Posts tagged “teaching

Listening to Understand

 

We may not have ears as big as Abby's, but we still concentrate on really listening to the person talking to us.

We may not have ears as big as Abby’s, but we still concentrate on really listening to the person talking to us.

One of the things I like on Facebook are the concise, insightful quotes and statements that friends share. The quotes often pack a lot of wisdom into a small amount of space. An example of such a quote was recently posted by Maureen Craig McIntosh, a Glasser faculty member from New Brunswick. It read –

The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand. We listen to reply.

Most of us quickly recognize truth in this statement, but don’t let quick agreement cause you to miss some of the deeper truths it contains. An experienced Glasser trainer thought enough of the statement to pass it on to us. What are the choice theory implications of listening to understand? Let’s identify a few –

1. One of the reasons we are quick to reply, rather than listen, is that we think we know what’s best for others. As soon as we hear the problem, we want to let others know about our solution.

2. More than simply wanting to share a solution, another reason we are quick to reply is that we may want to control the person who is talking to us. This can be especially true if the person is one of our children, or a spouse, or one of our students.

3. One of the most need-satisfying things we can do for another person is to truly listen to what he/she is trying to say. Active listening can assist another person in problem-solving for himself, which honors the choice theory axiom that the only person I can control is me.

Billy Joel sang about a New York state of mind; it would seem the idea of listening to understand or listening to reply involves a state of mind, too. Fortunately, a state of mind is something we can influence, a lot. We can choose to concentrate on listening more and talking less. One of Covey’s famous 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

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Classroom Application

Listening to reply –

Student: I don’t want to go out to recess today.

Teacher: What? What are you talking about?

Student: I don’t want to go out to recess. I just want to stay inside the classroom.

Teacher: That’s ridiculous! You’re coming outside. I can’t have kids all over the place.

Listening to understand –

Student: I don’t want to go out to recess today.

Teacher: I think that might be a first for you. You really don’t want to go outside?

Student: No, I just want to stay in the classroom.

Teacher: Can you tell me what it’s about? Are you not feeling well?

Student: I guess I feel ok; I just want to hang out in here.

Teacher: You know, it felt a little bit like something was troubling you when you came in the classroom at the start of school this morning.

Student: (shrugs)

Teacher: Would you be willing to come outside and hang out with me as I supervise the playground? If you’re ok with talking about it, I would like to hear what you’re thinking this morning. If you don’t want to talk about it, that’s ok, too. And if you don’t want to hang out with me at all, you can sit on the bench outside of the classroom. I’m ok with that. Would either of those options work for you?

Student: (smaller shrug) Yeh, I guess I could hang out with you. That’d be ok.

Home Application

Listening to reply –

Wife: I got offered a promotion today at work.

Husband: Wow! Way to go!

Wife: Yeh, I probably should be excited, but I just . . . I don’t know.

Husband: What do you mean, you don’t know? You’ve earned it. Ya gotta go for it! I assume there would be a raise and we definitely could use the money.

Listening to understand –

Wife: I got offered a promotion today at work.

Husband: Wow! Way to go!

Wife: Yeh, I probably should be excited, but I just . . . I don’t know.

Husband: It looks like you have mixed feelings about it.

Wife: Yeh, I do. I really do. A part of me realizes it is a great opportunity, while another part of me likes what I have going right now. (pauses)

Husband: (gives a little smile, but doesn’t break the silence)

Wife: The promotion offers more pay.

Husband: Besides more money, how would your life change if you took the job?

Wife: I’ve thought about that a lot. (pauses) I see what supervisors have to do, the way they spend their days, and the problems they are expected to solve, and there is just nothing in me that wants that. I really like what I do now. I look forward to going to work on most days. (pause) And I like that my schedule is so good for our home. I can pick the kids up after school, which is a huge advantage compared to what I see other parents juggling. The extra pay is tempting, but I don’t think it outweighs all that.

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We’ll close today with another quote that captures something important with very few words. I was alerted to it by Bette Blance, a choice theory leader in New Zealand. The quote reads –

Listen and silent are spelled with the same letters. Think about it.

As the wife was talking to her husband in the last scenario about her possible promotion there were several times when she paused and silence filled the moment. Yet her husband did not jump in and fill the silence with his ideas. He simply remained silent, too, and let his wife work through her thoughts. Like the quote says, Think about it.

