Posts tagged “William Glasser

Glasser’s Beliefs Continue to Influence

It has been four years since William Glasser passed away on August 23, 2013, but not a week goes by, or even a day, that I don’t think about him or one of his ideas. It is interesting just how important his ideas have become to me. For instance, when it comes to wanting to be in a better place psychologically and emotionally, I continue to look through a Choice Theory lens. The principles of Choice Theory are a wonderful mirror from which to self-evaluate.

Choice Theory ideas seem to be important to other people as well, or maybe I should say the principles of Choice Theory, since I continue to see articles and books that point in the same direction he pointed to throughout his career. Whether you want better schools, better parenting, better relationships, or just a better psychology to guide your life, Glasser continues to be a lighthouse guiding the way.

The article links that follow will show you what I mean, plus they are good articles in their own right. Click on the article titles to read for yourself.

1) A New Kind of Classroom: No Grades, No Failing, No Hurry

The article describes a grass-roots movement in which 40 schools in New York City have adopted a program that has students focusing on achieving grade-level skills rather than receiving traditional letter grades. And rather than being mandated to make this shift, all 40 of the schools have adopted the program voluntarily.

A student stays after school to keep working on her own.

“Mastery-based learning, also known as proficiency-based or competency-based learning, is taking hold across the country,” the article informs, with Vermont, Maine, New Hampshire, Illinois, and Idaho also phasing in the new approach.

It is impossible for me to see phrases like competency-based learning and getting rid of grades without thinking of my mentor and visionary friend, Bill Glasser. Since his early days with Bea Dolan at the Ventura School for Girls and his first books, including Reality Therapy (1965) and Schools Without Failure (1969), Glasser recognized how learning needed to be organized. Throughout his career he was driven to help schools make this shift.

And of course, his clearest statements regarding competency-based learning can be found in his book, Every Student Can Succeed (2000), where he emphasized the need for students to achieve competence, and the strategies schools can employ to support them in the process.

“The real world asks for competence
and usually gets it when what they ask the worker to do
is useful and they treat the worker well.”
William Glasser

2) When Schools Forgo Grades: An Experiment in Internal Motivation

The article describes the efforts of teachers and students at the Integrated Global Studies School in NYC to move away from traditional grading and instead implement narrative feedback on work in which students want to be involved. IGSS is a small school (160 students) within a much larger high school (over 4,000 students) in which administrators, teachers, and parents wanted to see if grading differently would make a difference in learning. It turns out it makes a huge difference!

Escaping from the cage

Kirby Engelman, a junior at the school, describes how “It felt totally different. It opened my mind to education as something more of, rather than learning content, you were learning how to learn. It opened my mind to my potential as well as the potential of humans and the world.”

It’s about “learning how to learn.”

Engelman admits she was hesitant to give up the traditional model at first. It was all she knew. And while at first she opted to receive traditional feedback, too, she explained that “Grades or no grades you get a written narrative about every assignment and how you are as a student, which showed me how unnecessary grades were,” she said. She also found the system more motivating. “Rather than just learning information and learning specific facts, we were learning how to learn and that felt a lot more meaningful.”

Glasser began describing this very process in Schools Without Failure (1969), his first book on schools specifically, and stuck with this message his entire career.

3) Good Genes Are Nice, But Joy Is Better

Harvard researchers began tracking the health of 268 sophomores in 1938, hoping the longitudinal study would reveal clues to leading healthy and happy lives. While 19 of the original 268 are still alive, many more subjects have been added over the years, and altogether a lot of impressive data have been collected. So what matters when it comes to leading a satisfying and happy life?

“The surprising finding,” began Robert Waldinger, the director of the study, “is that our relationships have a powerful influence on our health. Taking care of your body is important, but tending to your relationships is a form of self-care, too. That, I think, is the revelation.”

This finding would come as no surprise to William Glasser or anyone else into the ideas of Choice Theory, as he believed that all significant psychological problems were based in relationship problems.

 

“Close relationships,” the study continued, “more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives. Those ties protect people from life’s discontents, help to delay mental and physical decline, and are better predictors of long and happy lives that social class, IQ, or even genes.”

4) Loneliness Epidemic Growing Into Biggest Threat to Public Health

Also commenting on the topic of happiness, or lack thereof, this short article points out the importance of being socially connected. Examples from the article include –

+ Being connected to others is a fundamental human need.

+ According to an AARP Loneliness Study, over 42 million Americans suffer from chronic loneliness.

+ Another study showed that greater social connection is associated with a 50% reduced risk of early death.

+ There is robust evidence that social isolation and loneliness significantly increase risk for premature mortality.

+ Greater emphasis should be placed on social skills training for children in schools.

+ Doctors should be encouraged to include social connectedness when medical screening.

+ People should be preparing for retirement socially, as well as financially.

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Like a lighthouse alerting ships to navigational information, Glasser alerted me, and many others, to information that contributes to health and well being. Four years after his passing he is still missed, especially by those closest to him, yet his ideas continue on. Ideas that matter as much as his tend to do that.

 

Assume that People Do Their Best? Is that Possible?

Some thoughts from Mark Landry’s (not so) completely. miserable. blog. His latest post, titled Some (painful-for-me) Thoughts on Letting People Off the Hook, began like this –

I’ve learned something recently, something that I know will change my life if I can get my head around it, something I wish I would have realized 20 years ago, but nobody was talking about things like this when I was 30.  If I could fax my younger self I’d say without hesitation – master this.

Brene Brown, in one of her recent books “Rising Strong,” relates some powerful advise from a friend:

Steve said, “I don’t know. I really don’t. All I know is that my life is better when I assume that people are doing their best. It keeps me out of judgment and lets me focus on what is, and not what should or could be.” His answer felt like truth to me. Not an easy truth, but truth.

