Posts tagged “teaching

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.

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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

The Amazing Grid on the Carpet

Professor Tom Lee and his amazing grid on the carpet.

Professor Tom Lee and his amazing grid on the carpet.

I was walking by one of the classrooms in our department recently and caught a glimpse of something going on that lured me into the room to find out more. It turned out to be Tom Lee’s middle school methods class. Tom is one of my colleagues in the teacher education program at PUC and is famous for coming up with learning activities that are engaging and relevant.

What I saw when I entered the room was a grid that Tom had taped onto the carpet. He had moved tables in the room to create a large space for this grid, which had Gardner’s eight multiple intelligences along the vertical axis and Bloom’s taxonomy categories across the horizontal axis.

As a reminder, Gardner’s intelligences included –

1) Verbal/Linguistic

2) Logical/Mathematical

3) Visual/Spatial

4) Rhythmic/Musical

5) Body/Kinesthetic

6) Intrapersonal

7) Interpersonal

8) Naturalistic

Bloom’s taxonomy (the new version) includes –

1) Remembering

2) Understanding

3) Applying

4) Analyzing

5) Evaluating

6) Creating

The students were asked to place a marker on one of the grid spaces and then describe a lesson focus or activity based on that grid space’s “address.” For instance, a student could place a marker on the space that combined Body/Kinesthetic (vertical) and Applying (horizontal), and then, on-the-spot, create a lesson focus based on a combination of those two categories.

A blogger in search of a bird's eye view of the grid.

A blogger in search of a bird’s eye view of the grid.

Instead of placing a marker in a grid space students could also throw a marker onto the grid for a more random challenge. Students just needed to keep in mind that a row or column could not contain more than two markers. Initially, students would be able to comment on areas in which they felt more confident, however as the game went on they would need to comment on every area of the grid, regardless of their level of prior knowledge.

I joined in the activity and enjoyed listening as students displayed their creative understanding of Gardner’s intelligences and Bloom’s taxonomy. There was a special energy in the room as students engaged in the activity.

What does Tom Lee’s lesson have to do with choice theory? From a classroom perspective, quite a bit. Choice theory explains the importance of school being a need-satisfying place. Tom’s lesson was need-satisfying on several levels.

Purpose/Meaning – Students were allowed to make personal meaning from the experience. The activity was very relevant to them and challenged them to take previous learning (Gardner and Bloom) and add new layers to their own understanding.

Love/Belonging – There was an obvious camaraderie that developed during the activity. Students rooted for one another and offered comments in support of each other. This camaraderie existed between students and teachers as well.

Power/Success – You could tell students felt satisfaction as they came up with their own lesson objectives. Their ideas were ultimately affirmed by classmates and by Tom.

Freedom/Autonomy – Students had so many choices to make during this activity. They could choose the grid space to attack, and afterward they would choose the kind of lesson they wanted to teach.

Joy/Fun – Joy and fun were both present throughout this activity. Students were engaged with the learning and with each other.

Safety/Survival – I think the students, to some extent, looked into the future and saw themselves as teachers working through the same kind of challenge. Doing the activity well had something to do with their professional survival.

I love the “grid on the carpet” that Tom came up with. In future Soul Shaper / choice theory workshops that I teach I want to steal this great idea. For instance, I can see having the Basic Needs across the top (the columns) and content areas on the side (the rows). By content areas I mean Social Studies, Math, Science, Language Arts, etc. I will then have participants select a grid space (either intentionally or randomly)  – let’s say the grid space combining Social Studies and Freedom/Autonomy – and then describe how lesson objectives in that content area could address or meet that basic need. This idea is really growing on me!

Can you think of ways in which you could use the “grid on the carpet” idea? And could you take a moment and share your idea with the rest of us?

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Our next Choice Theory Study Group is December 7!

Choice Theory in Beirut

Beirut sunset

Beirut sunset

I am in Beirut. Yes, Lebanon.

As I write this there is a beautiful sunset to the west and the lights of the city, like stars, are beginning to come alive and twinkle. I hear the sounds of sirens echoing from the city below. I see the sunset, the sky turning gorgeous shades of darker hues, and hear the sounds of the city from my third floor dorm room, my room with a view. Quite spectacular, actually.

