Sunday, February 24, 2013

Principal's blog

My colleague Gwen Sands is the principal of Peregian Springs on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland.  She writes a blog each week as it pertains to her school and to elements of Choice Theory.

This weeks blog article is about the behaviours we model.

We need to be so careful of what we say and do.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Choice Theory in New Zealand: Repeat Offenders

Choice Theory in New Zealand: Repeat Offenders:   According to the New Zealand Department of Corrections website,  one in every two prisoners is re-convicted and re-imprisoned within f...

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Tips for Reality Therapy

I subscribe to a blog by Jesse Stoner and there was an article about engaging and enthusing employees.  I thought the three tips to do this were valuable when thinking about Reality Therapy.  They were; asking juicy questions, making silence your friend and proving you are listening.

It is said that if you know the answer to the question it is not Reality Therapy. If we ask a question that is 'juicy' it promotes deep thinking.  We know it promotes deep thinking when the client's focus becomes distant, they look thoughtful, contemplative and there is a small, yet visible change in energy.

Giving space for silence for some is uncomfortable. The self evaluation that occurs in the silence can also be uncomfortable for the client and we tend to rescue with suggestions or prompts to fill the space.  Yet silence can be the most powerful part of the process.  It gives the space for the client to think deeply.  This silence comes after the juicy questions. Waiting for the thinking to occur is so important. 

Clients know you are really hearing what they are saying when you use their response to frame your next question. 

The use of metaphor also helps the client know that you are really hearing what they are saying.  It has the power to summarise the feelings with a simple phrase that can really hit home for the client.

"So you are feeling like a doormat?  That everyone is walking over you.  Is that what you  want?"

Using these three ways of engaging our clients in Reality Therapy can lead to better outcomes for the client.  Is that what we want?

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Winners and losers

This weekend I was talking with a group about the behaviours used by athletes when their scales were well and truly tilted; when what they wanted (a gold medal) did not match what they got (a silver medal). 

It is understandable that they choose to be upset.  When you put your all into preparing for a single moment in time and you don’t match that picture, the frustration signal is strong. There is an urge to behave, to get the scales back into balance.  

We also talked about making Plan B if you don’t get what you want.  This is not part of sport psychology and is based on the underlying belief that if you think even for one second that you will not achieve gold you will have no show of getting it.

The recent book review in the Choice in Action newsletter for the William Glasser Institute-New Zealand, Mindset:  The New Psychology of Success by Carol Dwek, professor of developmental psychology at Standford University writes about two mindsets.  The Fixed Mindset is the mindset that you have no control over your choices.  Someone with a fixed mindset thinks that they have permanent traits like intelligence and talents and they feel the need to prove themselves over and over again. They tend to rely on external reinforcement and choose to do things that they know they will succeed with.

On the other hand the person with a Growth Mindset sees things as a challenge to be overcome. Being given a grade of C+ to people with a fixed mindset would result in self doubt and self criticism, and attempts to protect their ego.  Someone with a growth mindset would think “I just need to try harder to bring this grade up.”

Dwek says “ You have a choice. Mindsets are just beliefs.” This book goes on to suggest the way in which we can help children to develop a growth mindset.

According to this theory the way in which someone with a fixed mindset deals with frustration is different.  Perhaps this might explain some of the chosen behaviours of the athletes as they win and lose in their chosen events. 

 Kate Downton from Western Australia made the following comments on Facebook.
 I am absolutely appalled at the Olympics coverage by the 9 Network. To say to a young man who has just come 2nd in an Olympic final; "James you must be so disappointed, what happened?" - how disgusting!
 How about - "Congratulations, a silver medal at the Olympics, you've got to be happy with that."

What hope do our children have when they see this being said to an Australian coming 2nd at the Olympics. How are they going to feel when they come 3rd at their school sports carnival?

How about rewarding what is, not focusing on what isn't. I want my children to grow up in a world that celebrates achievement - whatever it is.  Even the athletes coming last - they are still one of the best in the world.             And this should be celebrated.
 Learning to deal with frustration and learning to think with a growth mindset in the face of defeat are skills that can be taught.    