This sounded great, so I tried it.  Massive fail.  I don’t have it in me.  I’ve built an entire world around judging others, comparing myself to others, using the “laziness” of others to make myself feel good, labeling people based on what they have or haven’t accomplished in their lives.

It feels good to tear someone down.  It makes us feel valuable, ironically, when we take someone’s value away.   But ultimately I have to put myself under the same microscope, which is especially hard these days.  I”m a washed up, has-been pastor, now a stay at home dad.  Not much in my life to tout.  All the judgments, all the “can you believe that guy” thoughts that I’ve used to create my little accomplishment-based caste system have come back to haunt me.  In spades.  Over and again I come up just as short as everyone else.

“It makes us feel valuable, ironically, when we take someone’s value away.”

Along with Mark Landry, I have been thinking a lot recently about the damage of criticism. Glasser rated criticism as the most damaging of the Deadly Habits, the most disconnecting of the “disconnectors.” Passages I am reading in a little book called Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing has reinforced Glasser’s concern regarding the effects of criticism. The people of Jesus’ day, the little book points out, “reflected the spirit of their religious leaders as they intruded on the conscience of others and judged each other in matters that are between the soul and God.”

A cover of the little book, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, which is based on what has come to be known as The Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7.

A cover of the little book, Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, which is based on what has come to be known as The Sermon on the Mount, found in Matthew 5-7.

It was in reference to this spirit and practice that Jesus said, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” (Matt. 7:1), and which the little book further explains –

That is, do not make your opinions, your views of duty, your interpretations of Scripture, a criterion for others and in your heart condemn them if they do not come up to your ideal. Do not criticize others, conjecturing as to their motives and passing judgment upon them.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 178

Once again, I am reminded of the similar emphasis of these two disparate authors – Ellen White and William Glasser – the first a spiritual author at the turn of the 20th century and the second a secular author at the turn of the 21st century. Glasser would have resonated with Ellen’s statement, for instance, that –

“The sin that leads to the most unhappy results is a cold, critical, unforgiving spirit.”  Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 181

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It is especially interesting to me just how far the damage of a critical spirit can reach, and how powerful that damage can be. Our personal relationships are hurt when criticism is present, often deeply, but we also need to remember how the spirit of criticism can affect an organization’s atmosphere, and in particular a leader’s strategy within that organization. Religious leaders and churches do not draw a pass here. In fact, it is just the opposite. In the passage that follows, Ellen White describes how criticism morphs into control, and how laws and persecution are the sure result. She writes –

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 ever since 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.

Christ does not drive but draws men unto Him. The only compulsion which He employs is the constraint of love. When the church begins to seek for the support of secular power, it is evident that she is devoid of the power of Christ–the constraint of divine love.  Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 182

Christ does not drive but draws men unto Him.
The only compulsion which He employs is the constraint of love.

Love is the answer, and always has been. Yet how strong the pull is to coerce loved ones into complying with our ideas of what is right. Whether organizationally or individually, though, whenever the spirit of criticism rules the results are disastrous. May we keep from criticizing, judging, blaming, and forcing others to accept our ideas, especially if we are in any way associated with religion.

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I have been receiving a lot of positive feedback on the last post, Desks as Cars. Check it for a great idea about teaching Choice Theory to children.

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If you have read Glasser’s biography, Champion of Choice, would you take a moment and write a review that I can share as part of The Better Plan blog? Sales of the book have been slow in the U.S. Let’s do what we can to let others know of Glasser’s life and ideas.

Desks as Cars. I DID IT!!

A recent email described a great way to share choice theory with children!

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I DID IT!!!!

I finally got enough courage and taught my students the Total Behavior Car!! I thought I’d share with you the how and why 🙂

Since I am leaving my position of K-2 teacher/principal this year I had been thinking a lot about making sure my students were equipped and prepared for change in their life. At our Spring Education Council meeting one of the principal breakouts had been about children and crisis. The main thing we can do to help prepare our children for crisis, they said, is to teach them how to handle, understand and express their emotions. I agreed with all of this since I have been a big fan of choice theory and seen how it has helped me personally over the last 3 years. So now it was time to help prepare my students to express themselves.

I tried on Monday to teach the concept of the Total Behavior Car. It went terribly. It was all on the board and they weren’t engaged. I think I left more frustrated than they were. So back to the drawing board. I didn’t want to make toilet paper cars like I did way back during The Better Plan workshop (too much tiny work and I didn’t have the supplies on hand) and suddenly about an hour before class it came to me! Turn the desks into cars!

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We moved all the desks into their own parking spaces. What kid doesn’t like a mid-day desk move! Then I got out the wheels (big paper plates) and the steering wheel (small paper plates) and we reviewed the car model. On the board I drew the desk and labeled it according to the chart. We talked about how to choose to be happy, smile, think about happy things and then how our body will feel happy and our feelings will follow. They were understanding it! Hurrah! So while they were labeling their wheels I was taping the parking spaces. Then I became a mechanic and taped all their wheels to their desks. I kept them high so they will be constant reminders to them. As they were finishing the wheels I gave them their steering wheels to decorate (making sure they wrote Wants on it, had I more time or resources I might have them cut out pictures of things that are in their quality world?). Then they even got to make their own license plates. They LOVED it. We reviewed at the end how to make our car go where we want it to and how sometimes people can drive it backwards.

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Tomorrow I’ll be going over more emotions and why they come based on wants, actions and thoughts. I plan on ending this unit with the movie Inside Out where we will talk about the emotions and who has control and what she could have done during different parts to change her emotions.

What do you think? Anything I should add? I was just so excited to finally figure out a way to teach it and to no longer be intimidated by it. Yes, I wish I would have taught this in August, but better late than never, right? I’m sticking some pictures in this so you can see what it all looked like.