I am in the Middle East for the first time in my life, invited here to share the ideas of choice theory. My perception of this area of the world is that it tends toward authoritarian approaches to life, maybe especially so in the Muslim community, and both of these thoughts were confirmed by Beirut natives in discussions after I arrived. Still, though, there is a desire by teachers here to consider the principles of choice theory.

My presentations occurred on Sabbath afternoon, October 19, and most of the day on Sunday, October 20. Dr. Ed Boyatt, recently retired Dean of the School of Education at La Sierra University, is a co-presenter with me and gave his talks on Friday evening and Sabbath morning. There were three things I wanted to emphasize during the comparatively short time I had to introduce the group to the concepts of choice theory. They were –

1. God designed us for internal control based on freedom.

2. Positive relationships are the foundation on which other success pieces are built.

3. Schools can be need-satisfying places that students and teachers want to come to each day.

A large group came together for the choice theory conference on Sunday.

A large group came together for the choice theory conference on Sunday.

Sabbath afternoon really focused on the first theme, including the idea that since God created us for internal control even He won’t control us. Sunday focused on some of the choice theory elements – understanding the basic needs and the concept of the quality world – that contribute to fulfilling the second and third themes.

One of the quotes that supports the idea that we have been created for internal control, and the quote that years ago first alerted me to a possible similarity between Ellen White, one of the SDA church founders, and William Glasser, says that

The training of children must be conducted on a different principle from that which governs the training of irrational animals.  The brute has only to be accustomed to submit to its master; but the child must be taught to control himself.  The will must be trained to obey the dictates of reason and conscience. A child may be so disciplined as to have, like the beast, no will of its own, his individuality being lost in that of his teacher.  Such training is unwise, and its effect disastrous.             Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 57

This quote led me to further reading of Ellen White’s books, which then led me to a detailed comparison between Glasser and White, and which ultimately led to the writing of the Soul Shapers book. Both Glasser and White explain, describe, remind, warn, invite, and encourage. Their written words state ideas in ways that get our attention. For example (a few other quotes shared during the conference) –

True education is not the forcing of instruction on an unready and unreceptive mind.    Education, p. 41

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. 58

The latter quote provided the idea for the name of this blog. For Ellen White, “the better plan” had everything to do with working with students in a way that honors the internal control with which they are designed. These are just some of the quotes that spurred our discussion during the conference.

Jim Roy and Jimmy Choufani

Jim Roy and Jimmy Choufani

This is a picture of Jimmy Choufani and me as we talk about the Sunday afternoon session of the conference. I can’t say enough good things about Jimmy! He will read this and probably be a little upset at me for saying these nice things about him, but .  .  . well .  .  . tough. Jimmy is a gifted educational administrator. If you haven’t been to Beirut, it may be hard for you to understand what he and his team have accomplished at Bouchrieh Adventist Secondary School (BASS). Ed Boyatt and I had the privilege of observing in classrooms today at the school and I am impressed. I am impressed with the organization and structure of the school, the ability of the teachers, and the level of respect by the students.

Isaac Atem Thon Atem and Jim Roy.

Isaac Atem Thon Atem and Jim Roy.

This last picture is of me and Isaac Atem Thon Atem. Isaac is just about to complete his teaching degree at Middle East University and attended the conference over the weekend as a future teacher on the lookout for good ideas. He approached me during one of the breaks and asked if he could purchase one of the Soul Shaper books. I didn’t bring any with me to sell, but as I listened to him tell me about his plan to return to South Sudan and to teach there, I quickly said, please, take my copy. It is a privilege for me to support Isaac. He is a gentle soul ready to go to a difficult place and do what he can to make life better for his students.

I never imagined that choice theory would bring me to the Middle East, but it has and I am very thankful for it. I look forward to a few more days here, and to discussions about the future of choice theory in Beirut!

It’s Been Awhile

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I knew it had been a while since my last bike ride, but I didn’t know it was that long. When I got home after riding today I downloaded the last several rides from my Garmin and discovered my last ride was three weeks ago. My goodness, or should it be my badness. It has been a while since my last blog, too. It’s been almost two weeks since the last Better Plan posting and that is a record. Not a record I am proud of mind you, but a record none the less.

The beginning of this school year has been so full and so busy for me, more than usual, I think. Besides getting classes set up and going this Fall quarter, several additional things also have my attention. To find out if you are interested in any of these things keep reading.

