Posts tagged “SDA education

Too Big a Deal?

I was recently asked to write a 500-word article on school discipline as a non-coercive process. The short essay appeared in Leading the Journey, a newsletter for SDA school administrators. As a result, a few of you may have already read it; I reprint it here for those who haven’t –

Sometimes I wonder if I make too big a deal out of the Choice Theory thing, or if it is even a thing at all. Doubts and stinkin thinkin seem to lurk. Yet while distracted by these temptations to doubt, I soon come back to what, for me, are unchangeable realities. These realities include –

  • God places an exceptionally high value on love and freedom.
  • He designed and created humans for free will and internally driven choices.
  • He died to redeem us, to restore us, and to preserve our freedom to choose.
  • The sanctified life is about our becoming, through Jesus, loving, powerful, and joyful self-managers.

Regardless of where my thoughts and feelings may want to take me, these truths are not going away. These are the truths that jolt me out of my occasional sulking and doubting.

God Values

Adventist schools have a tremendous opportunity and, indeed, responsibility to teach students what it means and what it looks like to be sanctified self-managers. Whether we’re talking about how learning is organized, or about how classroom Procedures are implemented, or about how discipline is applied when serious infractions occur, students need to be shown how to evaluate their own behavior and make choices for improvement.

For students to gain this important (eternal) life skill, Adventist schools must let go of management strategies based on rewards and retribution and instead pursue strategies based on redemption and restoration. Reward and retribution (punishment) strategies are tools for controlling students from the outside, even though humans were designed for internal control. Attempting to externally control students is like putting regular gasoline into a diesel engine. The sputtering results are predictable.

God Values-3

We tend to like students that comply, even if it places their ability to self-manage at risk. The prodigal son’s brother was compliant and we can see what that led to. And so our challenge is to outline behavioral standards that are realistic and relevant for kids and then to artfully support them toward achieving their learning and living goals. Redemption and restoration don’t have to be words and concepts only associated with the mysteries of Bible class. Instead, they can be concepts that become very real to students as teachers and principals model the spirit of redemption and provide students with a means to on-going restoration. For instance, when we problem-solve with students do we tell them how it is going to be or do we help them effectively self-evaluate; when students get in trouble do we simply apply a punishment or do we ask them how they are going to resolve the problem?

In the book Education, EGW made a very powerful point when she described that “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one . . .” (p.30) To this end may we each become fully-equipped self-managers and as we do, may we help our students become the same.


The Better Plan workshops this summer at PUC are designed to help educators become fully-equipped self-managers, with the hope that you will then be able to share these insights and skills with students.

The Better Plan 1    June 25-28

The Better Plan 2    July 9-12

Contact Jim Roy for more information on the workshops at or at

IMG_1229 IMG_1230 IMG_1246 IMG_1236 photo 1 IMG_0031  photo 2


Soul Shapers 2 concluded this past Thursday and the classroom quickly went from learning activities and creative role plays to a quiet space where things needed to be organized and put away. After good-byes class members headed back home to places like Santa Rosa, Monterey Bay, and Newbury Park. It’s interesting to me how close people can become as they learn about choice theory together, and especially as they practice the learning through role play.  Role playing is fun, but it is also a vulnerable process in which friendship bonds are formed.

The vulnerability to which choice theory invites us creates a rather “sacred” space to me, so it is a little bit difficult to change the furniture in the room back to the way it was before the Soul Shaper classes began two weeks earlier. Important moments happened in this space and moving the tables and chairs back to their straight, impersonal rows seems to move on from those moments too easily. Folders with (what I think are) important handouts and activities must be organized and re-filed, the filing cabinet draw ultimately closing them in darkness. When will I call on them again? How soon? Planning notes and lesson plans also put away, but shouldn’t I modify them based on the new ideas these most recent classes have taught me. Shouldn’t I review which activities worked well and which didn’t?

I have such mixed feelings as the Soul Shaper classes come to an end each summer. I feel good about making new friends, and seeing them make new friends,  and hearing them talk about how they want to show up differently, personally and professionally, now that they understand choice theory in new ways.  I feel a bit of fear, too, as I think about each of them heading back to the complexity of their unique realities, wanting to apply choice theory, but stumbling in their initial efforts to do so and maybe being distracted from the new ideas and ultimately reverting to their old habits. The crush of the new school year in the Fall often provides the final blow in the “forgetting” process. It doesn’t have to be so; this is just my “fear.” Participants in this year’s classes expressed as much commitment to the choice theory ideas as any class I have ever taught. If these ideas are as important as I think they are, then the Holy Spirit will take it from here and continue to provide insight and support.