Blessings!

Sonya

I am really glad that Sonya decided to go for it and venture into the land of Choice Theory implementation. The implementation step is difficult for some reason, yet her story reminds us that implementation is not as hard as we make it out to be and the rewards are worth our becoming vulnerable. We don’t have to be perfect choice theorists to share the ideas with our students. In some ways, our imperfection makes our sharing even more compelling. Students often latch onto to a topic or idea in which they become co-learners with their teacher.

Students often latch onto to a topic or idea in which they become co-learners with their teacher.

When I contacted Sonya to ask if I could share her story on The Better Plan blog, she wrote back –

The students still have their cars and we refer back to the wheels all the time! I can’t believe it took me so long to use. It’s also helping me to reevaluate how I drive my car. Man I love Choice Theory 🙂 Share away!

There is something very powerful about the concept of Total Behavior. It is transformative, for instance, to learn about the relationship between our thinking and our feelings, and to further learn that we can choose what we will think about. Such realities are life-changing.

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

Much is currently being written in educational journals about the importance of social-emotional learning and the value of positive relationships in classrooms. From the very beginning of his career William Glasser was motivated to unlock the mysteries of psychology for everyone on the planet! The concepts of Choice Theory, with Total Behavior being one of its most important concepts, are such an effective way to introduce and nurture the psychological and emotional health of students. Don’t hold this information back. Don’t worry about not being wise enough to teach the concepts. Go for it!

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Changing the System, Not Students

William Glasser was known for his commitment to answering correspondence. He frequently included his contact information on the last pages of books he wrote and invited readers to get in touch with him if they had questions. Given that several of his books were major sellers, including his contact information was no small thing.

Glasser during a talk in Ventura, CA, ten years ago.

Glasser during a talk in Ventura, CA, ten years ago.

William Glasser, Inc. recently shared one of Glasser’s replies to a reader inquiry and I thought many of you would be interested. The person Glasser wrote to was an elementary school principal who attended a workshop Glasser taught in 1995 at the NAESP convention. (National Association of Elementary School Principals)

William Glasser, 1977

William Glasser, 1977

Apparently the principal wanted Glasser to respond to two comments he submitted regarding school discipline. Unfortunately, the two comments were not included with what Glasser, Inc. shared, but you can almost imagine the comments as you read Glasser’s response, which follows –

September 14, 1995

What you are doing is something I no longer have any interest in whatsoever – that is, concerning yourself with discipline problems in school. Certainly, discipline problems could be handled better than they are now which is what your material is leading toward. In that instance, it is reasonably good. I however, don’t believe that we have any solution whatsoever to discipline problems; handling them better or worse. We need to change the school system that is producing the discipline problems because the system doesn’t satisfy the students’ needs. Therefore, I won’t endorse anything that says the word “discipline” on it. I won’t talk about discipline, but will only talk about changing the system. For more information on this idea, you would need to read my books The Quality School and The Control Theory Manager. Those two books explain it best of all.

It is not that people don’t want what you are doing. They do very much. They recognize that there are a lot of discipline problems and would like somebody to come along and tell them how to deal with it a little bit better. But in the end, your ideas won’t work. They won’t work because they are still trying to support the old system, which is really what is making the problem. It is as if people are falling into a ditch in front of the hospital and finally, the surgeon says, “how come all these broken legs are coming in” and the nurse says, “well, they’re falling into a ditch in front of the hospital” and the surgeon says “well, let’s stop operating for a little bit and go down and fill up the ditch.” That is what we have to do. We can’t figure out better surgical procedures, we have to fill up the ditch.

I hope you understand that you should move toward changing the system and not help a bad system to survive by blaming the student. The students who have discipline problems have every right to be upset. The school doesn’t work for them. We can’t change them if we want to succeed – we have to change the schools.

I’m sure you are disappointed in this letter because you are a good person with good ideas. But your ideas in my opinion are obsolete. Maybe one hundred years ago we had a few discipline problems and we could focus on them, but now we have schools where all the children are out of order. I just worked in one this last year in Cincinnati. No discipline program, yours or anyone else’s would have worked. We changed the system and the problems disappeared. It was hard work, but it shows that what I’m saying makes good sense.

Cordially,

William Glasser, M.D.

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This 1995 letter provided a clue as to how adamant Glasser was about focusing on changing the school program, rather than focusing on disciplining kids into compliance. He came to feel so strongly about this focus that at the 1996 Glasser convention he officially rejected all school discipline plans and explained that those who wanted to work in his organization would have to reject them, too. My purpose in sharing this information here is not to rehash the details of this decision, but instead to consider the real value in Glasser’s points. (If you are interested the details of the 1996 declaration, which led to a significant schism in the organization, the topic is covered in depth in his biography – Champion of Choice (2014))

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I agree with Glasser completely that schools need to focus on becoming need-satisfying places for students. Anything less than creating a classroom and a curriculum based on student needs ultimately leads to underperformance, boredom, resentment, and misbehavior. Such schools are possible and the results are inspiring. Whether nearby, like New Tech High School in Napa, California, or far away, like schools in Finland, examples of effective student-centered schools are there for the observing and the copying. (See the video clip that follows.)

 

I think it is worth clarifying that even schools that focus on becoming need-satisfying in their curriculum and instruction will benefit from having in place appropriate procedures and rules. When Glasser decried discipline plans he was concerned about schools forcing students into complying with expectations that didn’t take their needs into account. He didn’t mean that schools should become “structureless” in the process. Appropriate procedures remind students of the way things are done, and in the process help to prevent problems from even occurring in the first place. Procedures help us in a lot of ways throughout the day – driving procedures, standing in line at the store procedures, and supervising your dog at the park procedures, to name a few – and they can help us at school, too. Rules, on the other hand, are meant to identify behaviors that are not allowed because they are hurtful to others (bullying), destructive to property (vandalism) or that seek unfair advantage (cheating). Broken rules are rare in a choice theory classroom, but the rules still need to be stated.