Beirut Trip

I am leaving for Beirut, Lebanon, this coming Wednesday, where I will be giving several choice theory presentations to teachers and school administrators. Jimmy Choufani, one of the school principals (and a follower of this blog), has been talking with me for over a year about getting this to happen, so it is awesome that the plan has come together. Jimmy read Soul Shapers over a year ago and wants his colleagues to have an opportunity to at least hear about the principles of choice theory. He has shared with me that on one of the days during the conference the audience will be made up of Christians and Muslims. What a testimony to their unity in the midst of so much unrest all around them. I am humbled to be a part of this venture.

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Also going to Beirut as a co-presenter with me is Dr. Ed Boyatt, recently retired Dean of the School of Education at La Sierra University. Ed, along with Dick and Anita Molstead, (all followers of the blog) was Superintendent of Education in the Oregon Conference while I was principal at Livingstone Academy in Salem from 1993-1996. (Livingstone was the school where most of the Soul Shapers book took place.) Their support meant a great deal to me and I dedicated Soul Shapers to them because of that. I am so thankful that Ed is going on this trip! Together we want to share how the principles of choice theory actually reflect the character of God, as well as share choice theory details that will be especially helpful to educators. After the weekend conference Ed and I will be observing in schools in Beirut and then talking with principals and teachers there about how choice theory can begin to have a presence in classrooms.

We solicit your prayers as we prepare for the trip. Any words of advice would be welcomed as well.

Glasser Biography

The Glasser biography – William Glasser: Champion of Choice – is supposed to come out in late November. The inside of the book looks wonderful. I am really pleased with the look and visual tone of the book. It will be a pleasant read in that way. I am in the midst of a slight disagreement regarding the cover of the book, but it is not a major thing. Hopefully, my input will sway them, but then again, what do I know about cover design. It will just be so good to have the book done!

The Evolution of Psychotherapy conference in Anaheim is at the beginning of December and I think they want to have the book available for that.

Masaki Kakatani, long time Glasser Institute member, has contacted the publisher to begin translating the biography into Japanese. Very cool.

Choice Theory Study Group

Our next Choice Theory Study Group will be on Sabbath afternoon, November 2, at 2:00 pm in the Education building at Pacific Union College. Mark it in your calendar.

Agenda items include:
+ Brief updates on any choice theory lessons or experiences in your classroom or school.
+ I will give a brief update on the Beirut trip.
+ Role play review on how to conference with a student with an attainable want.

Let me know if you have a topic or question for us to consider on November 2.

Choice Theory Study Group
November 2, 2013
PUC Education building

Shifting the Culture – Roots of Change

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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

http://www.wglasser.com

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.

Thirteen (so far) Essential Psychological Skills for Kids

Kids

In the last Better Plan blog we considered the kinds of skills that kids should have before they turn 18 and definitely before they leave home. One of the categories that was missing from the list, though, was a category for Psychological Skills. Several of you responded to my request for help at forming such a list. The following list summarizes your suggestions.

Psychological Skills We Want Our Kids to Learn
1. To be able to recognize the motivation behind their choices.
2. To be able to handle failure and see it as an opportunity to learn.
3. To be able to self-evaluate.
4. Knowing the seven Caring Habits (Supporting, Listening, Encouraging, Accepting, Trusting, Respecting, and Negotiating Differences) and using them.
5. To really recognize their priceless worth, not because of their performance, achievement, or behavior, but because they are a child of God.
6. Relational skills, such as connecting, compassion, communication, and empathy.
7. To be able to process and navigate emotions in a positive way.
8. To be aware of the ability to choose their response to the conditions/circumstances of life.
9. To understand that divergent thinking is healthy.
10. To know when to –
FIGHT for something worth fighting for;
ACCOMMODATE when the relationship is more important than the issue, and
AVOID when it makes sense to split the difference and compromise.
11. Also knowing and understanding the seven Deadly Habits (Criticizing, Blaming, Complaining, Nagging, Threatening, Punishing, and Rewarding to Manipulate).
12. To learn to be caring and compassionate, especially using the skill of empathy.
13. To gain a work ethic that reflects a willingness to work and a desire to do their best.
This list is a great start, but (I wonder) have important psychological skills been left off? Reply to this blog with more suggestions and help to make the list even more complete. This could be a great resource to those of us who work with kids and to those of us who give workshops and presentations. For instance, I am scheduled to begin teaching choice theory to 10th graders this coming Friday morning. I could see myself sharing this list with “kids” and getting their response. Let’s grow this list and identify more of the psychological skills we want our kids to have.
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The Choice Theory Study Group that met near where I live this past Sabbath was a success! Group members shared examples of ways they have taught or used choice theory so far this school year, and coached and affirmed each other throughout the process. Some things that came out of our time together include –
George Barcenas, PE teacher, athletic director, and language teacher at Redwood Adventist School in Santa Rosa, CA, described how grades 9-12 began the school year with a multi-day retreat in the Santa Cruz mountains, with choice theory principles as the theme they wanted to set the tone for the school year. He has followed that opening week by consistently referring to the choice theory elements in his classes. Already students are beginning to bring up the basic needs, maybe their own or those of another student, when problem-solving moments arise.
Joel Steffen, fifth and sixth grade teacher at Foothills Adventist Elementary School, has been conducting daily class meetings. One thing he shared is that it really makes a difference which guiding question you use to start the meeting. When you choose well and kids are interested in the topic the meeting goes pretty well. Choose less well and it becomes apparent rather quickly. He sees both the effective and the less effective meetings as steps in the learning process, though, and plans to continue honing his questioning skills.
Joel Steffen is having his fifth and sixth graders create their own quality world cup.

