them. We use the word love all the time here. We aren’t afraid to say we love our kids and they aren’t embarrassed to say they love us, too. We think schools should be built on a foundation of love and trust.

So, why aren’t there thousands of these schools — good question. We work all the time to help schools consider adopting these ideas. Our students travel to schools around the world, teaching people how to start up a Glasser Quality School. No one is as great a spokesman about Glasser Quality Schools than the kids who are educated here. Just last week, we hosted a team from a county in North Carolina who had heard about Murray and wanted to see it in action. Afterwards, they were so overwhelmed by the level of love the kids shared about the program and the level of understanding they had about why they are being educated the way they are. They said they want that for their school. They asked our kids for advice about how to implement these ideas with middle school kids and got lots of suggestions. They are planning to bring a team of Murray kids to North Carolina to talk to their faculty.

I think that it takes a long time and a lot of commitment to help an entire staff come to believe that it’s possible to create a school based entirely on love and respect and to be willing to transform themselves by learning Choice Theory, Reality Therapy, and Lead Management, in order to bring this about. For instance, teachers may have become set in their ways and it might be tough for them to give up their “teacher look,” the one that nails a kid who is disrupting. But that look is a threat. That look has no place in a Glasser Quality School. So to even give up the looks we’ve come to rely on, that’s asking a lot. And it takes YEARS of practice, but like anything worth doing, years of practice pay off hugely! We think our kids deserve an education from a team of professionals who have been practicing for years to treat them respectfully, and to expect great things from them, so they feel inspired to excel. But I think you can see that each of the individual transformations that will need to take place for this to happen take time and inclination and especially belief.

When we first started Murray, we all believed we could change schools so kids and teachers would like them more. At first, we brought all our old controlling and punitive behaviors with us and we used them all. This was good because we got to see that they don’t really work, if working means helping resistant students come to love us and to therefore love school and education. And because we began the school open to changing education in a serious way, we kept tinkering. We kept developing methods of helping ourselves as staff grow and slough off our old punitive ways and to keep from having a school of chaos with kids running around causing untold trouble. We learned that kids who love their school don’t want to cause trouble and are willing to keep working to unlearn their old habits of acting out and hurting others without thinking. They are mostly grateful to be learning the skills they can clearly see will help them in their lives, both in and out of school.

So, if you want to talk more about Glasser Quality Schools, feel free to call me. I LOVE talking about Glasser Quality Schools because I believe that these ideas are so superb that one day all schools will be using them. Educators would be fools not to use these ideas when they work so well at helping people love school and learning.

I would be greatly interested in your opinions in this site regarding my thoughts about the challenges of setting up thousands of Glasser Quality Schools.


Charlotte Wellen, NBCT, Murray Choices Teacher
Instructor at the William Glasser Institute – US

Murray High School
Ashby Kindler, Principal
Charlotte Wellen, Contact
1200 Forest Street, 
Charlottesville, VA 22903
PH: 434-296-3090   
FX: 434-979-6479


Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day, 2013!
May each of us become able to recognize the blessings for which we can be thankful!
And may we choose to be grateful.


Choice Theory Study Group
December 7

$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.

Shifting the Culture – Roots of Change


During the last NapaLearns board meeting I sat next to Paul Curtis, Director for School Quality of the New Tech Network. New Tech is an amazing advocate for progressive educational change and has gone from having one high school in Napa, California, to having more than 130 schools across the U.S. Project-Based Learning (PBL) forms the basis for a lot of their success, but schools wanting to emulate the New Tech approach soon learn that such success is based on a lot more than just PBL. Project-Based Learning can only thrive when other important factors are present. In other words, there needs to be a culture shift for progressive ideas to take root and become a permanent part of the school or district landscape.

Visiting with Paul got me to thinking about the kinds of cultural shifts that a choice theory emphasis would bring about in a school. I probably should have been paying more attention during the meeting, but this is what I came up with instead –

The Cultural Shifts of Choice Theory

1. Shifting from “You Will Be Forced to Adjust to School Requirements” to “How Can We Better Meet Your Needs?”

2. Shifting from Intimidation to Relationships

3. Shifting from Rote to Relevance

4. Shifting from External Evaluation to Internal Evaluation from “Other” Evaluation to Self-Evaluation

5. Shifting from Mediocrity to Mastery

6. Shifting from Compliance to Cooperation

7. Shifting from Punishment to Problem-Solving

I was asked to serve as a panel member for History/English presentations at New Tech High School (Napa) last Thursday. Their presentations, by four member teams, were impressive, but I was even more impressed with the way the rest of the class listened so respectively and attentively, and with the questions they asked afterward. New Tech has made cultural shifts that contribute to their model’s success, shifts that you feel as soon as you walk in the front door. Too often schools focus on details of change, like the nuts and bolts of forming a PBL lesson plan, without creating the environment in which PBL can thrive.

Glasser Quality Schools should not be left out of this conversation, as they are alive and well across the country, too. For a review of the criteria for a Quality School, along with a list of the current declared Glasser Quality Schools, go to

On the left hand side of the page click on The Glasser Approach; then click on Glasser Quality School Education.

