Posts tagged “relevance

Relevance Captured in a Simple Graphic


We can make it more complicated, but this is what it boils down to, especially for teachers and parents.

Like every human being on the planet, students crave relevance. They yearn for their learning and experiences at school to be meaningful. Teachers face this challenge every day, and it can be a daunting challenge. The curriculum standards are formidable and textbooks can be over 1,000 pages long, yet from within these resources teachers must find relevance.

Choice theory reminds us that relevance is need-satisfying. It meets our need for power and success when we are immersed in something that matters to us. It also meets our need for joy. It is just plain fun to be involved in an interesting, relevant project.

Relevance is so important that when, as teachers, we go about creating lesson plans, whether on a Friday afternoon or a Sunday evening, if we cannot see that relevant link between the topic and the students, then we need to let that topic go and move on to a topic in which we can find the relevance link. Teaching irrelevant topics is a waste of time. Teachers should always strive to find relevance, but when they can’t find it they need to feel that they have permission to find a topic that is relevant.

The stairs leading to the front door of the Education building. I'm not sure which class in which this idea was used, but I like it!

The stairs leading to the front door of the Education building. I’m not sure of the class in which this idea was used, but I like it!

Quick ideas that add relevance to common topics –

Write a series of story problems for others to solve.
Do a survey of students’ likes and dislikes and then graph the results.
Learn addition and subtraction through drum beats.

Language Arts
Learn to read, write, and decipher code language.
Play vocabulary words “Pictionary.”
Use a “human graph” to see where a group stands on an issue

Social Studies
Find examples where “history repeated itself.”
Have imaginary talks or interviews with people from the past.
Hold a historical period / costume / food day.

Science / Health
Make up an imaginary conversation between parts of the body.
Create the rotation of planets with the class as the solar system.
Find five different ways to classify a collection of leaves.

Without relevance, teaching can be drudgery; with relevance, teaching can be a blast!


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Learning from Jim Carrey or the NYC Murder Rate

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


1st Item – A Quote from Jim Carrey

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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