 

Sticking It In Their Ear

Newspaper article from 1962

Newspaper article from 1962

Early in Glasser’s career he emphasized the idea of being responsible. Reality Therapy (1965) echoed this theme a lot. Taken as part of the overall elements of reality therapy – elements like involvement, no punishment, and never give up – responsibility could be kept in perspective. However, Glasser soon discovered that teachers were taking the idea of responsibility and using it as a hammer to whip kids into shape. Seeing that people were misusing the idea he began to pull back from it.

Early on he was also known as an expert on classroom discipline and his “get tough” approach was advertised in national magazines. He let this happen for a while, but realized that such a message didn’t accurately capture what he was trying to do. Once again, he began to pull back from what people thought he was saying.

We still face this challenge today. We love the sound of choice theory and are drawn to its application, yet when we have marinated for so long in external control (reward/punishment) it is easy to go back to what we know. Teachers chuckle in agreement when I suggest that it is possible to use internal control strategies in an externally controlling way. As Glasser used to say, “It’s easy to believe in choice theory, but it’s hard to do.”

I thought about this during our recent Choice Theory Study Group as we focused on the concept of total behavior. Key pieces of total behavior include that 1) all behavior is purposeful and that 2) all behavior is made up of four parts – thinking, acting, feeling, and physiology. A key piece of total behavior is that two of the four parts – our thinking and our acting – are under our direct control.

And this is where a potential problem lurks. In the same way that teachers back in the 60s and 70s misunderstood and misapplied the idea of responsibility as Glasser intended, teachers today might be tempted to tell students that they are responsible for their own thinking and acting. If something is under our direct control, like how we act, then it may seem reasonable to emphasize this to students, even to bombard them with it.

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This is the thing, though. Gaining insight into total behavior and understanding how it applies to you personally doesn’t come from someone else telling you about it, especially during a tense moment when they may be telling you to get your act together. Such insight comes from being gently led toward the concept and being asked the right questions at the right moments.

One of my mentors, a man who taught me so much about supervising teachers, shared that

“It is better to get something out of someone’s mouth,
than it is to put it into their ear.”

As teachers and parents this can be our goal, too. Total behavior is correct, in my opinion, and our having direct control over our thinking and behavior is correct, too. Helping our children and students realize that, without damaging our relationship with them, is our challenge. Somehow we need to help them talk about what the idea of total behavior means to them, rather than just sticking the concept in one of their ears.

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Where In the World?

thebetterplan PP redo

Where in the world did the phrase – the better plan – come from? And why was it chosen as the name for this blog?

Good questions, both. So lets get to the first one. Here is the passage “the better plan” comes from –

Those who train their pupils to feel that the power lies in themselves to become men and women of honor and usefulness, will be the most permanently successful. Their work may not appear to the best advantage to careless observers, and their labor may not be valued so highly as that of the instructor who holds absolute control, but the after-life of the pupils will show the results of the better plan of education.   Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 57

As to why I chose “the better plan” as the name for the blog, I think it has to do with the Three Remarkables that can be found in the passage

Remarkable #1
The phrase was actually first written in 1872, and its author stuck with the theme of this passage through the turn of the century until her death in 1915. The passage is remarkable because of what she said – that schools should be focusing on the power that lies within students – and when she said it – at the start of the Industrial Revolution and its massive influence on the way schools operated. This internal power had everything to do with choice, freedom, and responsibility. The passage was emphasizing choice and freedom at a time when schools were becoming like factories, with an emphasis on external control.

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Remarkable #2
The passage presents the reality that teachers who introduce their students to the power that lies within themselves – in other words, internal control – rather than focusing on controlling them through external control, will be misunderstood and under-appreciated. Careless observers will not get it. Traditionalists will cling to external control as the answer. It is amazing that over 100 years after it was first written the passage is still timely today.

Remarkable #3
The passage was written by a religious author, who we might assume would be part of the traditionalist, external control, “make em do what we want em to do” scheme of things. However the author wasn’t like that at all. She saw the need for and value of students coming into an understanding of their choice power. And she saw the importance of this being an inside-out process, rather than outside-in. In her opinion this process was so important that she equated “the better plan” with connecting students to a healthier after-life, including the best after-life of all – that being the forever life of life eternal.

These are some of the reasons I like the phrase “the better plan” so much. It’s all about choice and freedom.