Assignments for the Soul Shapers 1 class are arriving in my inbox every day now and they are encouraging to me as I read them. One of the assignments is to write a short review of the Soul Shapers book (2005). The opening paragraph for one of these reviews indicates that the writer “gets it” —

William Glasser, an influential psychologist and educator, has devoted his life to challenging many long-held theories in the field of psychology, most famously, the stimulus-response theory. This theory states that human behavior can be motivated and controlled through external stimuli. Behavioral scientist icons such as Pavlov, Skinner, and Watson, all built their contributions to the field of psychology with this “truth” as the cornerstone. As a result, people have spent the last century believing that it is possible to “control” the behavior of others. This assumption has been particularly damaging in the field of education where teachers have spent entire careers attempting to control their students through bribery, punishment, and coercion, falsely assuming that their students’ successes and failures are a direct result of these external controls. After years of observations, both in and out of the classroom, Glasser developed an alternative to stimulus-response theory called choice theory, which states that all of our motivation comes from within ourselves, and that we make our own choices and decisions on how to best meet our needs. Glasser believes that it is crucial for teachers to develop positive and meaningful relationships with their students in order to empower them to make good choices based on internal motivation rather than external control.   EC

For the same book review assignment, another class member shared that —

As a Seventh-day Adventist educator I do want my students to have a relationship with God, to become thinkers and not mere reflectors of others’ thoughts, and to become morally responsible human beings. Glasser’s methods formed a clearer, step-by-step approach to make it possible for students to use the tools of thinking, evaluating, planning, and doing. This year I would like to give more attention to activities that will help build relationships in my classroom and that will give me more insight in the basic needs of my students. I want to make a more deliberate connection to each student.   SG

It us such a gift to students when teachers organize their classrooms based on these kinds of insights. To be a thinker, rather than a mere reflector others’ thoughts is a pretty awesome life skill!

I continue to be uncomfortable with the term Soul Shapers, maybe more so than ever. In fact, I think I am more uncomfortable with the Soul Shapers label than Glasser was with the Control Theory label. He ultimately switched to Choice Theory, a label he felt was much more accurate. I want to switch, too, since the term Soul Shapers implies the idea of one human being shaping the soul of another person. Choice theory implies just the opposite of that process. Worse yet, there is a cookie cutter graphic on the cover of the Soul Shaper book, which I didn’t see until after the book was published. I like the term The Better Plan much better than Soul Shapers. Maybe next summer I will be teaching The Better Plan 1 and The Better Plan 2 classes.



If you are interested in the Soul Shaper book, you can easily get a copy through Amazon. New copies are going for $12.50 and used copies are going for $5.00. I am wanting to set up an option through the blog for people to be able to order both of my books — Soul Shapers and William Glasser: Champion of Choice — but I haven’t got to it yet. In the meantime, either book is available through Amazon or through the publishers directly. The Glasser book can also be purchased through the Glasser bookstore.

The Drive Home


Soul Shapers 1 class, summer of 2014; a talented group of teachers who taught me a lot.

Soul Shapers 1 class, summer of 2014; a talented group of teachers who taught me a lot.

I want to give a big thank you to the Soul Shapers 1 group from this past week! I said a few things, facilitated a few activities, and led a few discussions, but it was their openness, creativity, and insight that really made the week a fun and meaningful experience. For instance, the following chart presentation examples were all created by them.

Chart presentations: A teacher-created small booklet could by used by students to identify their basic needs.

Chart presentations: A teacher-created small booklet could by used by students to identify their basic needs.


Chart presentations: Puppets can be used to help students process their behavioral center choices.

Chart presentations: Puppets can be used to help students process their behavioral center choices.


Chart presentations: A creative role play format leads to a better understanding of total behavior.

Chart presentations: A creative role play format leads to a better understanding of total behavior.

Most of the classmembers headed out for home after class ended on Thursday afternoon, although not all of them. A few of them are sticking around for the weekend so that they can continue in Soul Shapers 2, which begins on Monday. One of the those heading home didn’t have far to go, as she works right here at PUC. Others from the class, though, had longer trips – five from locations around northern California, three from central California, two from southern California, and three from Salt Lake City.