Joel Steffen is having his fifth and sixth graders create their own personal quality world cup.

Amy Palma, fifth grade teacher at Calistoga Elementary, has been teaching there for 10 years, and has been implementing a choice theory management approach, specifically Marvin Marshall’s ABCD model for seven of those years. Amy’s story is important because she is an example of a teacher who successfully uses choice theory, even though she is the only one in the school doing so. Over the years, the school has tried different external control programs, and each time Amy has respectfully declined. While other teachers have been less than satisfied with how a school year has gone, Amy likes how it has gone and attributes choice theory as one of the key reasons. Teachers sometimes ask me, “What if I am the only teacher in the school teaching this way?” At that moment I tell them about Amy.
Sean Kootsey, History teacher at Pleasant Hill Adventist Academy, described how significant the idea of giving students multiple chances to master the learning has been for him, and for his students. He reminded us that learning and assessing is not a “gotchya” process. If students need more than one chance to learn the concepts, why is that bad, he asked. At first other teachers in the school chuckled or even scoffed at the idea of multiple learning chances, but now all of them are teaching that way and are pleased with the results. The culture there has shifted.
Ron Bunch, a local community member, shared how much the ideas have influenced his personal relationships, and especially how the choice theory ideas have helped him in his spiritual journey. He described new insights regarding the character of God and His design of us and for us. God did not create us to be a victim of circumstances, but instead gave us incredible freedom and power to make choices.
These were just a few of the things expressed in the recent study group. One thing the group decided was that we want to keep meeting, maybe even on a monthly basis. It was felt like the get-together is a good way to keep choice theory ideas from being crowded out by other things; it is a good way to re-charge the concepts and to feed off the energy of colleagues. We will be meeting twice more before the Christmas break. I’ll share those dates soon.
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One thing that came out of the blog entitled Compelling Reasons to Teach Choice Theory is the recognition that we need to begin sharing more about how to get this done. We need to assemble a clearinghouse, a place where people can go to access resources and materials, or even specific lesson plans that address choice theory elements. This is important! We need to get this started!
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Compelling Reasons to Teach Choice Theory to Students

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1. It will improve students’ mental health

I was reminded recently of one of the essential pieces of choice theory implementation, that being the need for teachers to teach their students about the concepts of choice theory. It is a little bit frustrating for me to see the excitement for choice theory and the commitment to nurture a choice theory environment in classrooms, and then learn that the usual pressures of the school year seem to derail the idea of sharing choice theory with students. I am convinced, though, that bringing students on as choice theory partners will sooner establish choice theory as part of the school culture.

The recent reminder came from an article I read in the Psych Central online journal. The title — Mental Health in High School: Teach Students Link Between Thinking Patterns, Emotions and Behavior — caught my eye. Sure enough, the article could have been written by a choice theorist.

Researchers from the Ohio State University College of Nursing found that a program called COPE (Creating Opportunities for Personal Empowerment) reduced depression, enhanced health behaviors, and improved grades. Health classes used an intervention that focused on cognitive behavioral skills. While not the only focus, the study’s author, Bernadette Melnyk, observed that –

“This is what has been missing from prior healthy lifestyle programs with teens — getting to the thinking piece. We teach the adolescents that how they think directly relates to how they feel and how they behave.”