The real issue lies in how procedures and rules are applied. Broken rules in a traditional classroom lead to blame and punishment; while broken rules in a choice theory classroom lead to problem-solving and restoration of trust. The book Education, written in 1900, describes this process well –

“The true object of reproof is gained only when the wrongdoer himself is led to see his fault and his will is enlisted for its correction. When this is accomplished point him to the source of pardon and power. Seek to preserve his self-respect and to inspire him with courage and hope.”   Education, p. 292

Educators will have to decide for themselves regarding their expectations and plans for classroom management. Glasser stated strongly that any management plans based on the idea that students are the problem and that they need to be fixed will not be successful, and in fact will be destructive to student success. His battle cry was to change the whole system of how we teach and work with students. It seems to me that the effective use of procedures in the classroom is a part of changing the system. (For more on classroom procedures, check out Classroom Management (2015), by Harry Wong.)

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The Devil Made Me Do It

Flip Wilson

Flip Wilson

Flip Wilson, a comedian who many saw as “television’s first Black superstar,” became known for his hilarious skits that often included the phrase, “the devil made me do it!” People laughed as Geraldine (one of the characters Wilson often portrayed) described some fix she had gotten into or some misbehavior she had done, only to lament with great conviction that the devil had made her do it. (The following 3-minute audio recording captures Geraldine’s view of things quite well.)

 

Language is a powerful influence in our lives, not only in how our words affect others, but also in how our words affect us. Words affect the hearer; words affect the speaker. Our vocabulary very much becomes of a part of how we see the world. What we can put into words contributes to our forming a picture of what we see. This process is especially obvious as toddlers begin to communicate, as well as with ELL students in a school setting. As humans we see and perceive through our vocabulary.

We chuckle at Wilson’s emphasizing that the devil made him do it, but we can be just as capable of blaming something or someone else for our attitudes or behavior. “He makes me so mad,” we might hear, or “that makes me so happy” a friend will bubble. The words reflect a worldview that things outside of us control our thinking. The words confirm our belief that things outside of us make us behave one way or another.

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Choice theory reminds us that other people or circumstances don’t make us do anything. Circumstances may influence our decisions, but ultimately we choose a behavior that we think will best work for us at that moment. Choice theory also reminds us that the words we commonly use can help or hinder our mental health (i.e. – our levels of contentment and optimism vs. our levels of dissatisfaction and unhappiness).

YouMakeMeHappy_TlcCreations

This is why Glasser loved verbs, even changing nouns to verbs as part of his desire to make a point. Instead of anger or being angry, Glasser explained how it is better to say I am angering or I am choosing to anger. It is interesting how powerful our words can be and how much they can influence our perception of things. Choice theory accepts that angering is an option, we just need to accept responsibility for it and not blame someone or something outside of us for our attitude.

On a spiritual note, Flip Wilson’s phrase – the devil made me do it – brought a passage to my mind from the little book Steps to Christ. It goes like this –

When Christ took human nature upon Him, He bound humanity to Himself by a tie of love that can never be broken by any power save the choice of man himself. Satan will constantly present allurements to incline us to break this tie—to choose to separate ourselves from Christ. Here is where we need to watch, to strive, to pray, that nothing may entice us to choose another master; for we are always free to do this. But let us keep our fixed upon Christ, and He will preserve us. Looking unto Jesus, we are safe. Nothing can pluck us out of His hand. In constantly beholding Him, we “are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord. II Cor. 3:18           Steps to Christ, p. 72

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The devil can “present allurements” and can “entice,” but although Flip Wilson says otherwise, the devil can’t make us do anything. He certainly can’t separate us from God. As Steps to Christ points out, Jesus is bound to humanity by a tie of love that no power can break! No power on earth can break it, nor can any power throughout the universe. The only way this tie can be broken is if we, as individuals, choose to break it.

Choice theory wants us to use verbs as much as possible and learn to live responsibly, that is, to take ownership of our thinking and our behaving, rather than quickly blaming others. Living responsibly has a profoundly positive effect on our relationships with others, our relationship with God, and ultimately our outlook on life.

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Click on the book to quickly access it on Amazon.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.

Feelings Are Weather

Donald Miller

Donald Miller

Donald Miller, the author of Blue Like Jazz (2003), A Million Miles in a Thousand Years (2009), and many other books, recently tweeted –

I think the love we build is much more reliable than the love we feel. Feelings are weather.

The tweet immediately got me to thinking, especially that concise little sentence: “Feelings are weather.” To what extent, I wondered, is the tweet choice theory friendly or choice theory accurate. My mind tends to go there when I read a tweet or a blog or a story or an article or even when I watch a movie. Feelings are weather. Hmm . . .

Let’s see how far we can take the weather metaphor.

+ Weather can be mild or it can be extremely powerful. Choice theorists would agree that feelings are sometimes mild and sometimes overwhelmingly – at least it feels overwhelming – powerful.

Hurricane_Fran_sept_1996

+ Weather can quickly change, while at other times we can anticipate changes days in advance. Our feelings can be the same way.

+ Weather can’t be controlled, although I can choose my response to it. I can’t stop the rain, but I can grab an umbrella. I can’t cool the sun, but I can wear a hat. Choice theory teaches us that we cannot directly control our feelings, but that we can control our thinking and our acting. Because the four parts of our behavior – thinking, acting, feeling, and body physiology – always come into alignment, our feelings and our physiology will ultimately come into alignment with the part of our behavior we can control, that being our thinking and our acting.