Friday, July 27, 2012

The Symbolism and Hope of the London Olympic Games

While watching the march-past (perhaps these days more of a walk past) of the athletes at the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games in London, the countries reminded me of students in a classroom.  Each country has its specialty – Ethiopia in distance events, Ghana in boxing, Guam in wrestling, the multi talented Australian team in many fields of sport. The look of pride on the face of the flag bearers, the pinnacle alongside the gold medal, says it all.

There are countries that have yet to win a medal, marching along with countries that have won many.  There are countries like Greece dealing with financial challenges at home and countries like Egypt with recent political upheaval.  They all come with that same sense of pride at representing their country.

There are many who have overcome such difficulties in their personal lives to get to where they are today. 

Each child comes to the classroom with a specialty.  Joseph for being a kind and gentle boy; Wendy is good at maths and science; Jason specialises in manipulating and controlling others.

That sense of pride is evident in the faces of these students as they begin to achieve something productive.  Some are yet to achieve that ‘medal’.  Perhaps that ‘medal’ is being able to read well, or solve mathematical problems, or managing in difficult situations.  Perhaps it might be getting along with others without resorting to power-over.

The preparation, the support from home is not always there for some children.  It is easy to blame parents for this, but this does not mean that they cannot achieve the results of others at schools.  It doesn’t take a special teacher to be able to reach and extend some children who do not learn in the same way on the same day.  That is our job. Meeting the needs of students and taking them from where they are to what they can become; successful, medal winning, vibrant learners

Just like champions in the world of sport, we need to believe that every child is a champion and that they can achieve, given the right opportunities. In a classroom that values and teaches harmony, friendship, respect and fair play every student can succeed.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

External Control Language

Becoming aware of our language is an important part of learning to implement Choice Theory in our lives. We are immersed in a world where people use blaming and threatening language to get what they want.  We often unconsciously use language that comes from external control.   

Some of the words we use out of habit include the following.

Made me  

"She made me angry"  "It makes me..."

Katy Perry's song "The One That Got Away" has a chorus that says

And in another life, I would make you stay, 
So I don't have to say you were the one that got away

In essence we cannot make someone do something that they don't want to do

Have to     

 "Firstly you have to ..."   "He has to be..." 

Sarah Mclachlan in her song “Do What You Have To Do” says

I know I can't be with you, 
 I do what I have to do

We are surrounded by external control language.  Bringing to a conscious level what we are saying is the first step eliminating these words from our vocabulary.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Thank you for believing in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.