The important thing about the program is building skills that help students learn to become aware of their negative thoughts, the ways in which such thoughts affect their self-concept, and the behaviors that can come out of that kind of thinking.

“Schools are great at teaching Math and Social Studies,” Melnyk continues, “but we aren’t giving teens the life skills they need to successfully deal with stress, how to problem-solve, or how to set goals, and those are key elements in this healthy lifestyle intervention.”

We know, as teachers and parents, how much our own mental health has been improved through our understanding of choice theory. What is keeping us from intentionally and purposefully teaching the concepts to our students? Glasser once pointed out that expecting students to be successful at life without teaching them about choice theory is like expecting them to play and win a game without teaching them the rules. Kids are wrestling with so many personal challenges and conflicts. And without choice theory (or something like it) their mental health is put at risk.

2. It will improve teacher understanding of choice theory principles

It has been said that a person never understands something so well as when he has to teach it to someone else. A German proverb comments on the same principle by stating –

He who teaches children learns more than they do.

A classic book from 1971, Children Teach Children: Learning by Teaching, cited the results of an anti-poverty reading program in New York City in which older students tutored younger students with reading difficulties. After five months of one on one help it was discovered that the younger students showed a six month gain in their reading scores, which was great. They also tested the older tutors and were blown away to discover that they had made a gain of 3.4 years in their reading scores. Not expecting that kind of gain at all, it alerted them to the potential of increasing the learning through teaching.

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Not only will we learn choice theory better as we teach the concepts to our students, imagine for a moment how well students could learn choice theory by teaching it to each other.

I think some teachers may hesitate to teach about choice theory because they don’t feel like they have a lot of expertise in it yet. Maybe they’ll share more after they read another book or attend another workshop. I think some may hesitate, too, because giving the choice theory concepts away to students could lead them to monitor or judge our fledgling efforts toward non-coercive change. It is true that at the very beginning we may want to experiment with the ideas privately, without making a big deal out of them. Pretty quickly, though, we need to share choice theory with our students. Maybe they will monitor our fledgling efforts. All the better as situations and events become teachable “choice theory” moments.

Chances are you don’t need the Psych Central article to remind you that students need mental health instruction as much as they need physical health instruction. I encourage you to go for it!

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One of the things we’ll be doing at our Choice Theory Study Group this coming Sabbath afternoon, Sept. 21, at Foothills Elementary is sharing some of the ways we have used or implemented choice theory so far this school year. I will pass on some of these examples in future blog posts.

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It Is More Important That I Like Them

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Fall quarter begins on September 23 at Pacific Union College, the school at which I teach in the teacher credential program, which means that two weeks from today I will be teaching. Next week there will be quite a few campus meetings and time will feel crunched. Therefore, I thought it wise to get going on office organization and class preparation today. I attacked some stacks of stuff on top of my file cabinets, stacks that had been resting there for some time (it turns out), and re-discovered some papers, folders, and articles that were actually worthwhile in some way. One of the sheets of paper I ran across was some notes I took from a presentation I attended. It is written in my handwriting, but I had no name or no date anywhere on the paper. I remember being impressed with the talk, but I can’t remember who gave it. If one of you shared these thoughts, let me know. In any case, I have typed out my notes from the talk below –

What have you not learned yet?

What can I offer you?

It takes three years to figure out if you’re in the right place, doing it well, etc.

Give yourself permission to fail; and then to fail again.

Be reflective about your teaching.

I felt I couldn’t do anything well.

It is more important that I like them, rather than focusing on them liking me.

What mountain are you willing to die on?

One week does not a year make.

God does not call us to be successful; He calls us to be faithful.

#1 rule of teaching – Do no harm.

The one about it being “important that I like them” really jumped out at me. Of course, it oozes and overflows with choice theory. We can choose and nurture our own thoughts and behavior, but that is where our control stops.

It is amazing how much energy we can put into worrying about being liked by others. New teachers especially have to come to grips with this. Until they do it can be so draining trying to manipulate others into behaving a certain way. Being a teacher takes real strength. It takes strength to like students when they aren’t very likeable.