(As I write this on Sabbath morning, October 3, 2015, at 9:00 am, the weather in Angwin is warm and calm, a beautiful morning actually, yet reports are indicating a fire advisory this evening into tomorrow morning with high winds and gusts up to 50 mph. As you can tell, I am interested in the weather.)

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+ We are aware of and monitor the weather constantly. If you are having an outdoor wedding and it’s taking place next week you will be especially interested in weather forecasts. Similarly, we monitor our feelings constantly.

There is no question that feelings, our emotions, play a big role in our moment-to-moment, day-to-day lives. The real question has to do with the level of importance we assign to our feelings and the extent to which we let them hold sway over our picture of our reality. Given the number of people caught up in self-medicating behaviors, including the pursuit of drugs to artificially modify emotions, it appears that a lot of us are believing whatever our feelings are telling us. Some of us, it appears, place so much importance on our feelings that we let them have far too much influence on our sense of wellbeing.

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

The tires on a car are used to represent the four parts of total behavior.

One of Glasser’s most important contributions, and one of his unique contributions, is the concept of total behavior. As much as any of his ideas, the concept of total behavior describes the role of feelings in our lives and helps us understand the ways in which we can influence them or on the other hand be a victim of them.

Total behavior proposes the following key ideas –

+ All we (human beings) do is behave.

+ All behavior is purposeful.

+ All (or each) behavior is made of four parts – Thinking, Acting, Feeling, and Physiology.

+ We have direct control over our thinking and our acting.

+ We have indirect control over our feelings and our physiology.

Every behavior is made up of these four parts, and more importantly, the four parts, based on our focus, will come into alignment with each other. We all experience this alignment process throughout every day –

+ I THINK a bike ride will be good for me; I ACT by getting on the bike and heading down the hill; I begin to FEEL freer and empowered; and my PHYSIOLOGY (heart rate, perspiration, breathing, etc.) matches the demands placed on my body in the process.

+ I FEEL tense and anxious; my PHYSIOLOGY includes a clenched stomach and a tight chest (two of a number of body responses); my THINKING focuses on reasons to be afraid or angry; and I ACT by going home, grabbing high fat/high sugar foods, and distracting myself in front of the TV.

+ I FEEL frustrated and resentful; I acknowledge the feeling, but THINK it is time for me to talk with the person with whom I am frustrated; I ACT by using the caring habits of Accepting and Negotiating Differences; and my PHYSIOLOGY, momentarily heading toward high blood pressure and muscular tightness, remains at reasonable levels.

Keep in mind that we don’t have direct control over our feelings (or the weather). We can intensify our feelings by (through our thinking) affirming them and even nurturing them, but why not head in a better direction. Since we can directly control our thinking and our actions, why not focus on the best versions of ourselves we can be.

I think Donald Miller was right – feelings are weather.

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For insights into how to navigate life, including the continual debate over gun control, check out Glasser’s biography.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.

Willie, Ya Gotta Get Into the Spiritual Thing

Like many I was saddened when I heard of Wayne Dyer’s passing, but hearing his name also brought back some Glasser interview memories for me. I began the interviews with Glasser for his biography in late 2003. During several of our early interviews Glasser talked about Dyer. He had attended one of Dyer’s presentations and was very glad that Dyer had written a cover endorsement for the book Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous to Your Mental Health. Not being all that knowledgeable myself, I mentioned to Glasser that I was surprised that he was so interested in getting an endorsement from Dyer when I felt that Glasser was so much more well known than Dyer. Glasser assured me that wasn’t the case. He realized that Dyer could tap into a spiritual market that he himself could not.

Bill in office 1, Mar, 07

In his own words from our very first interview on September 26, 2003 –

Glasser:  I’m still pretty healthy, and this, this Maine thing, that could be a big deal. They really want me there. They’ve heard me. I’ve been a big speaker at the ACA two years in a row. I’m speaking at the Michigan ACA in October, Wisconsin in February, these are big states, and then in March the state of Maine. And then, and then, a few days later I’m going from the state of Maine to the national, where I’m making four presentations now. And Mark Polk, the head of them, is firmly behind me and trying to get these ideas going. So I think there’s going to be some positive movement. I think it’s really, it’s really going to happen. And Wayne Dyer, that’s his letter, I read it, but, when I was on with him and, and you know, he had his daughter there and she sings and he was singing and all this thing, but he’s a really . . . Wayne Dyer is a good guy. His latest book is called There’s A Spiritual Solution to Every Problem. And, but when he describes what the spiritual solution is, it’s a relationship not only with God, but with the people around you. And so, uh, and then he recognized me in front of the audience. I had never met him, although he said, he said in the group, it was a big meeting there, and he said to the audience, that when he was starting out he had read two books and these books got him started on his path. One of them was Reality Therapy and the second was Schools Without Failure. He was working at that time in schools, I think. He then picked me out of the audience and had me stand up, and then explained how Dr. Glasser has written a new book called Warning: Psychiatry Can Be Hazardous To Your Mental Health. He gave me a very good plug and that was wonderful, but uh . . .

Roy:  Where did this . . .

Glasser: This was in a conference in Ohio, in Cleveland, which was a spirituality conference, and uh, he’s . . . he’s spiritual, but he’s spiritual in a very tangible way. He’s not spiritual in that you should sit around and pray. You should go out and do your work, and, I can’t describe exactly, but boy the audience was mesmerized by it. And he talked about getting in touch with your spiritual side.

Roy:  Is he spiritual but non-religious, or is he a . . .