The trip home after experiencing a choice theory workshop can be an intense time of reflection. So many new concepts that have us thinking about our motivations and evaluating our behaviors. I haven’t checked in yet with this class about their trip home yet, but former participants have shared things like –

“Well, my head was kind of spinning, that’s for sure. The choice theory ideas, plus the Scripture and Ellen White stuff, it was pretty clear, and it made sense to me. But hearing this stuff for the first time, I was like, now what?   RG

“Well, to be honest, I was a little bit discouraged as I drove home. I had great memories from the time in class, the new friendships and all, but as I really thought about how I had been showing up with others, especially my own children, I just felt a little bad. I really want to get rid of the deadly habits and use more of the caring habits.”   HR

“Hmm .  .  . the trip home? I think I was pretty obsessed with the whole concept of how we control for our perceptions, you know, the idea that we place a picture in our quality world and then live in a way to make that picture happen, including manipulation as needed. That really nailed me for some reason.”   PA

“I was pretty excited, actually! I was thinking of ways that I could present the choice theory ideas to my students. I agree with you that doing the ideas ‘with’ them will be way better than doing the ideas ‘to’ them. If all I did was teach them about their Basic Needs and the Quality World, that would be such a gift for them. I plan on doing more than that, but just those two concepts would make a huge difference!”   AS

“I found myself thinking about the classroom management things I am going to change next school year.”   DS

“It hit me how much I was in the habit of blaming others for stuff, which kind of absolved me from any role in helping to make things better. Like I would blame the kids’ homes for not raising them right, and I would blame the kids for their lack of performance in class. Of course, with this way of thinking it never occurred to me that how I set up the classroom and the learning may have had something to do with their poor performance.”  JJ

Choice theory does indeed invite us to reflect on our own thinking and our own behavior. Instead of our musings being aimless, though, or negative, choice theory helps us reflect in a positive way that leads to effective change. I look forward to checking in with the latest classmembers about their reflections as they traveled home.


If you have read William Glasser: Champion of Choice, I encourage you to write a review of the book on Amazon. Together we can get the word out there that Glasser’s story and the ideas he championed are worth paying attention to. It’s not hard to contribute a Review of the book on Amazon and it doesn’t have to be long. Think about it.


If you haven’t read Champion of Choice yet, then put it on your reading list for this summer. Besides a good story, you will learn a lot about choice theory and how to live your life.



What is the purpose of Bible class?

The new Spring quarter at PUC began today. One of the classes I am teaching is EDUC 368: Teaching K-12 Bible. To my knowledge there isn’t a textbook on how to teach Bible class. There are some standards for teaching and a curriculum guide, but in general a teacher in my position can go in a number of directions, maybe all of those directions good.  Instead of rattling something for this particular blog, I have a question for you. And I would like to hear from a lot of you, whether you have or have not taught a Bible class. The question is this — What is the purpose of Bible class?

I’ll even start your answer for you – “The purpose of Bible class is to .  .  .

PS – Would the purpose for teaching a 3rd grade Bible class be different from teaching an 11th grade Bible class?

PSS – Here are some possibilities for a purpose for Bible class (in outline form) –
Bible stories and facts
Bible interpretation
Scripture memorization
Religious history
SDA history (or if you are Lutheran, then Lutheran history)
Spirit of Prophecy – knowledge, appreciation, memorization
Spiritual formation
Indoctrination (Is this necessarily a bad thing?)
Service projects
Local church involvement

Why Fulfill Your Own Dreams, When Your Kids Can Do It For You?

As with each of the 7 Worst Mistakes that Good Parents Make, #7–Your kids fulfilling your dreams–is sneaky. A parent can look like he cares about how his child is doing, can come across like he simply yearns for his child to be successful, and that he wants this for the child’s sake, when really he wants it for his own ego needs. Each of the 7 Mistakes has this quality, that being that parents can look like they’re doing what they’re doing for one reason, when in fact they are really doing it for another reason. So, with that brief introduction in mind, let’s consider the last of the Mistakes Good Parents Make through the lens of choice theory.

Why Fulfill Your Own Dreams, When Your Kids Can Do It For You?

Roger Pope is livid as he leaves the school gymnasium and heads to the parking lot. Although his son played in the game that just finished, he wasn’t a starter. And when he was on the court his talents were not really featured as they should have been. Mr. Pope will be confronting the coach tomorrow about that. Peter Bolls is sensing his daughter’s enthusiasm to become a doctor is faltering and he feels his frustration rising. He wants to straighten her thinking out — now! There’s no way she is going to change her major and become a .  .  .  a teacher, of all things. As Marjorie Kent dropped her daughter off at school this morning, and watched her connect with a few of her friends as they all walked up the steps and into the main building, she wondered how popular her daughter was and about how good her grades were compared to others. She seemed to be accepted by the other students and respected by the school staff, but maybe not. Kids could be so fickle. Marjorie decided then and there to have a party at their house this coming weekend and have a lot of the kids over. Couldn’t hurt, she thought. Roger, Peter, and Marjorie all have something in common–their own needs are being met through the achievements and status of their children.