It can be easy to skip over the liking part and focus on having a spirit of love. The thing is, liking is loving in action. Liking is the “hi” in the morning, even when you know you’re not going to get an enthusiastic hi in return. Liking is talking about the football game and making small talk. Liking is being interested in another person and the things they are interested in. Liking is wishing another person a good evening and reminding them that you are looking forward to seeing them tomorrow.

I really believe that some students have never experienced an unconditional liking relationship. As their teacher or significant adult in their life, you may be the first to treat them like they are special and that they have a purpose in this world. They may be used to being ignored, resented, yelled at, manipulated, and controlled. It may be a shock to them to have someone say, “good morning,”

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Which of the statements from the notes speaks to you? I’d love to hear from you.

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Remember September 21!

If you live within driving distance of PUC, think about joining us for a choice theory study group!

Where: Foothills Elementary (just down the hill from PUC)

When:   Sept. 21, 2:00-4:00 pm

Attend services at one of the local churches (The Haven, next to the St. Helena Hospital, is close and they provide a lunch each week after church) and then head over to Foothills for choice theory ideas and support.

Good morning, Mr. Kinney

Chris Kinney, in his classroom at Lower Lake High School.

Chris Kinney, in his classroom at Lower Lake High School.

Chris Kinney, a former student of mine who is now teaching in the Clear Lake area of northern California, shares a great update on how choice theory is making a difference in his classroom and school. He also shares some good reminders for many of us in the process.

Hi Dr. Roy,

I received the your email and a request to join your Choice Theory Facebook Page on the same day and I thought it was a happy coincidence.  I have been successful in putting in place Choice Theory practices within my classroom and have received a great response about it, as evidenced in the email below.  Other than that I thought I would drop you and PUC a line about how I am doing at Lower Lake High.

The first year at LLHS I noticed the lack of effort by the students. There was a huge culture of failure.  I approached the principal about creating a new world history class geared towards students achieving a higher success, he agreed and I had 32 students take a Honors level class the following year.  The principal and superintendent took notice and I was placed on a committee to help improve the school on with a campus wide focus. The implementation was this year and already students have said how much they look forward to coming to school, instead of looking at it as just somewhere they have to be.

This year the honors class has grown to two periods with nearly 60 students in it. At first the students were standoffish about taking the class but once in it the use of CT techniques soon leads them to a path of success and enjoyment of the class.  LLHS has also seen an increase in test scores for World History of 25% shift from the bottom two CST levels towards the top three in the past two years.  This success has directly been related to my teaching, and prompted the principal to make me chair of the department and teaching the AP US History class, both of which came with a nice pay bump.

Thank you for helping teach me the use of Choice Theory while I was at PUC.

Chris

At the start of this school year Chris was really pleased to receive a letter from a parent helped to confirm his efforts.

Good Morning Mr. Kinney,

I just wanted to take a moment to contact you to let you know what an impact you had on Corrinne.  Prior to the first day of school she was the least excited about your History class and would exclaim that she “hated History”.  When I picked her up from school the first day, she was so excited about your class.  She went on and on about your expectations, your teaching style and she was suddenly so incredibly motivated.  She feels that you have challenged your students to get an A in your class and instead of begrudging it, she is excited to face your challenge.  She would be so perturbed and bothered if she knew I contacted you so please don’t tell her.  I just wanted to thank you for kick starting my sometimes procrastinating sophomore.

Hope you had a great start to your new school year!

Tracie

When I asked Chris if I could share his email with others he said that would be fine, and went on to share a few more key points.

By all means feel free to share it. It was intended as an artifact that CT works, and can work very quickly in some cases, such as with this student. What I have been doing shows the effect that CT can have on a school, even if only one person is actively doing it. Other staff members are picking it up and asking questions about my classroom management.  I really don’t go out of my way to label what I am doing as the staff is very suspect of “fad teaching” and immediately resent anything that has a label.  What I do find is they see what I am doing as effective teaching regardless of what it is called.  It truly is an amazing transformation that is going on at this school.

Several things stand out for me in Chris’s emails. One is that I introduce candidates to choice theory during their credential classes at PUC, but because of the pressure of state requirements, I am not able to go into a deeper training mode. That Chris is having this kind of impact with an “orientation” level of choice theory is amazing! Imagine what he could do if he dived even more deeply into choice theory. The second thing that stands out for me is the label phenomena. I really agree with Chris that teachers can be highly suspect of something new, especially if it has a label. He is right to simply do what choice theory can do and let people see the results, rather than argue with some about the theory. Chris’s email made my day as one of his former teachers, but it was more than that. He is on the front lines of education in a placement that many would describe as difficult, yet he is thriving and helping his students to thrive, too. May Chris’s testimony be an encouragement to all of us!