Glasser:  Well he mentions Jesus, but he mentions other religious leaders, too. It’s not, it’s not just one . . . he said that all religions kind of have a common core, which is basically to me the common core of all religions, if they practice properly, is the golden rule. I mean, I’m a firm believer in the golden rule. And anyway, I wrote him a letter afterwards, a nice little short letter. I don’t know what his letter says, and I don’t want to read it cuz I might be upset and it would screw up our thing here. But Linda says it’s a very good letter. That’s what she said. I said I’d appreciate it, because you have such a powerful influence on people, if you could, without mentioning me or the Warning book, cause I don’t want to ask him to push me or the book. If he would just say that he, too, has serious doubts about the overdrugging of people in our society, that would be enough. And I think he’s going to, which would be good because I saw how the people were just absolutely entranced by everything he said. I don’t threaten him at all, because he’s way, way too powerful and well known for me to threaten him. I’m one of the people on whose back he’s riding, you know what you said, because I’m about twenty years older than him, a little more than twenty. No, no, no, fifteen years exactly. Fifteen years older than him. He’s 63 and I’m 78. But, uh, so now if he’s going to get behind it, it could be very, very powerful. So I’ll read what he says and then I’ll write him back and support him a little bit. See he doesn’t use a computer. He only writes by pen.

Roy:  Really.

Glasser:  Yeh, see that letter. That’s the only way he writes, so, so he doesn’t use, and he wrote me, the blurb was all by pen, and he says he doesn’t want to use a computer. There’s something for him that’s unspiritual about the machine, but to me there’s something super spiritual about the machine. (laughter)

A young Bill Glasser and one year old, Joe, his first child. (circa 1952)

A young Bill Glasser and one year old, Joe, his first child. (circa 1952)

The first four books that Glasser wrote were by hand – Mental Health or Mental Illness (1960); Reality Therapy (1965); Schools Without Failure (1969); and The Identity Society (1972). He really appreciated being able to use a word processor for his writing. The handwritten Dyer endorsement that Glasser refers to appeared on the front cover of the Warning book and went like this –

“Dr. Glasser is a pioneer in every sense of the word. This is his most powerful contribution. We are being bombarded by the drug companies to put drugs into our brains to cure any and all difficulties. Dr. Glasser offers us a sensible preferred alternative to being drugged as our way of coping with life.” Wayne W. Dyer

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During our second interview on October 17, 2003, Dyer’s name came up again.

Roy:  The last time we were together you were very, very pleased, actually, because of a fax from Wayne Dyer . . .

Glasser:  Oh yeh. Yeh.

Roy:  . . . that indicated that he was planning to say something on a PBS special, I think in support of your ideas. The thing that caught my attention was how you went on about how big this was, and how big and important he was, you felt he was way bigger than you are . . .

Glasser:  Right now, yes I think he is. I saw his audience of 400 people, when I had about 120 people in my group. He had more than twice the group that I had when I was in Cleveland. It was packed, and, I mean, they’re just hanging on his every word. Now Wayne Dyer has something that I don’t have, that I can’t have because I have a different belief system. Wayne Dyer’s book is, There’s a Spiritual Solution for Every Problem.

Roy:   Right, right.

Glasser:   And, my friend Frank, who’s just a moneymaker, he says, Willie, you gotta get into the spiritual part, you’re missing . . . (laughter) So, that’s, that’s what I’m using you for, you’re gonna, you’re gonna get me into the spiritual part here. (more laughter)

Roy:  Well I, I don’t know if I’ve shared this with you, but I actually, uh, I actually think of you as a secular Christian.

Glasser:   (he chuckles) That’d be ok.

Roy:   You know, because you’re . . .

Glasser:   (chuckles again) I’m, I’m a secular Jew, too. (laughter)

Roy:   Yeh, when I’m, so much of what I have observed, and so much of what I’ve read, uh, your ideas actually strengthen my Christian perspective, and uh . . .

Glasser:  Yeh, I’m basically, really, I’m not a selfish person. I’ve never been. I’m willing to do this work for nothing and help people.

Nick Cummings, another giant in the mental health field, and Bill Glasser. (circa 2005)

Nick Cummings, another giant in the mental health field, and Bill Glasser. (circa 2005)

I guess you can say that Glasser stayed true to his agnostic underpinning, even as he recognized that he could have made some significant money catering to a spiritual audience. I think Dyer was staying true to his underpinning, too. As listeners and readers we seek information and experiences that help us make sense of the world, and that help us achieve personal satisfaction and peace. People relate to Dyer and to Glasser on a deeply personal level. I have found help from Glasser’s ideas as I travel on my spiritual journey even though he never presented himself as a spiritual guru.

Glasser respected Dyer as a fellow lecturer and author who wanted to help people make the most of their potential and live lives of happiness and peace. They said things differently and they reached a different audience, but they saw tremendous value in each other. I know that my life is better because of their influence.

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One of the best ways to learn about choice theory is to read Glasser’s recently published biography – Champion of Choice.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser's ideas and his career.

The book that connects the dots of William Glasser’s ideas and his career.

20 Dyer Quotes To Help You Become a Better You

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A recent article* saying good-by to Wayne Dyer (he passed away on August 29) listed 20 of his quotes to “Help You Become a Better You.” They appear below. You will hear echoes of choice theory as you read them. There was a Dyer / Glasser connection, which I will say more about in the next blog post.

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When Glasser passed away two years ago several of us wrote farewell messages, but as I recall there were no farewells that featured some of Glasser’s quotes. A neat idea that I might work on in the future. In the meantime, cherish a good thought toward Dr. Dyer as you reflect on his beliefs –

“Circumstances do not make a man, they reveal him.”

“If you believe it will work out, you’ll see opportunities. If you believe it won’t you will see obstacles.”