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Ellen White, the author of the better plan phrase, and the author who wrote about the special power that students have within themselves, consistently emphasized that humankind is powerless without Jesus. Through Him, she wrote time and time again, all things are possible, without Him nothing is possible. He created human beings to have the power of choice and to be free. Nothing indicates our having been created in Jesus’ image as much as this incredible freedom to act and to do and to be. And it was this freedom that He died on the Cross to preserve. Satan likes nothing better than to deface a person’s power to choose; he likes nothing better than to trap and addict and imprison. But Jesus came to earth to do a couple of incredible things –

1 – He came to destroy the works of the devil.  1 John 3:8

2 – He came to set the captives free.  Luke 4:18

Now that’s an awesome Better Plan!

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Just a reminder to keep the calendar dates on the left of the page in mind, especially the Soul Shaper dates in June.

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?

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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!

My Dear Maggot

screwtape

The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis’s 1942 classic) pulled back the curtains that shield us from Second Heaven and revealed conversations that occurred between an uncle and his nephew. Both of them were demons and as such both of them were in the business of tempting human beings toward wrong turns and wrong lives. Uncle Screwtape coached and counseled his nephew, Wormwood, as the younger tempter struggled to influence the life of the human to which he was assigned. It should come as no surprise that one day Wormwood himself would become the coach and pass on his knowledge to a younger relative, in this case his grandson, Maggot, a fledging tempter trying to learn the ropes.

My dear Maggot,

How touched I am that our communication is deepening and that you are so willing to lay open your thoughts and your struggles regarding your tempting strategies and the apparent lack of success that you are thus far experiencing. Honesty is not a trait that we demons display with any consistency, so I commend you for your candor. This openness will assist me as I counsel you toward more effective approaches. Keep in mind, too, that you are planting seeds of discouragement and resentment that will grow in due time. Be patient with your patient. Remember that you are in the business of making others discouraged, not in getting discouraged yourself.

In your recent letters you have shared so many details – your patient’s tendency to seek the Enemy, to want to be close to him, to want to get involved with helping others – which are all serious problems that need to be dealt with. However, it seems to me that in rushing from a tree here to a tree there, you are missing the bigger forest. Frustration over individual details are keeping you from seeing the bigger picture. Not that these details are unimportant. It’s just that seeing the bigger picture first will serve as a foundation from which to launch a more effective attack.

Since you have asked, I will begin to share with you some of the bigger, more essential elements that, I am confident, will re-focus and re-charge your efforts. Although I hate to quote the Enemy’s manual, it is instructive here to refer to a letter that traitor Paul (how he went to the other side is still beyond me) wrote to people in Corinth (a lovely city with so many wonderful problems). Anyway, he wrote that –

For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power. Which do you choose?    1 Cor. 4:20, 21

First, and I think you already know this, it is absolutely vital that you cloud and confuse the choice-power of your patient. This theme – the ability of humans to make effective choices – is rampant throughout the Enemy’s manual, yet so few humans really pick up on this. The minute they stray from this awareness we have them. For if they aren’t in the process of choosing, the alternative is that they are victims of circumstances, tossed to and fro by their tumultuous feelings. I smile just thinking about it. You and I both know that these disgusting little humans have been created in the image of the Enemy, with amazing internal guidance systems, but this must be hidden from them. At all costs.

You may at first question what I am about to write, but write it I must – religion is not our enemy. In fact, humans can be messed up by a lot of things, but nothing can mess them up as much as religion can. Paul (the turncoat) realized this when he wrote about the Enemy’s domain being about a lot of talk versus being about real power. Let his words be a lesson to you. Shower your patient with religion, let him marinate in its rules and habits and schedules. Just be sure to keep him in the realm of talking, and studying, and behaving. There are so many benefits from this focus! Where do I begin?

+ Being disconnected from the real power of the Enemy, they will try to surmise truth and reality from their own miserable, limited, little perspectives. The Enemy tried to warn them about this during his pathetic sermon on the mountainside (it is important to study what the Enemy says and does), when he pointed out that it is possible for them to think they are right(eous), when in fact they are right where we want them.1

+ One of the supreme benefits from the “lot of talk about religion focus” is its effect on their young. I savor this result as much as any of our victories. You would think they would have figured this out by now, but no, they continue to emphasize habits and lifestyles and right living. Let them talk, encourage your patient to talk. The fact is, and we must say this quietly, their young wouldn’t walk away from real power (who would?); their young walk away from talk. I’m almost laughing as I write this. Here they are desperate for power and they refuse to simply plug into the Enemy’s vast resources. It’s too easy, really.