As always, if you can add to the “Shifts” list above, let me know and I will add your suggestion.

19 Ways to Lead, Rather Than Boss

Leadership Road Sign

Inspired by the “Boss vs. Leader” comparisons at the beginning of The Quality School, Dr. Ed Boyatt, one of my mentors, has worked to expand and refine a list that identifies the key traits of effective leaders. Ed has been a teacher, a principal, a superintendent, and recently retired as Dean of the School of Education at La Sierra University in Riverside, California.

Boyatt on Leadership
Based on the Leadership Principles of William Glasser
Traditional Management or New Leadership

Power through position or Power through expertise

Leadership from the top or Leadership from beside

Permanent leader and followers or Interchangeable ldrs and followers

Boss leadership or Servant leadership (Mt 20:25)

External control of employees or Internal control by employees

To and for employees or With employees

Tell and command or Ask and persuade

Mandate and coerce or Collaborate and guide

Other-assessment or Self-assessment

Compliance from force or Commitment from choice

Manage others or Manage yourself

Caution or Courage

Status quo or Change and renewal

High fear and low trust or High trust and low fear

Conflict avoidance or Conflict confrontation

Negative conflict or Positive conflict

Stimulus-response or Choice theory

Organizational needs only or Blended needs of person & organization

Adversarial relationships or Collaborative relationships

Glasser, W. (1990). The quality school: Managing students without coercion. New York: Harper Collins.

Glasser, W. (1998). Choice theory.  New York: Harper Collins.


Has this list inspired you to think of other key leadership traits? Just click on the Reply button and share your thoughts. I’m sure Ed would love to hear your ideas.


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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!

Thanks Choice Theory for a Happy Fathers’ Day

My son and I at a New York City subway stop (2008)

My son and I at a New York City subway stop (2008)

A dad I knew once said to me –

“When my kids say Happy Fathers’ Day to me I want them to be able to mean it.”

When I asked him to elaborate a bit more he continued –

“It isn’t rocket surgery. I just want to have treated them in such a way that they would be comfortable wishing me well. I want to care for them and appreciate them in the hope that they would want to care for me, too.”

I have admitted more than once that the concepts of choice theory saved my relationship with my own children. I began really reading about choice theory around 1992 (it was actually known as control theory until 1996), and received Quality School training a short time later. In 1995, when the school in which I was principal embraced choice theory, my daughter was 16 and my son was 13. The timing here is significant. I was coming into a deeper knowledge and understanding of choice theory at just the time my children were dealing  with the angst of adolescence. When conflict arises, as can happen between parent and teenage children, I am just as capable as the next guy of being arbitrary and controlling. I am capable of wanting to take charge and be in control.

It was rare that I would do something like this, but one time I asked Glasser for some personal advice. After graduating from high school my son wanted to buy a very old van with two other friends and move to Southern California to make it in the music business. I could tell he was serious. I really didn’t want him to do it, for a number of reasons, but I wasn’t sure what to say or how to say it. Glasser listened as I described the situation and when I was finished he said –

“You want to keep two things in mind. The first thing is stay connected. Whatever you do or say, do or say it in a way that keeps the two of you connected. The second thing is to not say anything that in any way smacks of I told you so. In other words, don’t come across in a way that would ever make it harder for your son to come back home.”

I thought that maybe I understood enough about what Glasser was trying to get across to me and I decided to talk with my son. What I said went something like this –

“You already know that I don’t really want you to do what you have described to me, and that I would rather you get started in college. Instead of belaboring that, though, I just want to say a couple of things. It might sound like it isn’t smart for me to say this, but I think you are very capable of making this idea happen, of buying the van and carving out an existence in Los Angeles. I would worry a bit about how you were doing, but you are resourceful and resilient when the going gets tough. I also think you are an excellent and entertaining musician. If you didn’t get discovered it wouldn’t be because of a lack of talent. There are just so many excellent athletes and musicians that never make it to the big show. If you do decide to go ahead with this plan, please remember that whether you get discovered or not, you always, always have home to come back to. Thanks for listening. Let me know if you want to talk more about this.”

Glasser and choice theory helped me to say my peace in a way that not only kept my son and me connected, it actually brought us closer. Choice theory taught me to listen, to respect, to accept, and to negotiate. I wanted to understand the basic need that was urging my son to come up with this plan. I wanted to understand the quality world pictures that he wanted his life to match. The ideas of choice theory helped me, I think, to be a better dad.

If you are interested, my son eventually decided not to head to LA in a 1965 van. The van was already purchased, so there was momentum in the plan, but it was like our talk had taken the fight out of it. I acknowledged his ability and talent, yet stated my preference. He knew that I knew he could do it if he chose to. I believe that if I had come across in a traditional, controlling way, that he would have headed to LA, if only to prove that I was wrong.

Waiting for the next train, New York City subway (2008)

Waiting for the next train, New York City subway (2008)

It’s been 12 years since this took place and my children have gone on to begin lives and families of their own. It meant a lot to me that both of them wished me a happy Fathers’ Day yesterday and that our relationship is such that I think they meant it. Thanks, choice theory for being a part of our family.

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