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

“With everything that has happened to you, you can feel sorry for yourself or treat what has happened as a gift. Everything is either an opportunity to grow or an obstacle to keep you from growing. You get to choose.”

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“Go for it now. The future is promised to no one.”

“When I chased after money, I never had enough. When I got my life on purpose and focused on giving of myself and everything that arrived into my life, then I was prosperous.”

“Stop acting as if life is a rehearsal. Live this day as if it were your last. The past is over and gone. The future is not guaranteed.”

“Everything you are against weakens you. Everything you are empowers you.”

“How people treat you is their karma. How you react is yours.”

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“You cannot be lonely if you like the person you’re alone with.”

“Procrastination is one of the most common and deadliest of diseases and its toll on success and happiness is heavy.”

“There is no scarcity of opportunity to make a living at what you love. There’s only scarcity of resolve to make it happen.”

“You leave old habits behind by starting out with the thought, ‘I release the need for this in my life.’”

“The fact that you are willing to say, ‘I do not understand, and it is fine,’ is the greatest understanding you could exhibit.”

“When you judge another, you do not define them, you define yourself.”

“You may have convinced yourself that giving is impossible because you have too little for yourself. If you are not generous when it is difficult, you will not be generous when it is easy. Generosity is a function of the heart, not the wallet.”

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“It’s never crowded along the extra mile.”

“Peace is the result of retraining your mind to process life as it is, rather than as you think it should be.”

“When the choice is to be right or to be kind, always make the choice that brings peace.”

“When you squeeze an orange, orange juice comes out, because that’s what’s inside. When you are squeezed, what comes out is what is inside.”

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Which of these beliefs especially speak to you? Which of them seem to especially reflect the values and principles of choice theory? Which of them could be made into a poster and placed on the wall of your classroom?

* The original article can be found at this link – Remembering Wayne Dyer – 20 Quotes to Help You Become a Better You

The Last Soul Shapers

The Soul Shapers 1 class I teach each summer at Pacific Union College begins on Monday (6-22-15) and I plan on it being the last one. No more Soul Shapers for me. I’ve taught the class for 10 summers in a row, ever since the Soul Shapers book was first published, and this is it. Soul Shapers is about to be history.

Last summer's Soul Shapers 1 class. (2014)

Last summer’s Soul Shapers 1 class. (2014)

Truth be told, the only thing that I want to be history is the label Soul Shapers. I look forward to future summer classes and in-services across the U.S. and beyond, but I want them to be billed using a different title. I want them to be billed as The Better Plan. I am as convinced and enthusiastic as ever about the ideas and principles of choice theory, and I am as committed as ever to sharing choice theory with others. Labels are important, though, and The Better Plan is accurate, whereas the title Soul Shapers is not.

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Glasser faced something similar with the label control theory, a story with which I was completely familiar, so it is interesting to me that I could have gotten into the same situation. Glasser adopted the label control theory during his initial work with William Powers in the late 70s, but eventually changed the label to choice theory in the late 90s. (His book Choice Theory was published in 1998.) He was frustrated with the label control theory, partly because he frequently had to explain how the theory was about self-control, not about controlling others. The internal vs. external control issue is so important to grasp and apply that Glasser wanted the label of his ideas to contribute to an accurate understanding.

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I got into the label situation because I wasn’t assertive enough to push for what I wanted. When you sign a publishing contract you pretty much sign away the rights to the book, including whatever the title of the book will be. My experience has been, though, that publishers don’t bulldoze their way to the title they prefer. They want your input. I was contacted early on by a rep from the Review & Herald (one of the main publishing houses of the Seventh-day Adventist church at the time; it has since gone out of business) and excitedly told that they had come up with a title for my manuscript. She then told me the book would be called The Blind-Folded Dolphin. I said “Excuse me?” One of the anecdotes I shared in the book referred to the dolphin show at Marine World and the manner in which the dolphins use echo-location to navigate (p. 33). While I like dolphins a lot, I didn’t want the book to be titled that way. The rep was not pleased with my response, but begrudgingly said they would keep working on it. (The working title of the manuscript I initially submitted was The Better Plan, but apparently that title wasn’t grabbing them.)

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When they called later with a new title, Soul Shapers, I must have been so relieved that it wasn’t based on fish (ok, mammals) that I went for it. When I later received my 10 free copies of the book (as the author) it was the first time I had seen its cover – the title, the graphics, and the color scheme. There was a richness about its look – the layout and colors were very good – however as I considered the title and the graphics my heart sank a bit.

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As agreed, in bold, large letters, the title Soul Shapers is prominently featured. And then below the title is a picture of a cookie-cutter in the shape of a heart, with what appears to be a child inside the heart. The implications of this title and graphic began to form in my awareness. In the world of tools and gadgets there are few items more externally-controlling than a cookie-cutter. It’s sharp, strong edges push into the soft dough and form an exact, very particular shape. The large words above the cookie-cutter, Soul Shapers, complete the supposed message of the book – teachers and parents are externally shaping the souls and characters of the children in their care. In some ways, it would be challenging to come up with a more inaccurate title.

Soul Shapers cover

The message of the book is that every person is responsible for the shaping of their own character, and that as teachers and parents our role is to guide and support children as they begin the journey of self-control and character formation. It is a delicate process based on free will and choice. As adults our goal is to reveal to children the details of their own personal internal control systems. There is no greater gift we can endow to them. The Soul Shaper book was meant to alert readers to the ways in which Scripture, Ellen White, and William Glasser emphasize this internal control system.