+ Lastly (at least for this letter), without being connected to the power, religious humans lose sight of, and even move in the opposite direction of – I hate even to write the word – love. Based on what the Enemy has done for the wretched things you would think that christian would be a wonderful word to them, a cherished concept. Yet look at what the word christian evokes in people now, especially in that place they refer to as the United States. (united? lol as they would say) When humans hear that word now they often think about pictures of self-righteousness, political posturing, and meanness. This is a victory that must be placed near the pinnacle of our successes! One of the Enemy’s writers, that awful little Ellen White, explained this process perfectly, yet fortunately she may as well have been writing to a wall.

When men indulge this accusing spirit, they are not satisfied with pointing out what they suppose to be a defect in their brother. If milder means fail of making him do what they think ought to be done, they will resort to compulsion. Just as far as lies in their power they will force men to comply with their ideas of what is right. This is what the Jews did in the days of Christ and what the church has done whenever she has lost the grace of Christ. Finding herself destitute of the power of love, she has reached out for the strong arm of the state to enforce her dogmas and execute her decrees. Here is the secret of all religious laws that have ever been enacted, and the secret of all persecution from the days of Abel to our own time.2

I was worried, even scared, when I first saw what she had written, thinking that the earthlians would “get it” and head back onto the Enemy’s path, but I was soon reminded my fears were unfounded. They are more into being right, and making others be their view of right, than they are in being connected and (forgive me) loving. Keep your patient focused on the value of rightness. Prompt him to be willing to sacrifice others for the good of the right. And by all means, present to him the importance of religion and the value of knowing, dissecting, and being right.

I apologize for my droning, yet I remember with such affection the counsel I received from my Uncle Screwtape when I, like you now, needed it most. You are my cherished grandson and I yearn for your success. I look forward to more of our discussions.

Pridefully,

Grandpa Wormwood

P.S. – I know that you wanted me to specifically help you with a concept your patient is studying called choice theory. You are correct to be concerned about this. Hopefully, you can see how my letter begins to address these concerns. The concepts of choice theory are part of the Enemy’s way and I am glad you discerned this on your own. More on this later.

1. Matthew 6:22, 23
2. White, E. (1896). Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, (p. 126-127). Takoma Park, MD: Review & Herald Publishing Association.

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According to The Quality School

sleepy-teen

Another recent study1 confirms what many previous studies have already indicated, that delaying high school start times increases the amount of sleep that adolescents get, improves their emotional states, improves their alertness and performance at school, and even reduces the teen car crash rate2. It would seem with these kinds of results that schools would quickly move to change the start of the school day until later in the morning. Even small delays in start times can lead to statistically significant improvements. Such scheduling changes aren’t taking place, though, at least to any noticeable degree, and students continue to battle fatigue, including drinking lots of coffee, deal with depression in growing numbers, and struggle to do well in academic content.

I recently gave my Secondary Methods students a choice of reading one of Glasser’s books that focused on educational practice. Several of them chose his book, The Quality School (1990),which outlines the elements that contribute to a school being a student-friendly place in which they can become the best versions of themselves. I don’t recall Glasser specifically talking about school start times in The Quality School, however I am confident that, given the data, he would support later school day start times if were still around. (He liked to sleep in, too.)

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When I first read The Quality School as a young principal in the early 90s, I can remember thinking that I wanted to be a part of such a school. Later, during my doctoral research I analyzed the book more carefully and developed a list of elements that Glasser felt Quality Schools would prioritize. I include that list below.

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According to The Quality School

Relationships are highly valued – especially between students.

Staff and students like coming to school.

No student will be able to say, “No one cares about me.”

Cooperative learning is a common instructional format.

Focus is on quality; low quality work is not accepted.

There is no busywork.

There are no bad grades; B’s are required to receive credit.

To receive an A, students would have to produce something beyond competence.

Grades can be improved.

No nonsense is taught or tested; no objective tests, all tests are open book.

There is no compulsory homework.

There is no elitism.

Rules are kept to a minimum.

There is no punishment.

Parents are not asked to fix problems at school.

When students get into trouble and need to be suspended, there is no set suspension time. The suspension lasts as long as needed for the student to address the mistake.

Students may be asked to leave class.