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Those of you in the northern California area may want to be a part of a Choice Theory study group that will be meeting on Sabbath afternoon, September 21, from 2:00-4:00 PM at Foothills Elementary in St. Helena. You might want to attend the wonderful new church format at The Haven (formerly the Elmshaven SDA Church) and hear Matthew Gamble preach the Word, enjoy the meal provided each week by The Haven, and then head the short distance to the school for the study group. Mark it in your calendar and make plans to join us.

Hey! It works!

A teacher shares what happened recently when he had the opportunity to use the conferencing skills he learned earlier this summer.

This summer I had the privilege of taking the Soul Shaper 1 & 2 class at Pacific Union College.  After doing so and reading a number of Glasser books, I was extremely interested in putting conferencing into practice.  We did a number of role plays in class to prepare for a conference, but there is something exciting about leading out in a real life scenario.

I received a call from a close friend about a relationship issue he was experiencing.  He was looking for some advice from me, so I told him to meet me at a local coffee shop.  On my way to our meeting, I thought back to the role plays in class and the acronym WDEP came to mind.  After reminding myself what each letter stood for, (W – What do you want, D- What are you doing? E- Evaluate if it is working, and P- The plan) I convinced myself that this would be the ideal time to practice what I had learned.

After breaking the ice a bit over coffee, I finally began our dialogue by asking him what was on his mind.  He gave me a long version of his dilemma, which was whether or not he should break up with his girlfriend.  He was quick to blame this dilemma on his significant other, telling me how he didn’t like how she did such and such. I listened carefully and after he was through I simply asked him, well what do you want right now?  He looked at me, kind of perplexed and asked me what I meant.  I asked him again, “deep down, what is it that you feel you need right now? I know we are here about the relationship, but that aside, what do you want?” He thought a bit, I sipped some coffee trying to keep myself from talking to break the silence.  Finally he spoke up and began to paint a picture that depicted freedom to me.  After he was through, I said, “would it be safe to say that what you need right now is freedom?” He assured me that this is what he needed.  I then asked him if he could find this freedom in his current relationship.  Without much thought he told me no. To make sure, I asked him what it would take to gain the freedom that he felt he needed and again asked if there was any way the relationship could still work with this need.  He assured me that he did not think he could get the freedom he needed while maintaining the relationship.  I then reminded him about the blame he put on his significant other for the current conflict.   I asked him, “Could it be that deep down you have wanted out of this relationship for awhile and you were waiting for a good excuse to end it?”  At this point he looked at me and told me that I was “freaking him out”.  He thought I was reading his mind or something.  We joked a bit and then continued on.  He agreed that this was indeed the case, but he was worried that if he broke things off he may not find someone else that had some of the traits he appreciated about her.  We worked through the process again a bit and he came to the conclusion that he needed to end the relationship.  We role played how that would look and talked about blame and how destructive that could be. He agreed and we were able to talk out what a break up might look like.

I don’t want to say that this experience went perfectly. I talked a bit more then I have expressed here and wish I could have been better at listening, but overall I saw that he had self-evaluated which made for a very rewarding experience for me, and hopefully for him.

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The story above reminds us that we experience problem-solving conferencing opportunities in many normal, every day moments. We can use WDEP conferencing skills as teachers and principals, but we can also tap into WDEP skills as parents and friends. The above story also seems to embody the definition of problem-solving conferencing – that being

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A lot of us are well-intentioned “fixers” who quickly start sharing advice and solutions when our student, colleague, or friend really just wants someone to listen and help them figure things out. The concept of self-evaluation is hugely important in the choice theory scheme of things. Whether it relates to academic performance and grading or to conferencing with a student regarding a behavior at school, the student’s ability to self-evaluate is the key. The KEY! We can count on this reality as surely as we can count on the law of gravity or the sun coming up in the morning. There is no getting around it. We can advise, direct, order, prescribe, or even threaten, but until a student comes to understand and acknowledge the situation for himself our efforts will lead to frustration and a strained relationship.

When we can non-judgmentally ask WDEP questions the results are frequently amazing! Often, people just need a little help thinking through things on their own and coming up with a plan of their own creation.

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