Ellen White, who wrote at the turn of the last century, explained that –

True character is not shaped from without, and put on; it radiates from within. Desire of Ages, p. 307

You yourselves are responsible for the kind of character you build.   Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 245

“Every child should understand the true force of the will… The will is the governing power in the nature of man, the power of decision, or choice.”           Education, p. 289

The sub-title of Soul Shapers is A Better Plan for Parents and Educators. When the publisher let me know I responded “Why not use the original phrase and refer to it as The Better Plan, rather than A Better Plan?” They explained that using the word “the” makes it sound like this plan is the only way or the one best way and that the letter “a” made it sound more reasonable, like it was just one of many ways to accomplish what was needed. I responded that “the better plan” was not my phrase, not something that I came up with, but that it was directly from the pen of Ellen White. As you can see the cover ended up with “A” Better Plan. Sigh.

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The Ellen White quote that originally alerted me to the better plan, and more importantly to the principles of the better plan, is such a powerful choice theory statement. It goes like this –

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

“The better plan” is about helping students to recognize and apply their own internal control guidance systems. Sadly, she admits that teachers who help students in this way will be misunderstood and underappreciated. This is significant. How much more clearly can this be said?

Born in an Adventist home, educated in Adventist schools, having served in Adventist education my entire career, yes, I have heard the term “blueprint for Adventist education.” My dad was an Adventist preacher who was very, very supportive of Adventist education and I heard him refer to the “blueprint” more than once. As it turns out, though, I have never seen this blueprint. The closest I have come to seeing something like a blueprint is this phrase “the better plan,” an approach that has everything to do with the principles of internal control and choice theory. This is the direction we need to head together.

And so this is the last time I am going to teach a class called Soul Shapers. I like The Better Plan a lot better.

 

 

Being What We Want Our Students to Become

The sun was in my eyes. Not all pictures can be great pictures. The important thing is I got a shot in front of a place that's important to me.

The sun was in my eyes. What can I say? Not all pictures can be great pictures. The important thing is I got a shot in front of a place that’s important to me.

I was privileged this past Thursday and Friday (June 11-12) to provide a Better Plan in-service to the staff at Livingstone Adventist Academy in Salem, Oregon. This was especially meaningful to me as my choice theory journey and the Soul Shaper book came out of my experience at Livingstone 20 years ago. I was principal of the school from 93-96. While several teachers (I always refer to the team I worked with as the Original Soul Shapers) from the mid-90s continued at the school until very recently, only one remains now, that being Chris Sequeira, who teaches History and Bible there. I was very pleased that the new team at Livingstone wants to learn about choice theory principles and consider ways to apply them in a classroom setting.

Chris Sequeira (on the right) and me in his classroom after the in-service was over, and just before we bid farewell to each other - him to see his daughter graduate from Walla Walla and me to head to PUC for graduation weekend.

Chris Sequeira (on the right) and me in his classroom after the in-service was over, and just before we bid farewell to each other – him to see his daughter graduate from Walla Walla and me to head to PUC for graduation weekend.

With the in-service behind me now, like school teachers and workshop facilitators around the world, I am now in that place called reflection. How did the workshop really go? What did I do or what took place that worked? What could be improved? What needs to be tweaked to make it better the next time I do a two-day training? Reflection is the act of self-evaluating, and self-evaluation is a powerful part of choice theory. It’s not about beating myself up over not covering as much content as I wanted to, or not covering a concept as effectively as I would have liked. It’s about authentically (and compassionately) reviewing what took place and then modifying my lesson plan for the next go at it. I did the best I could; now I think maybe my best can be better.

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The team at Livingstone seemed to resonate with the choice theory concepts. Most of them had read some or all of Soul Shapers before the in-service, so that helped. They had questions about some of the psychology pieces, but I didn’t pick up any “dealbreaker”responses. Their real questions, the tougher questions, had to do with how do you put these ideas into action? How, for instance, do you use choice theory with five-year-olds? How would choice theory affect classroom management in a high school classroom? What do you do with the kid who refuses to respond to reasonable choices or additional chances for success? These kinds of questions are similar to the challenges we all face. Choice theory sounds good, but how does it really work?

The title and subtitle on the syllabus I used at Livingstone read:

The Better Plan
Being What We Want Our Students to Become

The subtitle came to me as I was putting the finishing touches on the handouts, but the more I think about it the more I like it. There’s a lot contained in the phrase, “Being what we want our students to become.” For one thing, as teachers and parents we tend to focus on the behavior of our children or our students. In other words, we focus on what we want them to become. Choice theory reminds us, though, indeed thoroughly explains the importance of our first focusing on ourselves and what we bring to our homes and classrooms. Choice theory emphasizes the value of understanding our own being – our thoughts, our goals, our habits, and our beliefs. Only as I come into an appreciation of my own internal control design can I share the theory of that design with my students. Only as I come to see the sense of the axiom that the only person I can control is myself will I be better able to implement a classroom management plan that honors the internal control design of each of my students.

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Our first focusing on our “being” as teachers does not mean that we cannot seek to guide and influence the behavior of our students. It is always interesting, though, when we consider how our own thinking and acting may have been a part of creating the problem we want changed. The clearer we see ourselves the better our management strategies will be.

Like Ellen White wrote over a hundred years ago –

“Let it never be forgotten that the teacher must be what he desires his pupils to become.”                Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 58

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Not that I want to compete with Amazon, but I can beat (sounds competitive) the Amazon price when it comes to the Glasser biography – Champion of Choice. Amazon’s price right now for the book and shipping is $30.17. My price for the book and first class shipping is $26, plus I will sign the book if you request it. (Media Mail shipping would be less.) Get in touch with me to order your copy at jimroyglasserbio@gmail.com. Expedite the order by sending me a check for $26, along with shipping instructions, to P. O. Box 933, Angwin, CA 94508.

I can now sell for lower than Amazon. Get the book from me.

I can now sell for lower than Amazon. Let me know if you want one or several copies.

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