Alfie Kohn wrote about such parents in Only for My Kid, an article published in Kappan in 1998. Kohn cited cases in which schools that were attempting to create a curriculum in which all students could succeed were taken to task by parents whose kids were already successful. These parents actually undermined progressive reform efforts to teach more students effectively. When school officials tried to talk with these parents about specific learning strategies the parents expressed little interest or declined to listen at all. The only thing that mattered to them was that the school program continued to create pedestals on which their own child could stand and that would differentiate him/her from the others. Kohn referred to these parents as BIRG parents, using an acronym I have never forgotten and that seems to capture the essence of #7. BIRG stands for Basking in Reflected Glory. And as much as I want to point a condemning finger at the icky parents in Kohn’s article, the acronym also challenges me to self-evaluate the extent to which I may BIRGing.

BIRG stands for Basking in Reflected Glory.

It is the basic need for power and achievement that fuels a parent’s basking in the glory of his child. If our child is famous–it fulfills our desire for fame; if he or she is talented–others will think their talent came from us; if he or she has their act together–it is a reflection on our superior parenting. Much is at stake in this process. Usually, parent and child can survive this sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant manipulation. Sometimes, though, as depicted in the movie, Dead Poets’ Society, the result can be catastrophic.

BIRGing is really about exploitation. We want to gain an advantage, improve our own reputations, or increase our status through the accomplishments of our son or daughter. Our need for this status drives us to manipulate the behavior of the child whose fame train we are riding. It’s not only parents who BIRG. Teachers and even schools can BIRG, too. We proclaim and advertise our elite students’ skills and successes in the hope that others will want to go to our fantastic school as well. Look how good Megan is as a musician. She goes to our school! Or look at what an athlete Stephan is. He is one of our students! Whether at home or at school, kids pick up on this manipulation and they resent it. They don’t always understand what is going on, especially if they are young children, but they don’t like how it feels.

I don’t want to convey that parents can’t have hopes and dreams for their children, and it doesn’t mean they can’t try to influence their children in the direction of those dreams. The danger lies in parents ignoring or bulldozing the dreams of their children and replacing them with their own. Doing this for our own selfish reasons, so that our personal needs are the priority, only makes it worse. One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is to help him or her discover their true identity and enable them to achieve their dreams. It is an unselfish act to do this, a legacy-creating act whose ripples will be felt for generations to come.

One of the greatest gifts a parent can give a child is to help him or her discover their true identity and enable them to achieve their dreams.

Choice Theory in a Spiritual Jacket

Last summer (2012) I presented a breakout session on choice theory during the NAD convention in Nashville. In preparation for that breakout I got to thinking about the key beliefs of choice theory and how those beliefs jibed with key beliefs of Christian faith. Glasser developed what he referred to as the 10 axioms of choice theory, belief statements that, to him, were self-evident bedrock foundation points of his approach. I came up with the following belief statements to serve as a springboard for discussion during the convention breakout. I don’t think the list is comprehensive, so I invite you to help me complete it. I am also open to any questions you may have. Here goes —

Choice Theory in a Spiritual Jacket

God created us in His image – with free will being the most impressive of our attributes.

We are designed to create, to think, and to choose.

He created us to be in connection and harmony with Him.

He created us to be in connection and harmony with each other.

Every individual is designed to control himself.

We were not designed to control others.

Neither were we designed to be controlled by someone else.

Since God created us with free will, this would indicate that even God Himself will not control us.

Humans constantly behave.

All behavior is purposeful.

Our actions represent what we think will best meet our needs at that moment.

The only person we can control is our self.

The world of Choice Theory is a responsible world where individuals understand how and why they make choices and then own the results of those choices.

We choose our state of mind, including the misery we feel.

Instead of adults seeking ways to control the behavior of children, often extending this desire to control even into adulthood, their goal should be to wean children from such control as soon as possible.

(Remember that weaning children from our control does not mean weaning them from our guidance and influence. Our influence actually increases as our control decreases.)

Children need to understand their status as free will beings and the power that comes  with their ability to make choices.

Schools need to be a part of the process that helps students recognize and embrace their choice power.


Some of you may be curious about Glasser’s 10 choice theory axioms. Just in case, his axioms are listed below as they appear on his website.

The Ten Axioms of Choice Theory

The only person whose behavior we can control is our own.

All we can give another person is information.

All long-lasting psychological problems are relationship problems.

The problem relationship is always part of our present life.

What happened in the past has everything to do with what we are today, but we can only satisfy our basic needs right now and plan to continue satisfying them in the future.

We can only satisfy our needs by satisfying the pictures in our Quality World.

All we do is behave.

All behavior is Total Behavior and is made up of four components: acting, thinking, feeling and physiology.

All Total Behavior is chosen, but we only have direct control over the acting and thinking components. We can only control our feeling and physiology indirectly through how we choose to act and think.

All Total Behavior is designated by verbs and named by the part that is the most recognizable.

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