The keys are 1) eliminating coercion, and 2) incorporating self-evaluation.

A loving, flexible environment is more valued than a rigid, threatening one.

Focus is on changing the system, rather than on changing students.

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School start times aren’t mentioned on the list, but I would like to think that a school wanting to become a quality school would be open to such a change. Of the elements that are listed above, which of them appeal to you as more important and more needed? Which of them are you more skeptical about? As always, I encourage you to share your thoughts with the rest of us.

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1. An article in the Journal of Developmental & Behavioral Pediatrics, by Boergers, et al., 2013, described how later school start times improve sleep and daytime functioning in adolescents.

2. A study described in the Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, by Danner and Phillips, 2008, indicated the following: Average hours of nightly sleep increased and catch-up sleep on weekends decreased. Average crash rates for teen drivers in the study county in the 2 years after the change in school start time dropped 16.5%, compared with the 2 years prior to the change, whereas teen crash rates for the rest of the state increased 7.8% over the same time period.

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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.

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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

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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 .  .  .

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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.

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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.

Every once in awhile a commercial comes along that captures something special. Coca Cola Argentina recently did just that with a commercial that traces the life of a young couple and the wonderful challenges that come with having children. I won’t say more than that for now. Just watch the commercial. Afterward, I have a question for you.

Yeh, I know. A powerful message for all of us, whether we have young children or not.

So, my question is – Could this video clip be used in a choice theory workshop, and if so, how might it be used?

Looking forward to hearing your ideas.

Glasser Biography Is Published! (kind of)

Jim Roy and Carleen Glasser with the first edition of Bill's biography. Taken at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference.

Jim Roy and Carleen Glasser with the first edition of Bill’s biography. Taken at the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference.

I stopped by the Evolution of Psychotherapy Conference in Anaheim, California, this past Thursday (Dec. 12, 2013) and headed to the conference bookstore to see the Glasser biography for the first time myself. I wasn’t totally clear whether the bio would be ready, and if so, what it would look like. So it was good to see that it had been printed and to hold it in my hand. It was a very special moment for me to walk to the bookstore with Carleen Glasser, who Bill had been married to since 1995 until he passed away in August, and for both of us to hold the book together.

I said that the biography is “kind of” published because apparently the conference edition of the book is a pre-publication version, with the actual big printing taking place next month. For instance, one thing I noticed after buying a copy of the book, was that the Foreword was missing. The publisher had asked Bob Wubbolding to write a Foreword, which I very much supported, and which Bob did, yet for some reason it hasn’t made it into the book yet. Hopefully, that will be fixed soon, along with a few other less notable fixes.

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Choice Theory Study Group is Growing

Three of those who attended the recent Choice Theory Study Group: Sonya Reaves, teaching principal at Oakhurst SDA Elementary near Yosemite; Joel Steffan, Gr. 5/6 at Foothills Adventist Elementary School in St. Helena, CA; and George Barcenas, Physical Education and Spanish teacher at Redwood Adventist Academy in Santa Rosa, CA.

Three of those who attended the recent Choice Theory Study Group: Sonya Reaves, teaching principal at Oakhurst SDA Elementary near Yosemite; Joel Steffan, Gr. 5/6 at Foothills Adventist Elementary School in St. Helena, CA; and George Barcenas, Physical Education and Spanish teacher at Redwood Adventist Academy in Santa Rosa, CA.

Our recent Choice Theory Study Group on December 7 broke a record for attendance and we are already looking forward to our next study group on January 25. Put the January date in your calendar now and plan to join us for choice theory discussion and activities. One of the topics we covered on the 7th had to do with classroom meetings. I have included the handout here. Check it out.

Class Meeting guidelines

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Classroom Management Philosophy Paper

I taught Classroom Management during Fall quarter and one of the culminating assignments for my students was to think about and write their philosophy of classroom management. We use Harry Wong’s The First Days of School and Marvin Marshall’s Discipline Without Stress, Punishment or Reward as course textbooks. Part of class time is devoted to introducing choice theory to these future teachers. We really only have time for an orientation to the choice theory principles, yet this year’s students really seemed to take to the ideas. One of my undergraduate students, Laura Helm, put together a concise, yet effective description of the teacher she wants to be. I thought I would share (with her permission) what she wrote.