This blog by Megan is the second in the series.  Ahmed was a Year 11 student who had been suspended twice for disruptive behaviour.                
Ahmed was one of the cool guys. He was tall, good looking, confident, well- spoken, street smart, other kids followed him and looked up to him. If he had an idea, the others followed him. He was a leader, but going in the wrong direction. He was a dude, a gang leader and wore a gold chain and trendy clothes.
He was in the lowest English class in Year 11 and only attended class once a week if he felt like it. When he came, he understood more of the text than any other students who had attended every lesson. He answered questions correctly and with insight and intelligence. But, he was failing badly, and the teachers didn’t like him. He was demoralised and on the verge of being expelled for smoking, drugs, non-attendance and disrespect towards authority.                     
I had ONE conversation with Ahmed to handle this problem. It took about 7 – 10  minutes of my time outside of class one day in a relaxed fashion.
Here is the conversation outline:
Megan: Hi Ahmed, I was wondering if it’s a good time to talk with you now? (respecting)
Ahmed: I suppose so. What’s it about?
Megan: Well, I’ve heard that you’ve been having some troubles recently and …. I’m a bit concerned about you. Can you tell me what the problems is? (I am telling him that I want to listen to him)
Ahmed: (relaxes when he sees I’m interested in his version and I’m not going to yell at him) Well, I keep getting caught for things that I do wrong. I don’t really mean to do them, but …. (trails off)
Megan: hmmmm. Anything else? (opportunity to express himself and I will listen – he feels a sense of being cared for and being important)
Ahmed: All the teachers are against me! I can’t do anything right. I feel like shit … oops, sorry Miss. I mean, you know what I mean right? (looks dejected)
Megan: Well, actually, yes, I think I do. (understand and accepting/validation) (He looks surprised at my response)
Megan: Once you do something wrong, it’s hard to prove to people that you can do something good, isn’t it?
Ahmed: I think it’s impossible.
Megan: Perhaps you’re right.
Megan: Look, maybe there might be a solution. Would you be interested in hearing it – I have a few ideas.
Ahmed: well, ok but I don’t know how much good it’ll do.
Megan: Well, I listened to you, right?
He agrees.
Megan: Well, this is what I see when I look at you. I think that you’re very intelligent. You don’t come to class much, but when you do, you get everything right! Do you think the other guys in the class can do that?
Ahmed thinking for a bit: No probably not.
Megan: Right, but you can. Do you realise that you have leadership abilities?
Ahmed: What is that?!
Megan: Well, when you’re with your friends, do they follow you or do you follow them?
Ahmed: They follow me.
 Megan: That is the sign of a person who can lead other people. And furthermore, do you know that some of the most influential people in the world had problems with teachers at school because they questioned things?
Ahmed: silent
Megan: silent
Ahmed: I didn’t know that. 
Megan: Well, it’s true, go and read some biographies and autobiographies of famous people.So, now that you recognise that you have the ability to lead other people, that gives you a kind of power, right?
Ahmed: I never really thought about it like that I mean, I never thought of myself as powerful before.
Megan: Well, if you have the power to influence other people, you can do bad things and people will follow you – and that’s how you and the other boys got suspended, right?
Ahmed: yeah.
Megan: AND, on the other hand, if you do the right thing, you can get people to follow you and have a positive influence on people, in the world and you can make a difference.
Ahmed: Oh
Megan: What I mean is, that you have a choice about what kind of influence you have – because you are the kind of personality that is very strong and you can’t really hide it. So, if you take the wrong path, what do you think will happen?
Ahmed: I’ll probably go to prison eventually.
Megan: Is that what you want for yourself?
Ahmed: No but I don’t know what else to do. I’m having troubles at home and troubles with my girlfriend and (sigh) …….
Megan: Well, would you like to try something different? I mean, would you be willing to make a deal with me?
Ahmed: It depends what it is.
Megan: Well, here’s the deal: You come to all lessons and do all the homework I give you. I’ll help you if you need it. Do you think you can do that?
Ahmed: I suppose so.
Megan: Would you be willing to apologise to the other teachers and tell them that you’ll try to improve and ask for their support?
Ahmed: Well, I suppose so.
Megan: Well, you need to do something different here or you might be asked to leave the school permanently and you don’t want that, do you?
Ahmed: No. I really don’t.  I want to do well.
Megan: I know you can be successful if you just give yourself a chance. The bottom line is come to class ok, and then do as much of the homework as possible, but come to class, listen and read the book. Is that a deal?
Ahmed: You really think I can do it?
Megan: Yes, Ahmed, I know you can but you must keep to your end of the deal, ok?
Ahmed: OK, it’s a deal then.  (I forgot to say that Ahmed is a seriously big boy ... he towered over me at 17 years old)
What happened? 
He kept his end of the deal, missing one lesson due to misfortune with a valid reason.
In the next exam, Ahmed came second in the year group with 92%. When I found him and told him in person, he asked me if I was sure and I had to tell him three times. He smiled like a cheshire cat but he also had tears in his eyes (me too).  After that, he changed his clothes and his hair. He stood taller. He looked well groomed, calm and proud of himself.
A few months later, he had to change schools as his mother found a new job. He didn’t want to leave the school.
The day he left, he came to my staff room to say goodbye of his own accord.
This is what he said to me (he looked nervous):
‘Miss, I just want to thank you for being the best teacher I’ve ever had.’ He paused. ‘I also want to say thank you for believing in me when I didn’t even believe in myself.’