Classroom Management is an integral part of a teacher’s career. Without effective management, it is very challenging for successful learning to take place. Classroom management seems like a daunting task, and it can be very challenging. After taking this class, I am more prepared to tackle this aspect of being a teacher. Taking Classroom Management has taught me an incredible amount about effective management and the different ways to achieve it. My classroom management philosophy involves self-governance, Choice Theory, procedures, internal motivation, moving away from rewards and punishments, and having relationships with your students.

Possibly the most important concept we learned about is Choice Theory. Choice Theory focuses on self-responsibility along with natural consequences. It is about having the power to choose how you act and how you respond. A significant point of this theory is that you are the only person you can control, and you cannot control others. We govern ourselves and have the power to choose our behavior. Everything we do is working to fulfill our basic needs, as outlined by Glasser in his Choice Theory model. Implementing Choice Theory and its principles in the classroom is essential. Teaching students the significance of self-responsibility and about our basic needs is very important to me. Not only will this be of great importance in the classroom, but also in the future lives of my students. Choice Theory is a way of understanding ourselves and our students on a deeper level, and getting to know how each of us is motivated.

My key beliefs about classroom management surround Choice Theory and management without coercion. I believe that we are motivated intrinsically; therefore external coercion is not effective or beneficial. We do what we do because of something internal, and to fulfill our basic needs. External control, such as rewards and punishments, is not an effective motivator. I think we, as teachers, need to understand that everyone is motivated internally and use that to help the learning process.

In my opinion the use of rewards and punishments in the classroom should be lessened, if not eradicated, as they are a form of coercion. By using rewards, students only focus on getting the reward, not the importance of the learning or doing the work. Punishments often do not address the specific behavior, and can be altogether unrelated. How is it going to help a student learn not to hit other people if he is forced to sweep the parking lot instead of working on changing his behavior? Instead of punishments, natural consequences should be emphasized. There are consequences for behavior and choices that are made, some positive and some negative. Since the student chose their behavior, they will deal with the natural consequences that come about as a result. Unrelated punishments may help for a short time, but they will not help the student to learn why their behavior was wrong and will prevent them from growing or learning to change their behavior.

Another crucial aspect of classroom management in my opinion is procedures. Procedures are of the utmost importance in having a well-managed classroom. Procedures are the way in which the classroom is run and how things are done. Procedures are not rules and they do not have punishments, but students face the consequences of not following procedures correctly. Having specific procedures in place leads to a classroom that runs smoothly. This was made clear to me from watching the video of Mrs. Seroyer’s classroom management techniques. This video impacted me and gave me a new perspective on how to manage a classroom. She emphasized the importance of procedures and how they are one of the most significant parts of effective classroom management. By setting up procedures, teaching them, then rehearsing them until they are learned, students know what the expectations are and how they are supposed to do tasks in the classroom.

To me one of the most important aspects of classroom management is having a strong, positive relationship with your students. Genuinely caring about your students and showing them that you want them to succeed and are there to help is crucial. Once the students believe this, they will be more willing to put effort and care into their work and their behavior. Heather Denton highlighted the importance of this when we visited her classroom. She told us that students will be less willing to care about what we are saying if we do not show them we care for them. I agree with her that relationships are extremely important and are essentially the basis for successful classroom management.

Before taking this course, I had no knowledge about Choice Theory. I thought the only way to manage classrooms was what I had seen and experienced from being a student in many different classrooms. Most of my teachers managed their classrooms with the use of rewards and punishments, and I figured that was the most effective way to manage a classroom. I was usually one of the “good” students, and I rarely got in trouble. When I did, I was punished by time out, having my name written on the board, or something similar that did not help me learn from my mistakes.

My view on classroom management changed substantially after taking this course. It was intriguing to learn about Choice Theory, and that there is more than one way to manage a classroom. Just because classrooms are traditionally managed with rewards, punishments, and other forms of external control, it does not mean that I have to manage my classroom in those ways. I have realized that managing students begins with having a relationship with them. I also understand that everyone is motivated internally, so coercion is not effective with most students. Using rewards, punishments, and coercion never sat well with me, but now I have the knowledge to teach without using coercive techniques.

It is so encouraging to know that candidates such as Laura will be joining our teaching ranks shortly.

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It’s been almost a year exactly since I started The Better plan blog. Thanks for being a part of the journey.

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.

puzzled-look

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.

Love,

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
wellen1@earthlink.net

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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.

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Choice Theory Study Group
December 7

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